Pearl Jam - Backspacer
Universal Music Group
Hard Rock
11 songs (36:38)
Release year: 2009
Pearl Jam, Universal Music Group
Reviewed by Goat

For their ninth full-length, Pearl Jam seem happy to continue in the Hard Rock route set by their previous self-titled album, yet there are changes to be noted. The band have moved towards a more straightforward, almost New Wave sound, with little lead guitar to be noted – instead, it’s all about the Poppy hooks. This would be a risky move for practically any other band, but people are so used to Pearl Jam rattling against their self-imposed cage that any experimentation is welcomed, and indeed, there’s a certain aural cheerfulness to Backspacer which makes it an enjoyable listen. Blame it on the new American President, but Pearl Jam sound almost happy to be alive for the first time since... well, the first time ever.

You can also partially blame Backspacer being a good album on the reacquisition of Brendan O’Brien as producer, Pearl Jam having not worked with him since 1998’s underappreciated Yield. The recording sessions seemed much more relaxed and happy than they have been in the past, the band going to California and apparently enjoying themselves – not to mention the rather awesome guitar tone shown off on Johnny Guitar and elsewhere. Moments like the string-backed Just Breathe are upbeat, optimistic tunes that are sure to stir fans’ hearts, whilst enjoyable little rockers like the opening trio of Gonna See My Friend, Got Some and The Fixer prove that the band haven’t lost their mojo. Each of these songs deserve a paragraph in their own right – they’re perfect little rockers that are sneakily more complex than they at first seem, awesome sunny anthems sure to be live favourites (especially The Fixer, Pearl Jam’s most instantly enjoyable song in years).

To be sure, this is Pearl Jam at their most commercial. Perversely, if they had accepted their fates as the new kings of Rock in the 90s, then this is exactly the sort of album they’d be making around now; not too experimental, full of hooks, enough variety to ensure widespread appeal without ever taking real risks. Any fan of the band has heard the likes of Amongst The Waves before, a second-rate Given To Fly that nevertheless sounds wonderful simply because Pearl Jam are damn good at writing that sort of slow, uplifting song – Unthought Known especially U2-ish in its big stadium-filling epicness. Think of Backspacer as the perfect Pearl Jam mixtape, and you’ll enjoy it a great deal, especially as there are more short, Rocking songs like Supersonic than ballads. Heck, even slow swingers like Speed Of Sound are highly enjoyable, whilst Vedder’s voice is at its most emotionally effective on album closer The End. At just thirty-six minutes long, Pearl Jam’s ninth album is over quickly, but it’s packed with enough quality to ensure that you’ll be listening again and again.

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Killing Songs :
Gonna See My Friend, The Fixer, Just Breathe, Amongst The Waves, The End
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Pearl Jam that we have reviewed:
Pearl Jam - Live On Two Legs reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam reviewed by Adam and quoted 88 / 100
Pearl Jam - Yield reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Pearl Jam - Vitalogy reviewed by Adam and quoted 89 / 100
Pearl Jam - Vs reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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