Pearl Jam New Album – Backspacer

23 09 2009


Should You Buy this Album?

Simple Answer = YES!!!  My Rating: A –

Ok so here is my long winded rationale.  Lets first look at the band itself, their catalog, and why they are still rocking on!!

The Band – Pearl Jam goes back to the late 80’s with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament and the band “Green River” after it broke up the two picked up singer Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone was created.  Most diehard PJ fans are familiar with MLB and the album Apple – but sadly the album was released four months after Wood died of a heroin overdose. 

Wikipedia actually gives a pretty accurate summation of what happened next – “After a few months, Gossard started practicing with fellow Seattleguitarist Mike McCready, whose band Shadow had broken up; McCready inturn encouraged Gossard to reconnect with Ament.” 

Former Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Drummer Jack Irons recommended a young singer Eddie Vedder for Stone and the guys after declining his own invitation.  Ad on Drummer Dave Krusen and mix in a name change (brownie points for those that can name the former Seattle Supersonic player the band held as there moniker on the first gig together on October 22nd of 1990) Pearl Jam was officially born.

When looking at PJ’s Catalog its important to showcase the influence producer Brendan O’Brien has played in creation of the pivotal albums.


The first and most recognized album of PJ.

Ten by far is as close to perfection an album can have.  Its widely regarded as one of the great albums of the last 50 years and was the face of the Grunge Movement, along with Nirvana’s Nevermind album.

In the End the band has created 9 official albums and hundreds of bootlegs of there shows. 

Brendan O’Brien produced and was involved immensely with – Ten , Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, Yield (the 90’s albums) and has returned officially as the producer for Backspacer.  He was involved in Mixing on the 2000’s albums but not the official producer on any of them.

Ten is by far the most complete album the band has had and the most of there hits have come from it. 

Looking at the other albums some classic songs have also appeared

Vs – has “Go”, “Daughter”, “Animal” and “Dissident”

But Vs is much more important for the political and anti-corporation feeling that has remained a Staple of the Pearl Jam history.  They made a push to be completely in control of what they put out to the public.  This battle has gone all the way to the Supreme Court (by the way the SC are idiots and have helped Ticketmaster remain the evil entity it is – but i’m biased PJ are my favorite band). does a great job of talking about each album from Ten on.   I’ll get to my review and hopefully convince you to purchase the NEW PEARL JAM ALBUM!!!



Breaking Down the Songs –

1. Gonna See My Friend  – this raucous tune about trying to do something before you call it quits, really brings back memories to songs like Alive and Even flow.  Its a quick start to a fast-paced album. 

2. Got Some – This one is the song that really sounds like classic Pearl Jam and is highlighted by Jeff Ament’s full involvement in the music for the track.  Its even quicker then “Gonna See My Friend” – only it allows for a nice Stone Gossard led guitar rift in the middle, then back to head-banging fun with the old guys trying to re-live there kick ass past.  Sprinkle on the usual political jab “Are you dropping boms? / Have you heard of Diplomatic Resolve?  YEH!”  and you have vintage PJ.

3. The Fixer (first single) – I think minus the easy to follow lyrics this is the one song on the album that had everyone’s touch on it – Eddie (as he has on the more recent albums) is the man with the pen – while Drummer Matt Cameron, Mike McCreedy and Stone did the music.  Its non-stop and really has a fun almost poppy pace to it.  Really great song if you just want to sing along with Eddie.

4.  Johnny Guitar – Opens with Stone and Mike doing there thing – quickly Eddie tells us of Johnny Guitar Watson and his womanizer ways.  The Guitars (as the title shows) lead this one tune and also its the first song to really have a solid drum beat from Cameron that paces the track nicely.  Matt’s Power on Drums mixed in with Stone and Mike really take the song over and they carry it out as well. 

5.  Just Breathe – The guys stop the train on the tracks and allow Eddie to bring back his “Into the Wild” style – easily could see this song being an accoustic guitar and Eddie.  Its by far the most laid back of all the tracks on the album and may not click well for PJ fans – but fans of Eddie can easily see its all him and its all truth.  Also has an accompaning strings arrangement that comes to life.  Great song to change the focus of the rest of the album.

6.  Amongst the Waves – A track that really calls back to the past and looking back on one’s history – Eddie on the beaches of San Diego especially (thus the title) Stone’s constant pace on guitar really showcases the two-headed monster that has kept Pearl Jam a top level band after two decades.  Stone first kick ass riff is also in the middle of the track.  He is by far one of the more underrated guitarist of his generation.  Also the riff brings the song to the impact of the past on the present and Eddie’s words mirror that “Cut to Later, Now You’re Strong/ You’ve Bled yourself, the wounds are gone/ it’s rare when there is nothing wrong/ Survived & you’re amongst the fittest/ Love ain’t love until you give it up/”.  EXACTLY – HAHA.


My Words Exactly – “Huh”!! 

7.  Unthought Known – Ok so the title is a brain bender – but that is vintage Eddie.  This is by far my favorite song on the album.  Words/Music by Vedder – Matt does a great job on the drums on this melodic track.  Some lines I love from this fun song –
“Brain is Wired,….Brain is Deep,……Oh Are You Sinking?,….”  (Slow Clap to that brilliance – Eddie is just a bit out there aint he).  “Swallowed Whole in Negatives” (heartbreaking line when you think about it).  I really feel this is closer to those dark “soft” songs – like Garden, Yellow Ledbetter, and Dissident.   They hit you even though you may not ent
irely follow what Eddie is trying to get at. 

8. SuperSonic – Not only a tribute to the old Seattle BBall Team – Supersonics (all the guys – especially Ament are huge bball fans) but its a literal remark on the pace of the song – after tracks 5-7 slow things down – SuperSonic BRINGS IT ALL BACK to ROCKING!!  This summons things up – “I Catch a Break, Then a Punch to the Head / I smile big with a toothless Grin/”.  Thats what this song does – “Hey we’re not done rocking out folks!!”.  Gives the momentum for the final three tracks.

9. Speed of Sound – Eddie takes back over with his slow – Neil Young style – It also pounds in the repeating theme of not trying to give up – always trying to finish things off before its the real end.  A fitting view on his own band – will they see themselves fade away – or will they become one of those epic bands that keeps there fire burning.  Are they the Rolling Stones – no way – and I think Eddie seems to battle who Pearl Jam are all the time.  This is the one track that confronts that issue head on.  When things are the Speed of Sound they can be scary – but they can also be good – its not always bad to be going blindly through the world.  The whole point of the album is in this track.

10.  Force of Nature – A unique thing happens on this track – Its starts out differently then all the other songs – McCreedy really takes over on this one and makes thing a darker shade.  The song talks about forces of nature changing things and that is what the song really does – right before the final song and BAM!  PJ really goes for a darker switch and the song really sounds amazing.  It should be the next single.   I can easily see how PJ fans will love this track and it brings back so much the style that works for the band – dark and constant guitars, soft bass, consistent drums and an aching voice from Eddie.  Near the end the guitars really take over and you see McCreedy’s “Song” fulfill its mission – to knock things on there side.  Leads us to the END!

11.  The End – good title guys.  After rocking out its time for Eddie to tell us a soft tale of woe.   In the booklet, next to the text, are photos for the band as little boys.  It hits home that these guys really just want to be normal and simple.  They can never really be that, but its not bad to try and ask for it.  I’ll leave you with Eddie’s words – “How It Pains to leave you here / With the kids on your own / Just don’t let me go/”.  But in the end Pearl Jam is only asking that you stick with them – “Before I disappear / Whisper in my ear / Give me something to echo / In my unknown future ear /.”  Eddie has a few more goodbyes and then the song just abruptly ends.  Almost heart-breaking that is all over for the album.  It really makes you start over just to remembe the crazy trip you’ve just been on. 

The album has a lot of Eddie on it and really allows him to say everything he wants to scream out about.  But noticing that each member of the band at least has there own “song” is fitting.  Pearl Jam has always felt like a struggle between Stone and Eddie.  Eddie’s public figure has gotten so big and famous that i’m not sure if Stone has ever really been cool with that.  Nonetheless them aging has allowed them to become more complete muscians and really play to there talents rather then just “fight” it out on songs.  This isn’t Axl Rose and Slash, Lennon or McCartney, Mick and Keith, or Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.  Instead this feels more like U2’s dynamic – The Edge knows that BONO is the band for most people, and I think Stone realizes Eddie is that big.  Its not a 1A or 1B look – Eddie has been the sole #1 since he screamed he was Alive on Ten – and he has never given that up.  However, his solo ventures have been towards looking inside himself – Pearl Jam gives him a voice to let everyone in on what he has learned.  Stone is the yellow brick road though – he paves the wave for Eddie’s voice.  Its a beautiful dynamic and should mean we keep seeing this band be important to the face of Rock for the next decade (if not further). 

Take the time to buy this great album and remind yourself why you fell in love with these guys –

(* not the current line-up but the “Ten” lineup)

And here are the guys today. 

Pearl Jam – ACL 2009!!!!  Hope to SEEYA THERE!!!




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