Pearl Jam – Backspacer
By Zach Patterson Monday, 28 Dec 2009

It’s easy to dismiss Pearl Jam as radio friendly 40-somethings that mom, dad, and kid can enjoy, but if you look beyond the massive cloud of their debut Ten, they’ve released some pretty great albums in the time since, and even as recently as a few years ago. But I have no idea what happened to this band in the course of 2 albums. Riot Act was fantastic album in 2002, but the fabled “return of the rock” in 2006’s self-titled album was a total dud. Well, 2009 unfortunately brings more of the same, with another completely forgettable album from Vedder and co.

I guess what is disappointing is that they seem to still be feeding off this “let’s do rock albums dudes!” vibe, which apparently just leads to tons of forgettable poppy radio rock tunes with almost no hooks. There’s just not a lot to hook onto here. Much like the previous album, there’s a couple songs at the beginning that sound like they were made strictly to throw into the live set to break up “Alive” and “Black” (“Gonna See My Friend”, “Got Some”, and “The Fixer” are probably the best songs on the album, and are the first 3 songs) or something of that nature, but they certainly aren’t great tunes by any means. These are perfect examples of these generic rock tracks where the band just doesn’t even sound like themselves. Eddie is singing in a screamy shouty voice half the time, which doesn’t suit him very well, and the songs just don’t have much to latch onto. There’s nothing catchy about them, nothing to sing along to, no killer riffs or guitar solos.

The ballads on this album aren’t much better. “Just Breathe” is boring, unremarkable, and sappy. So is “Speed of Sound”. “The End” is all right but again doesn’t particularly stand out as a good song.

There’s a couple of other ‘rockers’, but don’t expect much. There’s tracks like “Supersonic”, which is incredibly irritating with its pounding beat and tiresome chorus but luckily short. Then there’s a bunch of middling shit there that’s not really worth my time to talk about. The lyrics don’t exactly inspire much in any of these either. They vary between serviceable and a bit cheesy, but rarely interesting in any way.

It’s just a very short, forgettable, generic album. I’m putting about as much work into this review as it feels went into the album. As with the last album, there’s just nothing really to come back to here. There’s a few songs to add to their live set that people won’t hate, but I can’t see anyone saying “OH FUCK YES! JOHNNY GUITAR! I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHIT!” when one of these songs is played. Probably one of the worst albums in an otherwise pretty good catalog, for sure. And it fails not because it’s unlistenable, but because it is so safe and generally blah feeling. I was traveling yesterday for a few hours and i popped this album in to give it another chance, and I barely noticed that the album was over and had repeated a few songs, as I had tuned it out about halfway through. On the plus side, I like the cover art and packaging, that’s pretty cool. But yeah, avoid.

One Response to “Pearl Jam – Backspacer”

  1. Andrew Raub Says:

    These guys helped define 90’s rock music. It’s sad to see them straying from what they helped create and relying on dated rock templates. Pearl Jam is not good in that arena, leave it to the White Stripes.

    I have no doubt they could put out another great album, they just need to focus on what they do best and not what they want to do best.

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