Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pearl Jam - Backspacer

Pearl Jam fans rejoice! Backspacer is here and that means 11 tracks of brand new Pearl Jam tunes to digest and enjoy. Coming off one of their best records ever (2006’s self-titled disc), Backspacer has a lot of competition to live up to. Pearl Jam was an incredible album that just got better as time went on (especially after hearing the songs live). So, is Backspacer worth heading over to your local independent music store to purchase? Let’ spin the disc and find out.

Backspacer opens with the quirky Gonna See My Friend. Mike McCreedy’s guitar is immediately felt on this number and this song sets the pace for the rest of the record – fast, short, and sweet. Showing their punk rock roots and influences, Gonna See My Friend is a powerful punch to kick-start the record.

The Fixer (the first single released) is an excellent rock song in the vein of Pearl Jam classics like Spin The Black Circle and Lukin. A catchy song that washes over you upon first listen, this is a great piece of music and shows that it was well worth the wait for some new Pearl Jam tunes. Definitely meant for mainstream radio, The Fixer is an upbeat tune that sticks in your head and has you singing along after two or three listens.

Just Breathe sounds like a leftover from Eddie Vedder’s solo effort (the soundtrack to Into The Wild). With the same acoustic guitar and slow vocal that was captured on Into The Wild, there is little different about Just Breathe that would make it a true Pearl Jam song. This is an Eddie Vedder song that would have best been saved for his next solo release. Not that it’s a bad song, it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of Backspacer and lacks true Pearl Jam feel.

Unthought Known is eerily reminiscent of the stellar Love Boat Captain (from Riot Act). Containing similar structure and style, this is an amazing track that stands out on its own. A slow guitar buildup by Mike McCreedy leads into Eddie Vedder’s smooth vocals, which blends into Boom Gasper’s piano twill and Matt Cameron’s crashing drums. The song explodes from there into a rocking wall of sound. Unthought Known is one of the best songs on the album.

Speed of Sound is the better ballad on the disc (by far) and captures everything that we’ve come to know and love about a Pearl Jam slow song. A steady introduction to a powerful bridge and chorus that everyone will be shouting along to in concert, Speed of Sound is classic Pearl Jam.

With the purchase of this disc, you get an exceptional bonus, 2 free downloads from a selected list of 11 concerts. That alone makes this disc worth the $12 it cost. Just pop the CD into your computer and the automated menu page appears. The concerts selections range from 2005 – 2008 and there are some great ones to choose from.

Backspacer is definitely worth the investment. The free concert downloads alone make it a worthwhile purchase, but factor in that the new disc is a record Pearl Jam worked hard on and contains some outstanding cuts, then it’s a no-brainer. While Backspacer may not be in the same league as Yield or Vs, it is a strong effort by the band. Short, sweet, and compact, Backspacer is the side of Pearl Jam that we’ve been waiting to see break out and dominate a record.

Backspacer is available exclusively at Target, ITunes, and your local independent record store.

Track Listing:
Gonna See My Friend
Got Some
The Fixer
Johnny Guitar
Just Breathe
Amongst The Waves
Unthought Known
Speed of Sound
Force of Nature
The End

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