So this is now the third Pearl Jam album in a row that fails to excite me. Is it them? Is it me? Is the truth somewhere in between?
I disliked Backspacer and Lightning Bolt enough that I’ve never listened to them again, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the ratings I gave them. That presents a problem for me, here, because I read reviews saying this is a marked improvement over at least one of those records, and I honestly can’t tell you. I don’t remember! When I was younger and a band I liked would put out a new album, I’d listen to all the albums I had of theirs to see how it fit. I don’t really have the time or inclination to do that anymore, so I’m left trying to remember two albums I haven’t listened to in years.
As a friend said, “This is Pearl Jam”. What he might have said is “This is 21st Century Pearl Jam”. The band has a certain sound at this point that they only deviate from occasionally. (Sometimes more often than not, such as on Backspacer.) The things I like about Pearl Jam are mostly here but something is missing and I’m not sure what. It could be that, at this stage, they don’t write songs that work for me quite like their older songs do. Alternatively it could be that I am no longer as receptive to the songs they write. I don’t think its their sound, for the most part, as I like the sound of the record, and I continue to like music made with guitars, no matter how passe it might be in 2020.
One thing I want to mention: It sounds like Vedder is doing a David Byrne impression on the verses of “Dance of the Clairvoyants” and I can’t decide whether it’s annoying, funny or endearing. I’d say it’s the weirdest thing here but nothing here is that weird for them. It’s not like there’s a song with a broken accordion about bugs, or anything like that.
There is a part of me that thinks this record will grow on me more than the last two, but there’s a part of me that knows I will not find the time for it as I’ve got too much other stuff to listen to and this isn’t calling my name right now.