Pearl Jam: Back Spacer (Universal)

 |   |  1 min read

Pearl Jam: The Fixer
Pearl Jam: Back Spacer (Universal)

Just as some would have you believe there were "Beatles fans" Vs "Stones fans" back in the day (usually by old people styling themselves Stones fans to appear cooler than they actually were at school), so too there was that weird schism set up between Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Nirvana were, of course, "authentic" and Pearl Jam were somehow just pretend-grunge in the eyes of many. The evidence of Pearl Jam's muscular shows and the fire-power on their albums would have seemed to give the lie to that (gee, didn't Kurt sing sensitive songs and do acoustic ballads?) but that kind of artificial divide suited the media and a few hardcore fans.

Me? I loved 'em both (and Mother Love Bone, early Soundgarden, SST label noise etc) but of the two I would have preferred to see Pearl Jam at their peak. They always struck me as more cathartic than Nirvana as a rock band.

That they have survived so long (although this is only their ninth studio album in almost two decades I think) and willfully walked away from corporate rock/MTV game more successfully than Nirvana has been to their great credit. Unless you are a real fan you probably wouldn't have a clue about their private lives -- and in this age faux-celebs/rehab children and the Winehouse/Doherty axis I quite like that too: means you just take the music as it comes at you.

And this one really comes at you: the two openers are the lyrically nihilistic Gonna See My Friend (a death/heroin song?) which is a full-frontal power-rock assault where that rhythm section really gets a workout, and Got Some is a steroid-fuelled stab at New Wave rock'n'roll.

Later Johnny Guitar and Unthought Unknown offer convincing evidence that Eddie Vedder and friends are more than capable of tearing the roof off a concert hall and projecting right to the back of the biggest stadiums. This is terrific rock'n'roll.

But there's also pop here -- The Fixer is power-pop with a chorus, Supersonic is trad rock'n'roll/pop which is flat-tack Fifties fun -- and Just Breathe is gentle acoustic ballad. Speed of Sound is slightly psyched-out bent-Beach Boys late-summer sound shoved through a rock mixer, and The End is one of those string-enhanced Vedder ballads that simply aches.

There's a lot of great Brendan O'Brien-produced music crammed into the running time of two sides of vinyl (thank you) but if you want more then there are options on the CD to download two live concerts. And that ain't corporate.

This Pearl Jam is some way removed from that which emerged almost two decades ago, they are more traditional in their approach, but they sound strong and like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves. And pretty cathartic still.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Thomas Dybdahl: "that great October sound" (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

Thomas Dybdahl: "that great October sound" (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

Some voices -- like those of Jeff Buckley, Antony (of the Johnsons) and Aretha Franklin -- just draw you to them. In the alt.folk scene the late Elliott Smith had such a gift. You felt he was... > Read more

Massive Attack: Blue Lines 2012 Mix/Master (Virgin)

Massive Attack: Blue Lines 2012 Mix/Master (Virgin)

Few albums can claim to have invented and come to define a genre -- but Blue Lines did that for trip-hop . . . and more. It turned the spotlight on Bristol, introduced Tricky and Shara Nelson... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

Many years ago, because it was silly, I started picking up the odd tribute album. And tribute albums are odd indeed. Without much difficulty -- because tribute albums almost invariably end up... > Read more

CC Adcock: Castin' My Spell (1999)

CC Adcock: Castin' My Spell (1999)

One of the greatest producers, arrangers and composers was the late Jack Nitzsche who was -- among many other things -- Phil Spector's offsider and orchestrated River Deep Mountain High. You... > Read more