Top critical review
On the face of it Pearl Jam's weakest album
on 12 January 2010
There was a 4 year wait for this album back in 2006, which was Pearl Jam's longest break between albums. Inbetween, lead singer Eddie Vedder was getting his life together- getting married and having kids and nobody could begrudge him of that. But in going from a guy vented with anger and rage to a millionaire family man it was always going to be hard to reflect that change in a positive way on a new Pearl Jam record. Bassist Jeff Ament once said that Pearl Jam needed to brand themselves out more- citing an example whe Riot Act, the bands previous album was released and not even his friends knew of its existance. This new Pearl Jam, because quite frankly that is what it felt like to us oldtimers, had decided to start making videos again, appearances on chat shows and to reinvent themselves to a wider audience. Hey, I couldn't blame them. No one that I knew had heard of them outside hits like Jeremy and Alive. But, and this is in my opinion, when they did sell themselves on, now as a friendly non moody rock band something changed, the music was still great in places, but it all felt a little generic.
This self titled record has 13 tracks, all with great ideas, but the music alongside (and this was the biggest shock) the lyrics are bland- bland at least compared to what had gone before. The album kicks off with Life Wasted and together with single World Wide Suicide just feel forgettable- sure they have catchy riffs, but it's nothing special. Comatose is fairly good, but was always a better song live. The band should take credit for trying something different with Severed Hand and Marker in the Sand. Parachutes alongside Come Back are the anthemic soft songs on the album and Come Back succeeds much more than Parachutes which seems to go nowhere. Unemployable is catchy and works well as does Big Wave. But Gone is a near disaster- that on first listen may not strike you like that. But again it is clear that the band were trying to create a song a huge song that would be played at every show- but Gone doesn't work at all. Army Reserve is decent enough and album closer Inside Job has good music but dull lyrics.
It's hard to have a go at such a great band and a much needed one in the rock world. But this album has no sincerity and no flow to it. Some rank the album 5 stars, that's fine but a little wide of the mark to rank this the same stars as the bands earlier classics, surely?