By: Brian Heisler
There has never been any lack of greatness in the career of Pearl Jam, but the band's ninth studio release, Backspacer (Universal), returns the band to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and moreover, it provides a handful of soon-to-be classic tunes.
Every Pearl Jam album has had its place, but the previous three studio albums - Binaural (2000), Riot Act (2002) and Pearl Jam (2006) - have all proved to be largely forgettable. Much of what defines Pearl Jam was recorded by 1998, ending with Yield. A major reason for Pearl Jam's return to such greatness on Backspacer is the work of producer Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC). Not coincidentally, O'Brien produced Vs. (1993), Vitalogy (1994), No Code (1996), and Yield (1998), and notably did not produce Binaural, Riot Act, or Pearl Jam.
Backspacer has all the classic Pearl Jam elements. There is plenty of intense vocal delivery from the great Eddie Vedder, beginning with the in-your-face "Gonna See My Friend," reminiscent of such past songs as "Even Flow" and "Do The Evolution." The radio hooks are there, too. "The Fixer," joining the likes of so many memorable Pearl Jam songs (beginning with "Jeremy"), is rightfully burning up radio airwaves across the country right now. And of course, the Pearl Jam versatility to harness soft tunes, without softening the band or its listeners, is apparent on "Just Breathe" and "The End."
So, don't be fooled by the not-so-classic-Pearl-Jam modern day corporate hype of the major iTunes and Target exclusive deals with Backspacer. Pearl Jam has proven it has never slowed down and will continue to impress as one of the last true remaining bad ass rock & roll giants.
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