Words cannot describe the leap my heart took when I heard Pearl Jam would be releasing a new album, their first in four years. I immediately pre-ordered it, and nearly fainted when I checked the mail one day and saw that Pearl Jam’s self-titled album was in my possession.
The album starts off with the same hard rock roots for which Pearl Jam is notorious, but I couldn’t help but notice that Eddie Vedder’s voice has noticeably aged and that the vocal moments when he would have roughened up and gone into a garage/punk mode have decreased. Those that do exist are less rough than I expected. Songs like “Comatose,” “Marker in the Sand” and some parts of “Life Wasted” almost sounded watered down. Nonetheless, amidst the aggressive blues soloing of Mike McCready and the intricate rhythm guitar work of Stone Gossard, Vedder’s cleaner singing voice fits in perfectly.
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The second half of the album is a bit better than the first, comprised of more intense songs which show off Vedder’s vocal range and ability to put massive amounts of emotion into his singing without getting emo. Songs like “Army Reserve” (co-written by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three), the soul-tinged “Come Back” and the haunting “Gone” are perfect examples of what made Pearl Jam my favorite band, and arguably the best rock group out there.
Hands-down, the best track on the album is the anthemic closer “Inside Job.” Clocking in at over seven minutes, it is chilling and uses a combination of acoustic and electric guitars with a magnificent piano part a la Boom Gaspar.
Overall, this, like all Pearl Jam albums, has its moments of unparalleled raw emotion and pure musical intensity. It lacks, however, the track consistency that made earlier albums rock classics. Regardless, Pearl Jam remains one of the sure signs that true rock ’n’ roll hasn’t been brutally murdered by pop acts like Linkin Park.