Trading on strong material, deft guitars and endless stamina, Pearl Jam continues to deliver
History will smile on Pearl Jam.
After all the hype and scrutiny of their early years, they have calmly settled into the business of consistently and, more importantly, persistently cranking out good, and sometimes great, rock records. In the process they’ve fostered a jamband’s sense of community amongst their fans while maintaining a punk band’s sense of purpose. Seven studio albums (or, if you count the live “bootlegs,” roughly 185 releases) into the whole thing, Pearl Jam is operating at an energy level that’s often lacking in today’s most-heralded “buzz bands,” not to mention in their (mostly disbanded) grunge-era contemporaries.
Clocking in at just over 45 minutes, the band’s self-titled J Records debut is a striking wallop front-loaded with rockers but gradually giving way to modest but compelling mini-epics. Suffused with much of the same political boil as its predecessor, Riot Act, the album deals mostly in the type of loosely sketched character-studies that are Vedder’s lyrical forte. Looking past the crunching but obvious broadside of “World Wide Suicide,” deeper album cuts like “Unemployable” rise to join the ranks of Pearl Jam’s greatest anthems. Concise, focused and even, it’s a great addition to the band’s increasingly rich catalog.