Pearl Jam

Studio Album by released in 2006

Pearl Jam review

Pearl Jam's first studio release in four years and their best in ten

If its debut album 15 years ago made Pearl Jam apprehensive with success, the Seattle quintet better buckle in for a return to eminence. Nearly 15 years after Ten, Pearl Jam finally returned to the strengths of their debut with Pearl Jam 2006, a sharply focused set of impassioned hard rock. On its eighth studio release the band socks away the adventurous experimentation that dogged some of its most recent records to investigate a post-September 11, war-ravaged world overflowing with urgency and significance. Wartime, for everything else that's wrong with it, brings out the best in Pearl Jam: the power-chord brawn, contrary righteousness and metallic-KO songwriting sense. The band's second and third albums, 1993's bluntly titled Vs. and 1994's Vitalogy, were as good as modern rock-in-opposition gets: shotgun guitars, incendiary bass and drums, and Eddie Vedder's scalded-dog howl, all discharged in backs-to-the-wall fury and union. This album, Pearl Jam's first studio release in four years and their best in ten, is more of that top electric combat. This record has got a soulfulness and originality that shows that a vibrant and cocksure Pearl Jam is back in town – and ready to retake the world.

Pearl Jam has never sounded as hard or direct as they do here

Pearl Jam has never sounded as hard or direct as they do here — even on Ten there was an elasticity to the music, due in large part to Jeff Ament's winding fretless bass, that kept the record from sounding like a direct hit to the gut, which Pearl Jam certainly does. Nowhere does it sound more forceful than it does in its first half, when the tightly controlled rockers Life Wasted, World Wide Suicide, Comatose, Severed Hand, and Marker in the Sand pile up on top of each other, giving the record a genuine feeling of urgency. That insistent quality and sense of purpose doesn't let up even as they slide into the quite beautiful, lightly psychedelic acoustic pop of Parachutes, which is when the album begins to open up slightly. If the second half of the record does have a greater variety of tempos than the first, it's still heavy on rockers, ranging from the ironic easy swagger of Unemployable to the furious Big Wave, which helps set the stage for the twin closers of Come Back and Inside Job. The former is a keyboard-soaked love song complete with a chilling Gossard solo, while the latter is a deliberately escalating epic that gracefully closes the album on a hopeful note – and coming after an album filled with righteous anger and frustration, it is indeed welcome.

This album achieves the grandeur, rage, and beauty Pearl Jam have always pursued

Since the general public stopped paying close attention around 1995, the band has been slowly perfecting everything it already did well, digging deeper into its roots and paying better attention to melody and songcraft. If grunge is about to make a comeback, then Eddie Vedder's band intends to side step any nostalgic scene. Arguably the godfathers of the genre, Pearl Jam's eighth studio album sometimes takes them into new subtle country rock territory which might account for the eponymous nature of the title. The band does sound reinvigorated, positively upbeat for the most part and with a musical enthusiasm that's infectious to the listener, even if you've never really been a fan. What makes Pearl Jam 2006 such an effective record is that it can be easily enjoyed as sheer music without ever digging into Vedder's lyrics. Song for song, this is their best set since Vitalogy, and the band has never sounded so purposeful on record as they do here, nor have they ever delivered a record as consistent as this. This self-titled record achieves the grandeur, rage, and beauty Pearl Jam have always pursued, throughout its entirety. And the thing that makes it work exceptionally well is that Pearl Jam has embraced everything they do well, whether it's their classicist hard rock or heart-on-sleeve humanitarianism.