Pearl Jam
Backspacer


3.5
great

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
September 20th, 2009 | 96 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pearl Jam return with their most focused album in a long, long time.

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that Pearl Jam's best years are behind them. After more or less peaking with Ten in 1991, the Seattle group released a string of excellent records during the 90s before dipping into mediocrity with the Binaural and Riot Act. Pearl Jam was a step in the right direction, though at its worst moments (essentially their heavier rock songs) they still sounded like a parody of themselves.

While Backspacer isn't necessarily different from Pearl Jam in composition, the record is far more focused than anything the band has released in a long time. Even hard rocking tracks like "Gonna See My Friend" or "Supersonic" are a lot less awkward sounding then those of the last three albums, though guitarist Mike McCready is still prone to laying down questionable guitar leads, particularly in the former. More interesting by far are "Got Some" and "The Fixer", both of which drop the edgy rock guise in favour of melodic rock. It's a move that pays immediate dividends; not only does Pearl Jam sound a lot more comfortable in this role, but it's also the most fun the band has been since they released Yield in 1998.

With that in mind, Pearl Jam's best post-Ten songs have always been their more relaxed material, and Backspacer does little to change this. The acoustic "Just Breathe" more closely resembles the build of the material Eddie Vedder penned for the Into the Wild soundtrack, but the song's nostalgic tone is vintage Pearl Jam. It's a simple track, utilizing soft acoustic strumming and a soothing string make for one of Pearl Jam's most delicate songs, perhaps matched only by "The End", which closes off Backspacer. "Unthought Known" and "Amongst the Waves" are more typical, drawing on rhythmic, mid-paced instrumentation, while maintaining a sunny disposition. For much of the album, Vedder is the focal point, and while he has probably seen better days, he can still belt it out with the best of them. Vedder's soaring vocals compliment Backspacer's upbeat atmosphere perfectly and often give offer the record's most memorable moments, most notably the climax of "Unthought Known" and the massive chorus featured in "Force of Nature".

Backspacer doesn't tread down a new path for Pearl Jam stylistically, but it does differ from past works in some ways. This isn't the same brooding Pearl Jam we heard on "Black"; hell, they aren't even as vulnerable as we heard on "Wishlist". Rather, Pearl Jam's ninth album sounds a lot more optimistic and positive than the band ever has. More importantly, Backspacer sees Pearl Jam finally escape the slump they fell into with Binaural nine years ago. Really, even though it's the kind album we all knew the band was still capable of recording, considering Pearl Jam's recent past it's quite the accomplishment. And I couldn't be happier with it.



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user ratings (760)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
PuddlesPuddles
September 20th 2009


4784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

With that in mind, Pearl Jam's best post-Ten songs have always been their more relaxed material, and Backspacer does little to change this.


Somehow, I find the band a bit more boring when they're 'heavy'. good review man

Mr_Coffee
September 20th 2009


631 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Great review, man. I'll give it a try. "The Fixer" is awesome.

foreverendeared
September 20th 2009


14678 Comments


Pearl Jam are a very weird band for me. I like Ten a lot, but i pretty much can't stand anything else they've done.

LepreCon
September 20th 2009


4144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great, concise review. Album's pretty good

EVedder27
September 20th 2009


6088 Comments


good review. It seems like the 3 of us that have done the reviews for this album pretty much have the same views on it.

deroeckj
September 20th 2009


69 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review,
though IMO Binaural was a good album, as good as Ten, and certainly more diverse.

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 20th 2009


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Somehow, I find the band a bit more boring when they're 'heavy'. good review man
After Ten they really aren't as good. "Once" is still my favourite song from them though.

Digging: Grimes - Visions

Jesuslaves
September 20th 2009


4658 Comments


Excellent review. Never really cared for this band.

ziroth
September 20th 2009


1252 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

nice review, this is surprisingly good.

Matte
September 20th 2009


546 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I refuse to listen to this until there is album art.

AtavanHalen
September 21st 2009


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Fantastic review, man.
Seeing PJ in November, I'm really excited.

Flyboy
September 21st 2009


395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The artwork for this record is cool



Nagrarok
September 21st 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

The artwork for this record should finally show up.

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 21st 2009


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the good lord knows i've tried

Nagrarok
September 21st 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

IT'S THERE!

redsparrow
September 21st 2009


431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

3.5? Really?

PuddlesPuddles
September 21st 2009


4784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Ehhhh yeah. Really, there's little to be excited for. It's very predictable. Way too predictable. I like Pearl Jam but I can only listen to them make the same stuff for so long.

redsparrow
September 21st 2009


431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm thinking of downgrading this to a 4, but I just think that it's just too good for a 3.5.

Nagrarok
September 21st 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

No way this is 4.5. You should make it a 4.

redsparrow
September 21st 2009


431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I would if the reviewer went with a 4. I'm giving the 0.5 the reviewer missed.



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