Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam
May 2, 2006
Victim of Loudness War? Yes
Few artists have as consistently reinvented themselves as Pearl Jam has. Over the span of their sixteen year career, the band has kept both its fans and the general public on their toes, always changing up their sound in subtle yet brilliant ways with each successive album. While other acts that surfaced in their wake have come and gone with little to no fanfare, Pearl Jam are still at it and are still a tremendous success. Their latest effort, the simply titled Pearl Jam, is another step forward for the band and proves that they are one of rock music’s most valuable acts to date.
Pearl Jam is the band’s first effort since severing their ties with longtime label Epic Records and their newfound indie freedom shows that it was the corporate suits that made the mistake. Opening with the anthemic “Life Wasted” (which is also reprised later on), it’s clear that the band has finally found itself in the most complete sense. The track marks the first of many times on the album that Pearl Jam takes sounds and textures from its previous recordings and blends them into one monstrous style. Case in point is the album’s first single, “Worldwide Suicide,” which takes the raw edge found on their critically-acclaimed 1994 effort Vitalogy and blends it with the later expertise found on their last effort, 2002’s Riot Act. But make no mistake – Pearl Jam is not trying to draw off its past to make a hit record; instead, they have simply found a way to make all the best elements of their past experimentations gel together.
In addition to blending all of their previous high points cohesively, Pearl Jam also manage to break some more new ground. “Severed Hand” is a prime example of this, with it’s sweeping, effect-laden intro and vocal effects previously foreign to the band. The track is definitely the first of many new steps the band takes on this album, yet they never alienate or seem out of place to the listener. Pearl Jam is comprised of professionals, rock veterans who finally know how to mix new ideas into their already unique and familiar sound.
Pearl Jam, for those who might have been worried, also contains its fair share of the band’s trademark slow numbers. “Parachutes” is perhaps the most shining example of the less in-your-face material, boasting a beautiful melody and crisp acoustic guitar foundation. The brilliantly sublime “Come Back” is also a stand-out and a definite candidate for the album’s second single. The slower tunes have always been where Pearl Jam shines through best and “Parachutes” and “Come Back” are welcome additions to their ballad-esque repertoire, which includes such past favorites as “Black,” “Immortality” and “Off He Goes.”
The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of Pearl Jam, you will love this album. If you’re not a fan of Pearl Jam, you’ll love this album. It is one of the best releases thus far this year and is a sure way to transform even the most stubborn naysayer into a fan, even fifteen years after their debut release. Pearl Jam is simply that good.
– Ian Rice
To purchase a copy of Pearl Jam, please click here.