Pearl Jam (Universal)
The first thing to note is that it doesn’t sound like Pearl Jam.
Sure, there are still guitars to the fore, and Eddie Vedder sounds exactly like Eddie Vedder (furious, excitable, constipated). However, Pearl Jam haven’t sounded this loose for ages, if ever.
Producer Brendan O’Brien has spent the past few years trying to make a string of Bruce Springsteen albums sound as appalling as possible, but he does a great job of making Pearl Jam’s ninth album sound fresh.
The problem is that this newly energised version of the band doesn’t last beyond the first 12 minutes. The opening four tracks on Backspacer are vivid, focused and zippy. The fifth, though, is a dull ballad called Just Breathe, and the record never quite recovers.
Aside from Vedder’s Marmite vocals, Pearl Jam’s biggest problem has always been their earnestness, and it’s this that kills tracks such as Speed Of Sound and The End. Progress then, but it was nearly so much better.