Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CD Odyssey Disc 45: Pearl Jam

And now we return to the crapload of new discs I have recently purchased. I think I'm going to have to limit these and maybe file a few before I review them. Too late for this one, though.

Disc 45 is...Back Spacer

Artist: Pearl Jam

Year of Release: 2009

How I Came To Know It: My old friend and former room-mate Greg introduced me to Pearl Jam from the beginning. He was in a grunge phase and I was in a folk phase, which made for some interesting music listening. Years later, I came to love Pearl Jam, and this album is just me buying their new release.

How It Stacks Up: I have ten Pearl Jam studio albums, which I think is all of them. I would rate this one...10th. Sad but true.

Rating: 2 stars with a thumbs up.

I am a big fan of Pearl Jam. Even during the folk/grunge stereo wars of the early nineties, "Ten" was always one album I could handle more than most. Later, I really developed a taste for them.

And I'm not just a "Ten is their only good album" kind of guy. I like most of their later stuff as well (but more on those when I roll them). That's what makes Back Spacer such a disappointment; I know they can do better.

This album is frankly a little too much like the mass produced rock you'll hear every day on the radio. It is just ordinary.

It's not just the music either - it seems like Pearl Jam's got nothing to say, or at least nothing that jumps out at me after 3 listens.

Even the sort of slow, introspective song "Just Breathe" just reminds me of Eddie Vedder's excellent solo album for "Into the Wild", just not as good.

This album's cover art also has songs listed without track numbers - something I hate. Also, they didn't capitalize their song titles. I hate that in E.E. Cummings, so don't expect me to give pop culture a pass either.

Worse, it is one of those cardboard albums with all kinds of junk and folders you can pull out. Pearl Jam is notorious for this in later years. Just give me the cover, and a sleeve or booklet with songs or some photos. I don't need a bunch of different stuff to pull out.

So - apart from the formulaic songs, the lack of inspiration and the annoying cover art and album design, just what the hell did I like about this album?

Well, even at their worst, Pearl Jam is still a tight band, they can still play well. Eddie still has one of the great voices in rock and roll history, and there are a couple of tracks that are passable.

So for old times sake, I gave it a slight thumbs up - also, maybe it will grow on me one day, like the band has done over the years. We live in hope.

The verdict - there are a lot of great Pearl Jam albums out there. Please, please don't buy this one and judge them too harshly as a result. They are a great band, with a great catalogue of music.

Best tracks: Amongst the Waves, Unthought Known

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