Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam

Fourteen years since their debut album Ten Pearl Jam has run through several drummers but otherwise remain intact, challenging the music business with unorthodox touring methods and few music videos. They haven’t let their own fans off the hook either, servicing them with music that’s often been moodier and more mercurial than standard-issue hard rock. Singer Eddie Vedder’s always been the band’s focal point and it’s no less so on this eighth studio album. The band clangs along with an angry, flustered groove (“Life Wasted,” “World Wide Suicide ”) and there are plenty of testosterone-laden grooves to surf, but the album’s highlights occur most often when the band backs down ever so slightly and hands center stage to Vedder, who understands the limits and appeal of melodrama as well as any angst-ridden rock singer out there. “Come Back” swoons with regret. “Gone” riles itself under Vedder’s understated intensity. The psychedelically informed “Parachutes” sounds as if it were lifted from a reflective singer-songwriter LP. It’s these moments when Pearl Jam takes an admirable individualist stand.

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