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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Pearl Jam
Backspacer
MonkeyWrench

Rating: 6/10 ?


December 16, 2009
It's difficult for bands as seasoned and distinguished as Pearl Jam to produce material that's still relevant to more than just their fanbase. There are only a small number of artists who have lasted as long and enjoyed the same impact as PJ who are still garnering acclaim this last in the game (Radiohead, R.E.M., Beck, and to some, U2). Additionally, while Pearl Jam may still rock out, recently they haven't delivered on the depth or creativity extant on their more ambitious early and mid-period albums.

For Backspacer the band chose to return to Brendan O'Brien, who also produced their five-year hot streak from Vs. through Yield (including their fruitful Neil Young collaboration Mirror Ball with its unjustly less remembered two-song companion Merkin Ball). But the results of this Backspacer are sadly not as listenable or as worth celebrating as those earlier ventures, as many of the songs--while more optimistic than their despondent Bush-era discs--appear disjointed, uninspired and most damningly, all too familiar.

The band does step out of their safety zone for the occasional sound alien to previous discs: "Unthought Known," without a doubt the best track on the record, enhances the usual lumber with a choppy piano riff, which turns out to be a much-needed element for a talented band who's steadily becoming less inspired. Although the lyrics are overembellished at times ("Feel the sky blanket you/ With gems & rhinestones"), Vedder's iconic voice is still unusually affecting for a device that's all too easy to remember spawned Creed. How an unimaginative song like "The Fixer" was released as a single before this track is perhaps a side effect of the band's first attempt to release and market a studio album on their own (they've self-released many, MANY live ones). Similarly, how a garage-rocking, adrenaline-pumping tune like "Supersonic" is selected to follow this majestic track is beyond comprehension, as it completely interrupts the most pleasant three-song sequence on the album.

Another track that branches out is "Just Breathe," which incorporates cozy, peaceful strings not unreminiscent of Vedder's solo Into the Wild soundtrack. This quasi-existential ballad focuses on larger issues ("I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love"). But ultimately at this point, the songs that I'm most attracted to are still the slower, more intuitive weepers showcasing Vedder's voice, and alas, such simplicity is scarce on Backspacer.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones

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