Pearl Jam: Backspacer | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023  

Pearl Jam

Backspacer

Monkeywrench

Oct 14, 2009 Pearl Jam Bookmark and Share


As they were for many people my age (40> X > 30; people who were somewhere between emerging teens and graduating from college when Ten was released), Pearl Jam was a touchstone for my youth and my musical independence. But the band, as it did for many people, lost me. They became so concerned with how they were perceived, and in fact, so concerned that people bothered to perceive them at all, that they remade and recast themselves as a machine set to purposeful failure.

A funny thing happened, of course, in that some of their fans were so devoted that they hung on, record after record, for the drips and drabs that showed how amazing the band could be. Popular wisdom (an oxymoron if ever there was one) said that the band’s losing battle with Ticketmaster sapped their energy, and the demands of their record label sapped their creativity. Really, though, nothing changed Pearl Jam as much as their own insistence on being a blue-collar, chugging rock band, suitable for bars and clubs, and not the high-flying, leap-from-the-rafters, arena monsters they aspired to with their earliest work.

So here we are, nearly 20 years after the release of Ten, and Pearl Jam has attained their wish of chugging along, although they’re still playing arenas and stadiums, because there are still enough people who adore them to fill arenas and stadiums. I am by no means condemning those people. Pearl Jam, at its finest, can still write a breathtaking song. The question for the last 15 years or so has been, do they want to?

Backspacer would seem to be one of their last great hopes. They are out from under their record contract. They seem to recognize their place in the world, and perhaps, perhaps, what they have missed becoming.

No song could be more emblematic of Pearl Jam’s internal struggle than “The Fixer” an excellent, melodic song that contains many of the elements the band has been purposefully ignoring for far too long—shifting textures, layered melodies, propulsive drive, lead singer Eddie Vedder doing some actual singing; Vedder’s voice has been the band’s main weapon since its inception, and he yanks and tears at his vocal chords something awful at times rather than simply singing. “I wanna fight to get it back again,” Vedder sings on “The Fixer,” and it feels like a rallying cry for the band.

It’s been a long time since Pearl Jam has felt this lively and immediate. Does it measure up to their best work? No. But the little sideline guitar licks in “Supersonic,” the vocals in “Amongst the Waves,” the lyrics and keys (piano and synth) in “The Fixer,” and the mounting tension of “Unthought Known” gives one hope that Pearl Jam is headed in the right direction.

Even where things go wrong, there’s reason for optimism. The opening “Gonna See My Friend” indulges the band’s periodic delusion that they’re more punk than they really are (which is not at all) but it’s impossible not to believe that the song would be a full minute shorter on some of their other albums, and the changes would have been removed for a more flattened approach.

I still root for Pearl Jam, and listen to each of their albums with the hope that I’ll get the same charge I did from Ten and Vs., and perhaps the greatest testament to Backspacer is that it’s the most difficult album in a long time to immediately dismiss. Instead of taking the middle of the road, where they’ve dug themselves quite a rut, Pearl Jam seems like they’re finally ready to choose a side. Hopefully. (www.pearljam.com)

Author rating: 5/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 0/10



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

smikalis
October 26th 2009
4:05pm

This is a fantastic review.  I’m one of those people that consumes all things Pearl Jam (50+ live shows).  You nailed Backspacer perfectly.  I want to tell you how great it is but it isn’t - it is a step in the right direction though.  Nice job.

Allen K
February 15th 2010
2:31am

Good review; I haven’t read too many writers who understand how willfully PJ veered away from arena rock in a self-hating scramble for perceived artistic cred. The incidents you mention didn’t exactly help their momentum nor, for that matter, did their protracted obsession with Neil Young (part of the great credibility grab). Backspacer finds the band re-embracing melody, and a revisiting a touch of minor-key drama. PJ hasn’t been without virtue since Vs. but their latest is indeed the best indication that they might be ready to consistently do what they do best—reminds one of R.E.M.‘s tentative return to form. Let’s hope both bands can continue to shake off the rust.

CortezSonya28
August 21st 2011
4:24am

It’s cool that we are able to take the personal loans and that opens up new possibilities.

DOWNS26ELLA
September 6th 2011
7:58pm

All people deserve very good life and loan or just collateral loan would make it much better. Just because people’s freedom relies on money state.

KENNEDYJillian32
December 29th 2011
1:17pm

I would like to propose not to hold off until you earn enough cash to buy all you need! You can just get the personal loans or short term loan and feel yourself fine

LakishaPatel
April 22nd 2012
2:40pm

I had got a desire to make my business, however I did not have got enough amount of cash to do it. Thank God my friend proposed to utilize the personal loans. Thus I received the term loan and made real my dream.

ShepardJosephine
May 21st 2012
3:14pm

Following my own investigation, thousands of people in the world get the loan at different banks. Thence, there is a good possibility to receive a student loan in all countries.

NolaMcintyre
August 16th 2012
3:49pm

That is good that people can take the mortgage loans moreover, it opens new possibilities.

GINA33Barr
May 28th 2013
9:01am

That can be not very good for you to take a stress of term papers writing. Man can be not strong enough to manage with all. Luckily, papers writing firms give you a chance to buy essay online.

AngelFrench34
May 31st 2013
10:13am

Sometimes, people study utilizing not a lot time for fun. Our writing services gets college students a chance to chill out, offering academic papers accomplished by professionals.

ParsonsAdriana
June 3rd 2013
4:53am

Nowadays it isn’t necessary to do your best so that create excellent academic papers as online writing services are able to give you professional assistance. Buy essay writing service and forget about hard writing tasks.

Bass24Emily
July 28th 2013
3:44pm

This is understandable that cash makes us free. But how to act when one does not have cash? The only one way is to get the mortgage loans or student loan.

Essaysempire agency
July 30th 2013
9:19pm

Go to home page “essaysempire.com” and order best custom papers and achieve desired results simply by obtaining our good custom essay service.

Lynette30Savage
August 11th 2013
12:12pm

Check here if you are looking for a dependable writing centre. Buy essay uk from the best specialists.

BURNETTHelen27
August 11th 2013
4:01pm

Frequently, high school students fail their degrees because they are lack of time and have no chance to create their research papers. However, all altered when custom writing firms emerged. Theferore, up-to-date students have a chance to buy term paper essays. It’s a big advantage!

McleodCOLEEN32
August 15th 2013
9:17am

Searching for superb service? This trusty company has a lot of experience in writing industry, so it will give you fine quality Narrative Essay.

Law essay
August 15th 2013
9:28am

Our company has been in the market for quite a long time, so if you are seeking where to obtain superior quality Abortion Essay, merely contact us.