Pearl Jam, No Code

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 09.19.11 in Reviews

No Code

Pearl Jam
Continuing to expand their sonic palette

Coming after the surly, restless Vitalogy, No Code finds Pearl Jam continuing to expand their sonic palette. As its name implies, the band is operating without deference to any kind of sonic rulebook; thusly, the album veers from thrashing Husker Dü-isms to grizzled classic rock to lowing ballads laced up with Sufi chanting. But unlike its similarly adventurous predecessor, more of these forays pay off. “Smile” is a charred-around-the edges stomper worthy of PJ’s beloved Crazy Horse; “Off He Goes” inverts the gentle arpeggio from the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and uses it as a backdrop for a tender tale of an old friend fallen on hard times. Eddie Vedder’s simmering discontent — which on Vitalogy gave birth to some particularly grievous fits of self-pity — no longer manifests itself in agonized contemplations of human powerlessness. Instead, Vedder seems more earnestly dedicated toward finding his way in a world that will never be fair. In the storm-the-gates “Hail, Hail” he sings, “I could be new — you underestimate me,” and later, over ominous fret buzz in “Present Tense,” he says, “You can’t spend your time alone/ redigesting past regrets/…makes much more sense to live in the present tense.” The fiery defiance of angry youth generally leads to one of two outcomes: either frustrated self-destruction, or more tempered methods of resistance, leavened by pragmatism and allowing for possibility. No Code warily but hopefully chooses the latter.