Music Review: Backspacer

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Rejoice for they are back! Pearl Jam

Seattle grunge music scene pioneer Pearl Jam recently released their ninth studio album Backspacer through their own music label Monkeywrench. After the 1998 album, Yield, the band went back to producer, Brendon O’Brien. Breaking album conventions which have the first song build up the tempo getting you slowly into the groove; “Gonna See My Friend” has you hitting rewind because it is bang on! Matt Cameron is without a doubt one of the finest grunge drummers of the era. The song, according to Vedder, is about going to a friend to avoid drugs. “Buona Sera, won’t be long before we / All walk off the wire / I’m gonna see my friend,.. I’m gonna see my friend / for what I require.” Eddie Vedder belts out “Got Some” without breaking stride, which is apparently a great rock song that a drug dealer is offering. This is followed by the “The Fixer” which is, quite frankly, the highlight of the 37- minute album. It has a nostalgic quality to it, throwing us back to the Wishlist days “When something’s daa-ark, let me shed a little light on it/ when something’s co-ww-wld, let me put a little fire on it.” The Eddie growl is the final clincher. More serious rock makes its appearance with “Johnny Guitar”. Vedder was inspired to write the lyrics for this song after witnessing a collage of album covers pasted on the bathroom wall of the band’s rehearsal space. This song isn’t quite as hard hitting as the rest, despite the head banging, but then it may be an acquired taste. With “Just Breathe”, the cadence changes considerably. The song is “as close to a love song as we’ve ever gotten”, in Vedder’s own words. In terms of content, acoustic and light it is far removed from the Pearl Jam that we’ve known but there is no denying that it is a fair try. “Amongst the waves” is what finally convinces me that this album is different. Not used to such a hopeful Vedder, it is a welcome change to hear a band that is comfortable within their skin and not afraid to try new things. “Unthought Known” has shades of “Sometimes”, deep lyrics and measured music. “Supersonic” is essentially a fun song and the kind that gets you on your feet. The guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready blend a heavy jam under a solo before kicking back into the chorus of the track. “Speed of Sound” has beautiful lyrics and Eddie’s voice gives it a great deal of soul. “And yet I’m still holding tigh t/ To this dream of distant light / And that somehow I’ll survive.” “Force of Nature” is just alright, though the part with Mikey’s solo is fantastic. The album ends with a haunting “The End”. The song tugs at your heart with the last lines, “My dear / The End / Comes near / I’m here / But not much longer” and the album ends, just like that. Backspacer redefines Pearl Jam as a band. They sound mature, grown up and very comfortable together. This album is a goodbye of sorts to the old days. The desperation and hopelessness seems to have lifted and the songs have an optimistic, happy feel to them. Buy it; it is most definitely worth it. My rating: 4/5]]>

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