In which Eddie Vedder finally realizes he can’t make fame disappear by glowering at it. Yield marks the denouement to the tortured first chapter of Pearl Jam’s story — for millions of fans, it was the end of the only chapter that mattered, the one where they served briefly as Reluctant Voices of A Generation. Yield, as its title blatantly signals, is an acceptance move, a record that relaxes with a wistful sigh into pleasantly accessible modern-rock. On their previous album No Code, Eddie Vedder, determined not to let his youthful connection to punk lifers like Minutemen and Fugazi slip permanently from his grasp, had singlehandedly dragged the band into a desert of fake Sex Pistols songs (“Habit,”) fake Black Flag songs (“Lukin”), and day-spa faux-Easternisms that draped over the band’s roaring arena-rock spirit like a wet towel (“I’m Open,” “Who You Are”).
Yield is where good old-fashioned anthems start poking through the soil again: “Faithful” is a soaring rocker in which Vedder howls convincingly about spiritual desolation and quavers that he’s “through with screaming.” The ham-handedly silly Icarus fable “Given to Fly” nonetheless gave Pearl Jam their first radio single in years, and the chorus hits the same undeniable soft middle as U2 circa “Beautiful Day.” And Vedder sneaks some subversive, post-Vitalogy jabs at his tenure as Rock God: The graceful folk-rocker “In Hiding” is about receding so far from human contact that the line between reality and fantasy crumbles; on “Push Me, Pull Me,” he deadpans that he’s “like an opening band for the sun.” Post-Yield, Pearl Jam would make a bittersweet transition: by ceasing to struggle, they would also cede the compelling spiritual center of their band. From here on out, they would be Just Another Rock Band.