Since this was my Best Album Of 2020, it makes sense I ought to review it here, eh?
I love Pearl Jam, and any new studio record (this is their 11th) is an instant purchase for me. I haven’t kept up with all the live stuff (who could?) but an album of new songs, seven years after the last record? Hell yeah.
Sure, it ‘sounds like Pearl Jam,’ so if you’re dismissive of them at all, or not a fan, nothing here will excite you (probably), but if you’ve read this far into this post you’re not that silly person anyway. You’re here for the meat on the bone, and there’s a (giga)ton of it on this record.
Experience has made them masters of their sound, and Pearl Jam craft yet another vital record of hard-hitting, thoughtful, excellent songs. Better, they’re growing, changing, becoming… something their detractors won’t take the time to recognize. New sounds, instruments, different looks meld well with their template. Nothing stale here, and all three of their main song styles are here – hard rockers that edge towards punk, mid-tempo rockers that radio should never stop playing, and sweet slower tracks that pull you in and hold you close. There are moments that make you want to break stuff as you thrash around, others that’ll unite the crowd (if concerts can ever happen again), and there are times when it feels like they’re playing just for you, and you want to protect that precious moment at all costs.
Of course, Eddie’s lyrics are contemporary, taking on the recently-former President of the US and other issues, but there’s something else here too… of course, it’s an honest, overall sense and reflection of our society’s general unrest/malaise/simmering violence/fear stew. With a finger on the pulse, Pearl Jam sends us a wake-up call. Again.
Turns out, this was the album we all needed in one hell of a shitty year.