Like all of you, I was a big fan of the first Pearl Jam record, "Ten." The modern rock masterpiece set a new trend in motion, and it still stands as one of the trademark albums of the grunge movement. Their follow-up disc, "Vs.," was another thing of beauty, as was "Vitalogy." Yes, Pearl Jam quickly established themselves as one of the most unique and talented bands of the time. But, in recent years, the band has faltered. Releases such as "Binaural" and "Riot Act" failed to generate any interest, and many fans have begun to doubt the band. I really do feel that "Vitalogy" was the last great Pearl Jam record. Albums like "Yield" and "No Code" have their moments, but really do pale in comparison to the earlier material.
This 2006 self-titled release is said to be a return to form for Pearl Jam. Billed as a more "bare bones" rock album, I was anxious to hear if Pearl Jam could still send a chill down my spine.
Track 1: "Life Wasted" Nice to hear this. This is old school Pearl Jam. Sounds like it was written around the "Vs." or "Vitalogy" era of the band. High intensity from Vedder here, along with a nice guitar part and a tight rhythm section. Not the greatest song they've ever written, but a nice return to form for the band. RATING: 7
Track 2: "World Wide Suicide" I like this one as well. Great groove that Vedder sings to perfectly. It has a traditional song structure, which I think was lacking in the past couple of releases for the band. It's a "no-risk" song formula; but more importantly, it's effective. RATING: 7
Track 3: "Comatose" Urrrrrgh! Really tight and strained vocal sound on this thrashy Nirvana-like song. Just a simple punk song is really what this is, and it's not too bad. RATING: 5
Track 4: "Severed Hand" Another fast-paced song with a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure. Once again we have a jamming guitar solo that winds down the tune. Again, not a bad song, but nothing great either. RATING: 5
Track 5: "Marker In The Sand" We finally get something a little different on this one. This is a little more on the pop side of things. Vedder usually lights songs like this one up, but he comes up a bit short on this one. A nice, almost folk, sing along chorus, but a stronger vocal would've helped this one a lot. RATING: 5
Track 6: "Parachutes" Wow. This is a total departure from what we've heard so far. A soft, Neil Young-type of acoustic ballad. Weak vocals again, only this time we get a boring song that goes nowhere in the background. RATING: 2
Track 7: "Unemployable" Much much better. This is a really good song. It almost has a 70's pop vibe to it, especially in the chorus. This is the strongest performance from Vedder thus far. This just has a really cool feel to it - free and easy. RATING: 8
Track 8: "Big Wave" The band goes back to the thrashy punk sound for this one, which reminds me of Soundgarden's "My Wave" in both title and sound. A guitar solo thrown in here makes me smile; we don't get enough of those these days. Nothing special, but not horrible. RATING: 4
Track 9: "Gone" The slow and soft verses give Vedder a chance to shine like he did on earlier Pearl Jam songs like "Crazy Mary" or "Yellow Ledbetter," but he still falls a little short. Not a bad vocal performance, but Vedder is just not as powerful as he once was. Instead of giving me chills on songs like this, he just sounds like any average singer. This is a really well written song all the same though. RATING: 6
Track 10: "Wasted Reprise" Nice organ in this tune in which Vedder just sings a small portion of the chorus of "Life Wasted" in his best Neil Young impression. This is just a little 52 second filler piece, and I think a rating would be inappropriate.
Track 11: "Army Reserve" This is a hard song to describe because it has an almost U2 kind of instrumental sound, but it has a vocal track that is intense and rough. There is nothing that really sets this song apart from any of the rest. The songs are starting to repeat themselves at this point. A pretty good song, but very typical. RATING: 5
Track 12: "Come Back" A nice easy going crooner that allows Vedder another chance to thrill, but again he comes across as an average singer. Might be his best performance on the record, but it's not the Eddie of old. A lovely guitar part picks up the end of the track, as does an intense Vedder. Not a bad song, but it does run a little long. RATING: 5
Track 13: "Inside Job" Has a bit of a Pink Floyd / "Welcome To The Machine" intro interesting. The first half of the song is really slow and moody, with a really nice bass line and some perfectly placed piano accents. Halfway through, the song picks up and becomes another typical song on the album. But, for being 7 minutes long, it does hold your interest pretty well. RATING: 5
OVERALL RATING: 5 "DEAD"
This was really a tough one to pronounce "DEAD," because this really isn't a bad record. There are some real nice things happening here, and it is a return to form somewhat, but I don't picture myself going back to this one very often. This is one of the better outings since "Vitalogy," but this is not the emotionally charged Pearl Jam that was all about grabbing you and squeezing the soul of your humanity. That hunger and passion from the early years is still lacking. The strength and tone of Eddie Vedder's voice was enough to keep the most macho of men sobbing in their beer; but, that intensity is not there anymore. Instead of these songs sending a chill down my spine, I realized that the chill is gone . . . the chill has gone away.
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