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Album Review

Pearl Jam made peace with their hard rock past on their eponymous eighth album, but its 2009 sequel, Backspacer, is where the group really gets back to basics, bringing in old cohort Brendan O'Brien to produce for the first time since 1998's Yield. To a certain extent, the band has reached the point in its career where every move, every cranked amp, every short tough song is heralded as a return to form — call it the Stones syndrome — and so it is with Backspacer, whose meaty riffs have no less vigor than those of Pearl Jam; they're just channeled into a brighter, cheerier package. Despite this lighter spirit, Pearl Jam remain the antithesis of lighthearted good-time rock & roll — they're convinced rock & roll is a calling, not a diversion — but there's a tonal shift from the clenched anger that's marked their music of the new millennium, a transition from the global toward the personal. Ironically, by looking within the music opens up, as the group isn't fighting against the dying light but embracing how this most classicist of alt-rock bands is an anachronism in 2009. Of course, Pearl Jam were an anachronism even back in 1992, worshiping the Who instead of the Stooges, but this odd out-of-phase devotion to the ideals of post-hippie, pre-punk rock is better suited to bandmembers in their forties than in their twenties; fashion has passed them by several times over, leaving Pearl Jam just to be who they are, comfortable in their weathering skin. Pearl Jam battled their success for so long, intent on whittling their audience down to the devout, that it often felt like a chore to keep pace with the band because no matter the merit of the records, they always felt like heavy lifting, but that's no longer the case: here, as on the self-titled 2006 album, it sounds as if they enjoy being in a band, intoxicated by the noise they make. This means, all things considered, Backspacer is a party record for Pearl Jam — a party that might consist of nothing but philosophical debates till the wee hours, but a party nonetheless — and if 18 years is a long, long wait for a band to finally throw a party, it's also true that, prior to Backspacer, Pearl Jam wouldn't or couldn't have made music this unfettered, unapologetically assured, casual, and, yes, fun. [A Deluxe Edition was also released.]

Customer Reviews

Damn stinkin brilliant

Yes, another totally satisfying dose of Pearl Jam... It's just like they're having these days and I'm enjoying the ride. Love Matts drums on this album and the bass tone is wicked! Guitars have reinvented themselves a little this album but most of all this albums song writing is a really big jump forward. It's relaxed and effortless but shows off big big talent... I'm thinking beach boys and elvis costello had a baby and this it what she wrote.

Short, sharp, truly brilliant

I was slightly concerned when I heard the album was only going to be 11 songs and 37 minutes long, but any fears were allayed immediately upon sinking my teeth into this tasty treat. Every song deserves its place here, and it's almost impossible to pick standouts. Amongst The Waves, Unthought Known and Force of Nature are all accessible and stirring mid-tempo instant classics. The punchy rockers, in the form of GSMF, Got Some, The Fixer, Johnny Guitar and Supersonic, grab you from the start and you'll find yourself singing them at inappropriate moments. Just Breathe, SOS and The End are the slower cosier tracks, and complement the harder stuff somehow perfectly. This studio-recorded Got Some is better than the live Conan O'Brien version only because of the clean crisp Eddie vocals and better mix, and the addition of the whole band to Ed's solo demo version of SOS makes for a more rounded and listenable track here. On the whole, this album is a true joy to experience, and one senses that this is a band who are loving making music. Welcome back also to Brendan O'Brien, producer extraordinaire.


I really dont understand how you can give this album 5 stars,i mean its an ok album,but 5 stars in my book is reserved for classic albums,which this simply save 5 stars for albums like, TEN and Nevermind...not backspacer for petes sake. Good album though and,very cool single.......a return to form?????? Compare this to Ten and you aint even close!!


Formed: 1990 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Pearl Jam rose from the ashes of Mother Love Bone to become the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s. After Mother Love Bone's vocalist, Andrew Wood, overdosed on heroin in 1990, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament assembled a new band, bringing in Mike McCready on lead guitar and recording a demo with Soundgarden's Matt Cameron on drums. Thanks to future Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons, the demo found its way to a 25-year-old San Diego surfer named Eddie Vedder, who overdubbed...
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