Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam

David Raposa

By David Raposa

on 09.16.11 in Reviews

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam
Their best imitation of their younger selves

It’s no coincidence that, after 15 years, Pearl Jam waited until Album No. 8 to go the eponymous LP route. With the releases of rearviewmirror (a generous, albeit flawed, two-disc best-of) and Lost Dogs (an equally generous and flawed two-disc odds and ends collection), they concluded their association with Sony subsidiary Epic Records. Also, this record was the group’s first album of new material in nearly four years, the longest they’d ever gone between albums. Their distance from the oblique one-two punch of Binaural and Riot Act, coupled with their non-stop touring schedule, put the group in a decidedly no-frills rock ‘n’ roll mood when they re-convened with Riot Act producer Adam Kasper for this album’s sessions. The finished product bears that impulse out. Singles like “World Wide Suicide” and “Life Wasted” find Pearl Jam doing their best imitation of their younger selves, successfully melding the full-on anger of their youth with the wisdom and focus they’ve since acquired. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned nostalgia trip also finds Eddie Vedder temporarily regressing as a vocalist. On otherwise capable tunes like “Comatose” and “Big Wave,” his unfettered bellowing, while definitely impassioned, acts as a runaway steamroller. When the vocal nuance and restraint Vedder has carefully cultivated over the previous decade comes to bear on an unabashed blues number like “Come Back,” it makes its absence on those other tracks that much more apparent. Given Pearl Jam’s messy artistic growth, though, it’s only fitting that an album named after the group, as good as it is at times, is imperfect in a noble manner.