Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam

Still got the means to make amends

Album Review by Dave Kerr | 15 Jun 2006
  • Pearl Jam
Album title: Pearl Jam
Artist: Pearl Jam
Label: J
There's an inevitable pre-emptive feeling of suppressed dread when this black circle spins for the first time, which, as slightly poorer sales of 'Riot Act' attest, certainly hasn't been uncommon in recent years.

Let us be clear, flawless musicianship on a Pearl Jam album is a given; Mike, Jeff, Stone, Matt and Eddie may never disappoint in this respect. The main concern here is for whether they'll ever dare to actually plug in and allow all privy - including themselves - to truly recall wild abandon for one hot minute more, a non-contrived moment that transcends the shabby nostalgia we so cynically expect from any group of multi-million selling veterans. There can't be much doubt that the sentimental resonation between band and fan for Vedder's amplified refrain remains the most prominent of reasons for the faithful to continue hail hailing "Viva la vinyl!" in their name.

How then have the Seattle survivors answered? Their eighth and self-titled album throws away some of the 'Harvest Moon' aspirations that they've nurtured over their last few albums and instead chooses to wade deep into punk rock creek (see the current wake up call of a single World Wide Suicide), while coming up for air when the going gets a little too rough for the 'Jammers par. 'Pearl Jam' smacks of the evident air of clarity that transpired between 'No Code' and 'Yield', yet it appears as the antithesis; this record can be angry. And while the political impetus for such a resurgence in fury dabbling is abundantly clear, lyrically, the likes of Severed Hand alludes to a new era without major label pressure (although they are now on J records, a subsidiary of Columbia which in itself is a part of Sony – no escaping the big 5) where they couldn't care less now they've ridden themselves of a long-term wax contract that apparently owned them, like the severance of Ash's possessed evil-doing mitt in 'Evil Dead'. As Vedder's rekindled wail declares in ambiguous existential tongues; "Understand / I'm not falling down / I said look around / The room's taller now", the troupe still lobby their points with a graceful kick and remind us of why they share bills with Tom Petty some nights and Vandals on others.

Elsewhere, Life Wasted and Wasted Reprise exemplify the split personality of the offering; one as an aggressive punk juggernaut helmed by Matt Cameron's powerhouse percussion (which takes a less complex route than usual) while the other is a dreamy gospel-esque stroll through the park, steady as she blows.

Embarrassingly, they may not have had a clue of how to play Leash when they appeared on Letterman a few weeks ago, but will anybody even care now that there's a renewed proclamation of faith blaring on their stereo? Pearl Jam have still got the means to make amends. [Dave Kerr]
Pearl Jam' is out now. http://www.pearljam.com