"Backspacer" by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam
Backspacer

Monkeywrench
2009

Review

I wasn't sure I even needed to take the time to recommend this one since it's blowing up the radio. So here's the long and short of it; if you love "The Fixer", then you'll love every uptempo joint that's on the record. Similarly, if you think that "Just Breathe" is a beautiful song - both musically and lyrically - then know that there's at least one more on par with that one here. So is the album any good? Can it match the awesomeness of the current hit singles? Yes, it can. Click through to read about why.

Pearl Jam rejuvenated? Eddie Vedder's voice having never sounded better? Maybe those are not fair statements coming from me because I haven't picked up a Pearl Jam record since "Yield". But as soon as I heard "The Fixer" on the radio, and then later "Just Breathe" I knew I had to pick this one up...provided you could find it. This was another one of those deals that is becoming very common right now where a band's latest release is only available for retail at a particular super-chain store and one specific online music store. In the case of "Backspacer" I made a special trek to Target (who doesn't need to go to Target, anyhow? That store's great.) to grab an honest to goodness manufactured good (nothing virtual about this one, thanks very much).

...anyhow, the packaging itself is very nice. It eschews the plastic like so many other eco-friendly artists and opts for a very nice cardboard cover. For those of you who care about such things, the art work is very interesting. The image we have right now doesn't possibly do it justice and IMHO they haven't yet come up with an implementation of album artwork that is better than what you get buying the physical CD. Ok, ok...so what about the music?

As I said before, Pearl Jam still rocks! It sounds like they've updated their sound a bit in very subtle ways. There's more use of synthesizers and crazy distorted guitar effects - peep the slight Killers-esque guitar and synth effects on "Got Some" - and yet at the same time there seems to be more of a willingness to just break out the acoustics and flip the tempo with some amazing ballads. It's such a great thing to behold the way that the band alternates between crazy straight-up Rock ("Got Some", "The Fixer", and "Supersonic") and full on stadium pleasing ballads ("Just Breathe" and "The End").

"The FIxer" is blowing up the radio for good reason. From the uptempo affairs here, this is pretty indicative of what you are getting but I think that "Got Some" is right up there with "The Fixer". "Got Some" has frenetic pacing and frantic drumming. The years of experience and chemistry are evident throughout and musically the sound is very tight.

The lryics are incredibly well written throughout and I'm glad that the retail packaging includes all the song lyrics. On the downside, there are some ballads that aren't as strong as "Just Breathe" and a few of the faster songs seem to be missing a chorus - but those moments are rare.

Maybe Pearl Jam never left and they just fell off my radar. Well, this album put them back on it (and everyone else's) thanks to well structured songs, thought provoking and meaningful lyrics, frenetic drumming, shredding guitars , and a great Rock and Roll voice holding it all together.

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Gonna See My Friend (02:48) 3
2. Got Some (03:02) 5
3. The Fixer (02:57) 5
4. Johnny Guitar (02:50) 4
5. Just Breathe (03:35) 5
6. Amongst the Waves (03:58) 3
7. Unthought Known (04:08) 3
8. Supersonic (02:40) 4
9. Speed of Sound (03:34) 4
10. Force of Nature (04:04) 3
11. The End (02:57) 5