Eddie Vedder Keeps It In The Pocket With Feel Good ‘Earthling’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The first solo album in over a decade from Eddie Vedder finds him moving in a pop-rock direction while partnering with some musical legends along the way. Earthling is an easy-breezy escape for the Pearl Jam frontman that never really pushes too hard, going for middle-of-the-road, classic rock radio appeal. 

Written with his new core backing band (Chad Smith – drums, Andrew Watt – bass, Josh Klinghoffer – piano, keyboards, guitar, Benmont Tench – organ), the tracks glow positive, with optimism flowing throughout. The opener “Invincible” sets the tone with an orbit launching intro, leading to an uplifting track that borders on overly dramatic and cheesy; a recurring theme on the album. 

The ballad “The Haves” runs on too long but other efforts shine such as the driving dance rock-inspired, overdriven “Power of Right” and “Fallout Today” which is a great mix of Vedder’s sweet pop-rock love and gnarly guitar tones. A few of the numbers resemble Vedder’s heroes as the excellent “The Dark” pulls from Bruce Springsteen’s heyday while “Long Way” feels as if Tom Petty has gifted Eddie a song, production and all, from the great beyond. 

The three biggest names to help out Vedder arrive towards the end of Earthling with Elton John lending his piano and vocals to the hokey love story “Picture” while Ringo Starr drums on the overly dramatic and overt Beatles tribute “Mrs. Mills”. The most interesting collaboration is the rollicking “Try” which finds none other than Stevie Wonder playing catch up on harmonica to an out-of-control, hip-shaking, bass-rumbling rocker. The tune never fully coalesces but that is part of the charm, on an album filled with smooth numbers this semi-oddball sticks out.  

There are a few efforts that would fit Vedder’s day band expertly, such as the heavy rocking “Good and Evil” the electro-punk pulsing of “Rose of Jericho” and the Backspacer sounding outtake “Brother Cloud”. Vedder has been open about his struggles with mental health and he seems to be in a very positive place with this record, expressing himself as his love for classic rock comes to the forefront on Earthling.  

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