Pearl Jam Hit The Target

noah | September 21, 2009 10:00 am

Our look at the closing lines of the week’s biggest new-music reviews continues with a roundup of reactions to Pearl Jam’s ninth studio album Backspacer, which was released via Target and the band’s fan club yesterday: • “Even the requisite restrained ballads feel renewed: ‘The End’ finds Vedder channeling Cat Stevens, backed by a string and brass ensemble. Then there’s the towering anthem ‘Amongst the Waves,’ which could bring ‘Alive’ fans back to the fold. It even expands on that song’s theme, moving from grudging survival to jubilant exuberance (‘I’ve put away my early grave’). For the first time in years, Pearl Jam are seizing the moment rather than wallowing in it.” [Josh Modell, Spin] • “The lightness and dexterity of the playing throughout Backspacer, and of Vedder’s hard-driving, often playful vocals, come from Pearl Jam’s members taking this music seriously, honing in and nailing it. Brendan O’Brien’s production is radio-smart but not intrusive. The directness of these tracks is what Pearl Jam aimed for on its own, and there’s still plenty of attention to detail, including some of lead guitarist McCready’s best work of late. This effort is not a throwaway, nor is it a switch-up simply meant to move units at the band’s big-box retail partner, Target. (Backspacer is also available at independent record stores and through iTunes, Rock Band and the band’s Ten Club.) It’s proof of what a bunch of grown people can accomplish when they know exactly what they want.” [Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times] • ” But elsewhere, this is a record made by mature men with perspective: full of reflection and eclecticism, finding space for both U2 guitar motifs and Buzzcocks solos. Vedder has acquired a rich, worldly croon, which he brings to most dazzling effect on the lovely, unexpectedly pastoral ‘Just Breathe.’ Backspacer is full of such curveballs: the ninth Pearl Jam album may even be the best of the lot.” [Dave Simpson, The Guardian] • “The songs seem to mess around with a loose theme of addiction and recovery. ‘Got Some’ (with Vedder chanting, ‘Got some if you need it’) could be a dealer’s invitation, while ‘Speed of Sound’ is the flip side, a late-night barroom lament from a guy who mourns that ‘Every time I get me some/It gets the best of me.’ But the downbeat songs on Backspacer don’t get too grim — even the desperate drunk who narrates ‘Speed of Sound’ ends up looking forward to a chance to start fresh tomorrow. Fans of Pearl Jam’s chest-beating angst mode might look for some metaphorical resonance in ‘Amongst the Waves.’ Yet the more you listen, the more it just sounds like Vedder’s spending a nice day surfing. After toughing out the Bush years, Pearl Jam aren’t in the mood for brooding; at long last, surf’s up.” [Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone]