Pearl Jam: : Self-Titled

By Brian Heisler

The world might not stop when Pearl Jam releases new music, but it definitely turns and looks over its shoulder. The eighth studio album in the band’s almost 16 years, and first in three and a half years, is indeed self-titled and that is no mistake. While it has been well more than a decade and 12 million sales since Ten was released, Eddie Vedder and company prove their musical roots still hold strong on Pearl Jam. It is unlikely that you will see a Pearl Jam iPod or Vcast in the near future. The Seattle rockers used minimal marketing for a new release, instead sticking to their usual marketing method - writing good music and never straying too far from what got them to the top.

Much like the reemergence of Eddie's long hair, the album kicks off with the fast, raw, in-your-face "Life Wasted." The darkness of the song and the theme of fighting-off death surface in many other parts of the album as well. The band has made many public statements opposing the war in Iraq, so it comes as no surprise that the first single on the album, "World Wide Suicide," is an anti-war anthem. The song is loaded with direct opposition, as shown by the lyrics:

"Medals on a wooden Mantle
Next to a Handsome face
That the president took for granted
Writing checks that others pay"

In true Pearl Jam form, the song is harsh and straightforward. Pearl Jam continues with darkness as a subtle common theme of "falling" can be found in the lyrics of the songs "Comatose," "Severed Hand," "Marker in the Sand," "Parachutes," and "Army Reserve." Attacking a different angle of the times of war, "Army Reserve" tells of a mother who deals with raising and comforting her son in the absence of her husband.

While Pearl Jam contains no clear catchy songs like "Alive," "Daughter," or "Betterman," perhaps the closest pieces are in the middle of the album in three consecutive songs, "Unemployable," "Big Wave," and "Gone." This self-titled album represents what might be a matured taste for a steak rather than the adolescent taste for pizza. The album resonates with solid rock and songwriting but never truly lands that rock radio song you’re glad to have stuck in your head. Nevertheless, "Come Back" has all the makings of a classic live Pearl Jam song - slow intro, somber-yet-ranging vocals, calling chorus, heartfelt lyrics, crescendos, and a repetitive, yearning finale. It’s the kind of song you listen to laying on the hood of your car on a summer night, hands behind your head, watching the stars glimmer as Eddie Vedder’s voice and Mike McCready’s guitar wrap you in the blanket of carefree ease. And it’s this song that reminds us that this summer will be the first in three years we will be treated to a US Pearl Jam tour.

This entire new repertoire will be a great, fresh addition to the incredible Pearl Jam arsenal of songs left over from times when the band was classified as grunge, alternative, or any other description it has superseded. Pearl Jam is not likely to be the album we look back on as a favorite, but rather a strong package in a long line of classics. As some of the last unquestionable badasses of ‘90s rock, Pearl Jam made a very concise and meaningful piece of art with no restrictions. Even the 53-second "Wasted Reprise" works as artistic, transitional glue to connect the energetic ending of "Gone" with the first dark connotation from "Life Wasted" into the similar feeling of "Army Reserve." There are no loose ends or forced music or lyrics on this album. Perhaps that’s why this is Pearl Jam’s first album in three and half years - they only speak when they have something to say. And in this case, the band stamped its name on the product loud and clear with its simple title: Pearl Jam.

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[Published on: 5/5/06]

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goodsound Fri 5/5/2006 01:37PM
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pearl jam! ha

JimmyD1 starstarstarstar Sat 5/6/2006 05:10AM
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Pearl Jam is one of the best bands to exist. They realize that you don't have to jam for fifteen minutes for a song to be good, they just write really good songs. The more we hear from Pearl Jam, the better.

Flat5 Sat 5/6/2006 02:19PM
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cant wait to get some tour dates. and i love advocados, too.
put some lime juice on there, a shot of patron, and a beautiful latina- man, THAT sounds like a vacation! oh, and a phat bowl of nuggets too, of course

Jamhead86 starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/6/2006 03:00PM
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picked it up tuesday and have not stopped listening to it. great album, no real weak spots. good review.

sharkie starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/6/2006 10:56PM
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BRIAN HEISLER IS AMAZING. Pearl jam is pretty good too.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Sun 5/7/2006 03:11PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

dude, pearl jam are has-beens. they havent put out a good album since vitalogy which was in like 94. still, i gotta give em props becasue they do what they can to expose the truth about this coward of a president that we have in our coun try at the moment.

Chapelchilla starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/8/2006 04:02PM
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This album is really terrific. It ranks with their best work and has that ole energy back.

Pearl Jam are highly underated in the Jambase world. They take care of their fans(10 Club), change their setlists nightly, allow taping and ALWAYS put on a good show. Get the album, go to the concert, many smiles...

joeye starstarstar Mon 5/8/2006 04:15PM
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People talk a lot of crap on Pearl Jam. But some of their early shows were completely out of control. I sam them in 93 at the Indio Polo Field. That was one crazy ass show! There were so many people smashed together in a big sea of sweat. People were passing out, arms were broken, noses were bloody. It was more hard core than some death metal shows. People kept throwing shoes at the band, and they finally walked off stage. But that was one kick ass show!

I saw them in 94 or 95 in San Diego, and they were more mellow, but they jammed! I was surprised, but they actually went on extended jams. It was cool. I have not heard their live stuff since that era. I wonder if they still jam?

Anyhow, I want to hear the album, but I don't want to buy it, so I will have to wait until I can copy it...

Peace to PJ! Thanks for the good times in the 90's!

jblackUM starstarstarstar Tue 5/9/2006 10:55AM
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joeye, if you give peace and thanks to PJ show it by BUYING their CD, not copying it. And to see that they DO still jam, while your at the record store, buy their bootleg from penn state in may of 2003.

joeye Wed 5/10/2006 08:56AM
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You have a good point, jblackUM. Perhaps I will buy it. Especially since I am not going to their shows this tour. I don't even know anyone who bought it, so I can't really copy it. However, don't you think that spending hundreds of dollars on concert tickets IS supporting a band? Part of me feels like pirating music is wrong. But part of me does not. I spend thousands of dollars per year on overpriced concert tickets, not to mention associated costs to see live shows. I think that it is just fine to get some free music once in awhile, especially since I have invested so much in particular bands. Either way, your point is well taken...I will keep my eyes open for that live show...

DesignVHL starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/11/2006 10:33AM
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I'm in total agreement here. I've been a long-time PJ fan - since it's conception...and this album is amazing, I too cannot stop listening to it! Been in my cd player since I got it. PJ is what got me into tape trading in the first place (while for most others it was the dead)...

Anyways "Shoes for my friends" lol :) Joeye - I bet that show in 93 was a good one...I have a bootlegged Video of that one!

Bottom line: IF YOU EVER were a PJ fan back in the day, you'll want to pick up this album....can't wait to see em next week in Chi-town!

RSTAPLES Fri 5/12/2006 12:20PM
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love the album, first album i've bought in months upon months. Color-any chance you have a lauderdale show from October 97 no code tour? it was in a tropical storm and eddie taped himself up and hung from the rafters like 50 feet up during extended porch jam. Patchy memories, would love to hear it??

phried starstarstarstar Sat 5/13/2006 11:24PM
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i dont think its there best album. there are about 4 or 5 songs on here that i enjoy and can't wait to see in concert. but is no ten or vs. just a good album not gr8

butchbrad starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/19/2006 06:17PM
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they ROCK.....saw them in hartford ct. they did a nice mix of old new smoking away on guitar -the cd is excellent.....they are truely '10' in my book. music with soul and social conscious i find the songs in my dreams ...yeh i love them
gg of miami

shakeingbake Fri 5/19/2006 06:41PM
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It is good to see pearl jam back. I had nearly gave up on them. The last few cds felt more like it was just time for them to put out another cd then them really having anything to say. Not their best cd but a turn in the right direction. Here's to the lucky ones.

yofrenfil starstarstar Sun 5/21/2006 10:55AM
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They are back!!! I did give up on them...for years now. This disc has the most energy since Vs. As I've gotten older I've tended to stray away from this stuff, thinking it was the music of my youth. It is good to hear Eddie belt that shit out like he used to.

perrymon starstarstarstarstar Tue 5/23/2006 07:54AM
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This new PJ album surpasses Riot Act in the way of moving into a more mature, artistic mellifluousness that engulfs my dedication to this band and their confident capabilities in the music and political world!

chriscobb9 starstarstarstarstar Tue 5/23/2006 12:55PM
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My first listens to this album left me feeling it was dark and may not be where I'm at. After listening to it in depth a few more times I've come to realize (once again) my appreciation for a band that puts out ROCK music that is interesting and complex, jams, and just doesn't sound like the standard fair coming out of the 'rock' world. Even Vedder's vocal melodies are complex and interesting throughout the album. I give these guys full credit for being good musicians that continue to do it right. If you don't like the album at first, try it for a while to understand the complexity and let it get to you. It's refreshing.

dlubacs starstarstarstarstar Wed 5/24/2006 02:24PM
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Great review = great album. I'd like to reiterate Chapelhilla's comment:

"Pearl Jam are highly underated in the Jambase world. They take care of their fans(10 Club), change their setlists nightly, allow taping and ALWAYS put on a good show. Get the album, go to the concert, many smiles..."

amen to that !

temaryn Tue 5/30/2006 07:29PM
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Pearl Jam is a great band.. I believe all of their albums were great at different points in time, relates really well with your emotions in a given stance.. They are very underated in the jam scene, but then again they never wanted to be so popular they released only three videos at most, since they started. Their live shows are amazing, and they love their fans, more than any band i have ever seen..
One of the First bands to bash Bush and Ticket Master. They have a great balance, between spiritual and political. It works well for them.