Review Summary: Short, unpretentious and fun
In Metallica none of the members deign to involve themselves in side projects as they feel this would distract from writing music for Metallica and ultimately be detrimental to Metallica's music as a whole. As Hetfield himself says "When someone does a side project it takes away from the strength of Metallica". This certainly doesn't seem to be the policy with Pearl Jam who have been involved in side projects since even before the release of their first album, when they played with Chris Cornell in the Temple of The Dog.
Contrary to Hetfield's claim that this kind of involvement weakens a band I feel Pearl Jam's collaborations have enabled them to work with different musicians and as such gather new ideas which have seeped seamlessly into their own work. For instance, Stone Gossard released an album with his funk rock side project Brad in 1993 prior to the release of Pearl Jam's Vs. and the influence of his project could be seen on the album particularly on funkier numbers like W.M.A and Rats. Later, after Eddie Vedder's collaboration with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack and Jeff Ament's adventure into a more world music influenced sound with his side project Three Fish, Pearl Jam returned with No Code which had its own somewhat world music-like sound on certain tracks such as Who You Are and In My Tree. In a continuing trend of adventure outside of his day job as bassist in Pearl Jam Jeff Ament became the latest member of Pearl Jam to release a solo album after Stone Gossard's somewhat muddled Bayleaf and Eddie Vedder's inspired effort for the Into The Wild soundtrack.
In a similar format to Pearl Jam's albums this album basically has three types of songs; more up beat rock songs, mid tempo rock songs and low key ballads. The more upbeat songs are weighted towards the start of the album and by and large are solid songs, however the first track "Just Like That" is somewhat grating with its stop/start rhythms and nearly put me off the album as a whole. The song is reminiscent of the more annoying tracks on Pearl Jam's b-sides and rarities album "Lost Dogs". Thankfully this track is only one and half minutes long and the quality of material increases exponentially from there. The other more upbeat rock songs on the album are relaxed, loose and fun. However as a result tend to leave a minor impression but never overstay their welcome. After the trio of upbeat material at the offset of the album we reach the first more low-key ballad type song in the form of "Relapse". This is also the first song that leaves a lasting impressions with its odd odd vocal melody at the start and the prettiness that follows that. The pretty parts of the track in fact remind me of the more laid back psychedelic moments of the Stone Temple Pilots and I mean that as a compliment! This is followed by perhaps the best song on the album named "Say Goodbye" whose verse reminds me of the acoustic side of Foo Fighters "In Your Honour" album, which gives way to a pretty, sunny chorus.
The album continues in this vein alternating between more upbeat and low key material until the closing song of the album which is an odd instrumental which has a drumbeat and feel that could have been at home on former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons solo album "Attention Dimension". This is an ideal end to a highly, enjoyable and relaxed album from an artist who is comfortable in his own skin and who resists the urge to become heavy handed or self -indulgent. The main drawback is Ament's vocals, which while being perfectly solid are rather unmemorable and lack the immediacy of Eddie Vedder's vocal work. However this album is a solid and relaxed effort that is pleasantly surprisingly and enjoyable.