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Pearl Jam “Backspacer” Review

pearl jam backspacer cover

At that particular time in my life I had heard of Pearl Jam. I was familiar with whatever radio-friendly singles they had in rotation on the local classic rock radio station, and was a casual fan. But my first real introduction to the band came during the 1996 Grammy Awards. At the time I was a big fan of Primus—probably more of the music video for “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” than the band itself, actually—and had my hopes set on seeing the band win the award for “Best Hard Rock Performance” that evening. In the end however, Pearl Jam ended up winning with “Spin the Black Circle” (which was originally released in 1994; c’mon!). The short clip of the winning song which the house played as the band made its way to the stage immediately captured me though, and I ended up purchasing Vitalogy shortly thereafter.

The point is that everyone has different moments in time when someone or something makes a dramatic entrance into their lives. For some, their Pearl Jam moment came during grunge’s heyday, for others it came in the form of a blistering guitar riff at the ’96 Grammys, but for some other people out there, believe it or not, it likely came when the band officially debuted “Got Some” during Conan O’Brien’s debut as the host of The Tonight Show. For those bold enough to call themselves die-hard fans, it’s likely extremely difficult to imagine the idea that there are people who haven’t actually sunk their teeth into a Pearl Jam album. But with 9.2 million people watching that night, chances are high that there was at least one person watching who would fit into that category. And chances are also good that there is one such person who had their Pearl Jam moment that night.

Following the release of a deluxe reissue of the band’s classic debut, Ten, this past spring, information began to trickle down regarding the band’s previously announced ninth studio album. And by the time the band was confirmed as the first musical act on The Tonight Show under its new reign, the internet was already abuzz as someone had leaked a rough recording of “The Fixer” following the Cameron Crowe-directed Target Commercial shoot. From there, fans were treated to the televised live performance, and additional bits and pieces began to fall into place.

The album—while still being an easily recognizable Pearl Jam record—parallels bits and pieces of the band’s previous releases this past decade, but is an animal all unto itself. The first step in shifting the band’s direction was returning to producer Brendan O’Brien for the first time since 1998′s Yield (O’Brien also produced No Code, Vitalogy and Vs.). The explanation behind the change had less to do with returning to a time period and more to do with the band necessity to be comfortable with someone who they could trust to do the job of trimming its songs down. And after initially reconvening at their first session for the album together in 2008, that’s exactly what he did. Previously the shortest Pearl Jam album had been the record-setting Vs., which runs about 46 minutes. Backspacer is 10 minutes shorter.

This trimming to the core attitude is immediately reflected in the band’s first three—maybe even four—songs on the record. Following the trend set by Pearl Jam, the band ignites Backspacer with the straightforward “Gonna See My Friend,” the previously mentioned “Got Some” and “The Fixer,” and the gritty “Johnny Guitar.” Though not as raw as the opening set of tracks on the band’s 2006 release, these songs nonetheless represent the core of the album’s energy.

“Got Some” and “The Fixer” are the two amongst the first few tracks that really stick out, though they do so for completely different reasons. “Got Some” is a blazing track that is primarily attractive due to just that: its explosiveness. “Every time you can try/But can’t turn on/A rock song/I got some if you need it,” is a bit of a play on a drug dealer pushing rock (not plural), but ultimately the lyrics are dissolved by the pure enjoyment of the music flowing through the sound of Eddie Vedder’s voice. That last point could be made about “The Fixer” as well, had the song not been slightly slower and oddly funky. Throughout the song Vedder’s voice is highlighted, and despite the lyrics being fairly basic, with each new verse the attraction to them becomes greater and greater, “When something’s broke I wanna put a bit of fixin’ on it/If something’s bored I wanna put a little excited on it/If something’s low I wanna put a little high on it/If something’s lost I wanna fight to get it back again.”

“Amongst the Waves” and “Unknown Thought” both offer a ripple effect, allowing different aspects of the band to alternately take the spotlight throughout each song. Combining an increasingly booming musical presence with uplifting lyrics “Amongst the Waves” eventually blasts through an invisible roadblock and soars, “Riding high amongst the waves, I can feel like I have a soul that has been saved.” Similarly “Unknown Thought” builds slowly, the first two and a half minutes leaning heavily on Vedder’s lyrical focus towards embracing our universal surroundings while the band slowly chimes in behind him. As the song moves forward it again reverts to Vedder’s lyrics, “See the path cut by the moon/For you to walk on/See the waves on distant shores/Waiting your arrival,” before hitting another moment of cohesion before ending the song.

It’s songs like these last two that lend themselves as evidence of the band’s decision to “rehearse” at bassist Jeff Amment’s home in Montana; something Pearl Jam hasn’t done since Ten. As Vedder explained in the Backspacer short, the concept of playing and writing together before hitting the studio was “all based on the idea… ‘let’s write the songs before we record them.’” But just as the album seems to level off, we’re given “Supersonic.”

“Supersonic” opens with a riff that essentially adds a slide to that from “Mankind” before continuing the trend that was set by the album’s first string of tracks. Unlike anything on the record to this point, the song breaks down half way through into a fun trade-off between Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, the guitarists blending a heavy jam under a solo, before kicking back into the chorus of the track.

Ten years ago, had you asked what I thought Pearl Jam would have sounded like as it’s members grew into their early to mid-40s? My response would have probably been something close to what “Speed of Sound” and “Force of Nature” sound like. The songs are on par with much of the band’s output this past decade, but don’t necessarily reflect the same cohesion that is represented through the majority of the record. From there, the album ends with Backspacer‘s second best delicate, brooding love song.

It’s funny that the album’s opener, “Gonna See My Friend,” was described by Vedder as something of a drug song, while the aptly titled “The End” tells a heartbreaking tale that is easily translated as something of a “drug song” itself. The track rests primarily on Vedder and an acoustic guitar, building up as a tale of lovers coming together, before their relationship collapses,

“Help me see myself, ’cause I can no longer tell/Looking up from inside of the bottom of a well, it’s Hell, I yell/But no one hears before, I disappear, whisper in my ear/Give me something to echo in my unknown future/You see, my dear, the end, comes near, I’m here, but not much longer.”

While its pace and tone isn’t entirely different, the gentle sadness of “The End” is ultimately trumped by the album’s best track: the equally sentimental “Just Breathe.”

In first listening to Vedder and Corin Tucker’s rendition of Indio’s “Hard Sun,” released in 2007 on the soundtrack to Into the Wild, I felt as though I had found something that had touched me far deeper than much of anything had in quite some time. The lyrics are one thing—beautiful and deeply moving—but it was the execution of the song that resonated within me. And if “Just Breathe” had been developed along those same lines—Vedder performing a rendition of someone else’s song—I’d say the exact same thing; however, this isn’t someone else’s song.

pearl jam august 2009 by p_a_h

“Oh, I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love.” Connecting various aspects of life that are easily overlooked, Vedder continues the song by defining aspects of common ground that we all—at some point in time—share, “Under everything, just another human being/Yeah I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me breathe.” After assessing the value of finding the humanity within us, strings accompany Vedder as he casts out a line that is repeated throughout the remainder of the song, “Everything that you gave, and nothing you would take.” Vedder himself has called “Just Breathe” the closest thing to an actual Pearl Jam love song, and after boldly addressing that for which he yearns the band safely chimes in, and the song ends as he quietly confronts their mutual morality. Each step in the song enables a touching moment that creates a bond between the songwriter and the listener, and as Vedder carefully allows his love to know that her selflessness is what he finds most beautiful in her, “Just Breathe”—which is lodged in the middle of the album—reaches its “Hard Sun”-moment.

Neither Pearl Jam nor “Spin The Black Circle” are for everybody. Had I not been so fixated on the television set that evening, I might not have developed the intrigue to explore a band that has since become one of my favorites. Chances are good that the majority of the viewers watching that episode of The Tonight Show didn’t make it through the entire episode, didn’t find Pearl Jam to be of their taste, or ended up completely forgetting all about it a few days later. But for some, that had to be their moment; their moment in time when Pearl Jam’s music reached out to them and demanded their attention. And to those people I say Backspacer won’t be a bad place to start. It essentially covers the music that the band has made as it has transitioned through the past two decades, while not allowing you to forget that this is Pearl Jam in 2009. While at times there are songs that pull away from the body of the record, Backspacer demonstrates that the band still has fire, it still has cohesion, and above all it demonstrates that Eddie Vedder is still lyrically able to crush giants. As Vitalogy was to me, I hope Backspacer is to at least a few new Pearl Jam fans.

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Also: Pearl Jam on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien


39 Comments

    Nice to see a fresh perspective on things. The fact that you were turned onto Pearl Jam back in 96, just when everyone started abandoning them, shows that indeed you are a true fan. Its nice to see a review from somebody that wasn’t there at the start, it reminds us old “grungies” that there is something to this obsession we have with this band. I think that its awesome to ponder that “The Fixer” or “got some” could be somebody’s first taste of this band, though the tonight show’s studio sound quality has always sucked. I think new fans should definitely get to know the history of this band and the honesty and integrity they have run their career by. I like that the first single is upbeat and pop, it shows a band continually growing. I remember searching for European bootlegs of this band back early 94 and the guy at the store proclaiming the band as “the rolling stones of this generation”. Back then that was a bold statement. But as a fan I knew exactly what the guy was talking about, there was this sense at that point where the band was taking the reigns on their own destiny, and had reached a point of cohesion both in the music and their relationships with each other that you could just tell they’d likely be around for a long time to come.

    Its funny that you first heard of them at the 96 grammys. That was such a fluke as you said that song was from 94. At the time the band had been put off by media and award shows for years, and it seemed like everyone media outlet still never stopped trying to find some way to get them out of their shell, even if it was to award a 2 year old song. Growing up there was this Nirvana/Pearl Jam rivalry but I liked both. My allegiance over the years falls to Pearl Jam, as that band has continually grown and matured as the rest of their fans have as well. Hope for at least another decade from these guys, but they have given more than most before them.

  • Thanks for taking the time to read this unnecessarily long review ThunderCouch. You touch on something at the end there that I think of from time to time… that rivalry.

    Hypothetically, it would be priceless to see what would happen if Nirvana was still a band today; how the relationship between the two groups shifted through the years, how they parallel or divert from one another, all that stuff.

    Back to the first-timers thought though: it’s typically fun/enlightening to place yourself in someone else’s shoes (or come as close as one can to doing so). Even though the sound was pretty crappy it was still something that, as a fan of rock music, I would have been impressed by. A group of 40-somethings giving more spirit into their music than the vast (VAST) majority of late night musical guests do… would’ve impressed me had I never even heard of PJ.

  • Well, when the Grammy’s came showed, it was February of 1996, and Spin The Black Circle from Vitalogy was released December of 1994. That means STBC had a good full year and a few months of playtime before the award was given.

  • Not too sure if you’re just rappin’ semantics or if there’s a point in there, but if it’s just details: the song was released as a single in November (not trying to start a fight, just sayin’…). Either way – yup – year and a few months… was simply poking fun at the Grammys for being as timely as they are.

  • Good review. love the album and I agree I think it will attract a whole new set of pearl jam fans. and they will be welcomed with open arms to the Jammily ;)

  • thanks Sean! – I like that, Jammily… have never heard that before

  • Best review I’ve read so far, (more like a full page spread – and that’s no bad thing!), and that includes magazines. I think the previous album probably garnered new fans – helped no doubt by their appearances at the Leeds and Reading festivals here in the UK back in 2006, and am hoping Backspacer does the same. The more the merrier.

    Thanks again for the review.

  • I found your review when searching for what folks thought of “Force of Nature” as I thought it was a cracking tune as soon as I heard the chorus for the first time. Thankfully I have a ticket to PJ’s show in Melbourne in November. That song is made for a big rock show.

    I have just got back into the band with the self-titled album and now Backspacer. The band lost me around the No Code/Yield/Riot Act period. Maybe it was when they gave Brendan O’Brien the flick. They sounded like they were trying too hard to sound like they weren’t trying too hard – if you know what I mean. Early on they sounded pretty effortless and seemed to produce rocking tracks easily and I reckon they have got their mojo back with the last two records.

    In my opinion, however, the self-titled album is the better recording. But maybe Backspacer will continue to grow on me.

    Now….onto Nirvana. For my recent 35th birthday I bought myself the Nirvana box set “With the Lights Out”. It does have a fair bit of filling but when you listen to that in 2009, along with the rest of their stuff, you can’t help but be amazed. Nirvana’s music has not aged a day. It is still as relevant, powerful and brilliant today as it was when it was released. “Nevermind” would still go gangbusters today if it was released now for the first time. The kids would jump on it, radio stations would love it and us Gen X old farts would salivate.

    So while I am enjoying the renaissance of Pearl Jam (and Metallica for that matter – remember the big 4 in 1990-1994 were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica and GNR) I can’t help but pine for Nirvana. I remember the day I heard Cobain had blown his head off I said to a friend, “What a waste. We’ll never know.”

    “You Know You’re Right” was released in 2002 and I don’t think many releases have come close to it since.

    Will I go to hell for going to see Pearl Jam? Well if I do I hope Cobain is there to greet me. I might give him a good bitch-slappin’! What was he thinking!!!!!

  • Hi,

    I liked your review, but have to disagree with your assessment of ‘The End’ – it’s about someone who’s about to die, being scared (“I’m better than this – don’t leave
    me so close,
    I’m buried beneath the stones,
    I just want to hold on and know I’m worth your love, and I, don’t think, there’s such a thing”), and wanting their partner’s help getting through to their end, to whisper something in their ear as they fade away, in the hope that they can carry that on to wherever we go (“Help me see myself,
    ‘Cause I can no longer tell,
    Looking up from inside of the bottom of a well, it’s Hell, I yell, but no one hears before, I disappear, whisper in my ear.
    Give me something to echo in my unknown future, you see, my dear, the end, comes near, I’m here, but not much longer.”)

    But, a very good review nonetheless

  • It’s all in the interpretation, my friend, it’s all in the interpretation.

    Thanks for the kind words though Joe!

  • Nice review Chris !

    Many have heard Backspacer already, I have not…and I have not been overly impressed with the first single (The Fixer). However, I am keeping an open mind.

    It’s not easy to keep up the same pace and song writing “skills” after nearly two decades- many have tried- few have succeeded.

    Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your perspective and it has encouraged to me to listen to this album with less preconceptions….and just appreciate the fact they are still around.

  • Very cool – there’s a lot of contrast between “The Fixer” and much of the rest of the album – it’s not perfect, but there is such a variety on the disc that most people should be able to identify with some part of it. High-five prljmfn.

  • I think that’s the best review of the album I’ve read so far.

    Most reviews you read are either written by somebody who has been a die hard fan since the seattle scene first exploded (as I’ve been) or some idiot over at somewhere like NME who revel at not giving them the time of day because of that association – so its’s interesting to read a review from someone who dosn’t fall into either category and came to appreciate in their own way and at their own time.

    I thought the performance on the Tonight Show that is talked about here was amazing in that it showed a rock band now well into their 40′s launching themsleves into their music with far more intensity and emotional integrity (which has always been THE single biggest attraction of Pearl Jam) than a lot of younger rock fans will probably have ever seen. It reminded me of The Who’s performance at the Live8 concert in London a few years back – they came out towards the end looking like somebodys grandfathers and yet Pete Townsend then proceeded to attack his guitar with far more energy and genuine ferocity than any of the flavour of the month younger bands that had appeared earlier on the bill and completely put them all to shame.

    Hopefully somebody will come along sometime soon who will pick up the reigns like Pearl Jam picked them up from bands like The Who and Zepellin because there dosn’t appear to have been any break out acts who can match them in 20 years.

  • Just listened to the record for the first time and have to to say that this is their most impressive album since No Code (I know what you’re thinking…No Code?). To me No Code marks the band’s change from grunge stadium rockers to introspective, almost classic rockers like The Who, Zepellin, etc. Every album that followed No Code, showcased a profound change in their capability as songwriters and their sound. No Code showed their desire to push the envelope…and Backspacer, while more pop-friendly I think works in a similar way. Some of my favorite Pearl Jam albums came post No Code (Yield, Riot Act, Pearl Jam) and I think it could be argued that those previous albums have a similar feel while all sounding quite different. I think Backspacer will mark another such change in their musical style and feel.
    I’m excited to hear what will follow in the next few years! While I am a huge fan of their early work (Ten, Vs., Vitalogy), I love that this band has continued to grow and hasn’t been stymied by their egos or an adherence to stick with that “Pearl Jam sound” (think Radiohead or Tool…while good in their own right, I’m bored by their unwillingness to change or even just tweak their sound a little bit…some may disagree with this statement, undoubtedly).
    Anyway, great review, reviewer. Pearl Jam is one of the great bands of the last 2 decades, and I hope more people come to appreciate the complexity and brilliance of their music.

  • Thanks for the kind words PFattyJam – I agree, No Code has got to be one of my favorites. Where I lived–believe it or not–it got some solid radio play and I think at the end of the year “Who You Are” was voted the second best song by the local radio station’s listeners. (And, oh man, remember those Polaroids that came with the CD? Loved those things.] I agree that it marked a turning point, and while I love the first three, I’d have to say that the release of No Code catapulted the band into a different status (again, like you’ve already said here).

    [Note: Radiohead has an unwillingness to change its sound? Really?]

  • I know, I know…the Radiohead thing. They definitely change it up, but to me you their music is just so easily recognizable. I remember hearing “There There” on the radio for the first time and within ten seconds, even before Thom sung a note, I knew it was Radiohead. I guess the same could be said of Pearl Jam…just my (rather minority)opinion.
    Radiohead is awesome, but Pearl Jam as a band is just more willing to come from way out in left field with their music and possibly lose fans because of it. I just like that they don’t even try to play it safe.
    And yeah…those polaroids were awesome, what a truly weird and original concept.

  • BTW…this website is fantastic.

  • I don’t mean to prolong this divergence on the thread, but despite your “There There” experience, I’d still like to think the familiarity has to do with Thom’s voice… guy’s got his own sound and you can lay it over spastic guitar or ambient electronics and it’s likely to sound like Radiohead.

    High five on those Polaroids, they were adding value to CDs before “adding value” became an issue.

    & thanks for the kind words on the site!

  • Chris, I was delighted and refreshed to read such an honest review. Very intresting that you had your PJ moment during that broadcast, at the time, they didn’t want to be at the show or even perform. But I know from that you must be a true fan. I have been a fan since the beginning, and I am amazed on how this band continues to grow, it seems to tie in with many of my life’s events. As far as the album goes, this is what I have been waiting for many years. It’s paints such a perfect picture of the band, like Vitology, No Code, and Yield, which happens to be one my favorite PJ albums. I never though I would hear a love song from PJ, but there at least three. You mentioned that you liked “Just Breathe” over “The End”. Mine would be the opposite. “The End” is simply one of most hauntingly beautiful and sad songs Vedder has written. I think this song makes me more emotional than “Black”. As far as it’s meaning, I do disagree with you. I honestly think this song is about Vedder himself wanting to quit smoking, drinking, and the pot for his girlfriend and his kids. I have read articles on how Vedder went through a detox program and is cautiously watching his health. The song mentions leaving kids behind and wanting his love “make me see myself.” “Johnny Guitar” was the only song I was really not getting into, I thought it was a stretch for Eddie, but it sounds so much like The Who that it earns my respect. I love the overall sound of this record and it is ranking pretty high in my book so far. I hear a lot of Tom Petty, The Who, REM, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young in this. Lyrically, this album is powerful and speaks to me in a very deep personal level.

  • Thanks for reading the review Jeremy80!

    On “The End”: I’d have to search it out, but I read somewhere that Eddie mentioned how The End was a love song of sorts… but I think we’re kind of in agreeance on the drug thing:

    “It’s funny that the album’s opener, “Gonna See My Friend,” was described by Vedder as something of a drug song, while the aptly titled “The End” tells a heartbreaking tale that is easily translated as something of a “drug song” itself.”

    Another commenter mentioned how they thought it was about “someone who’s about to die, being scared,” which is kind of in line with the drug thing (though they disagreed with me, as well). Having dealt with drugs in my own life, I think that’s why I read that into the song–glad I’m not alone in the point of view.

  • Thanks for the review Chris. Great to read a review with as much heart as the music it’s describing. Same as PFattyJam my big thing with the band started with No Code, ‘In My Tree’ perfectly mirroring where I was at that time.

    Good to see so many positive reviews of the album. If I can describe the album in one word. Infectious.

    Top 2 tracks for me ‘Just Breathe’ and ‘Unknown Thought’ and I’m more than happy for other people to disagree.

    Keep up the good work.

  • I just received my copy of Backspacer today, UK release is 21st, but I didn’t listen to it fully until early this afternoon when I finished work, I’ve been looking through some reviews while I go back over it, though I made a point of not reading any before I’d listened to it myself.

    Give yourself a pat on the back for a great review, a lot of reading but enjoyable nonetheless, I especially liked your “Pearl Jam moment” and how it came about.

    For myself my “moment” was early days, I saw the video for Jeremy on some awards show, MTV or something, and while not immediately enjoying the music, I was blown away by Vedders vocals, vocals always being my initial tag for a artist/band. My taste for their music, I have to admit came later.

    I picked up Ten and let myself grow into them, not hard to be honest, 9 studio albums and almost 19 years later I still get a bit of a thrill waiting to listen to Vedders vocals, and with Backspacer I think they might just trumped Vitalogy as my favorite album, time will tell.

    Thanks again.

  • Thanks John & Dray67! (Sorry for the length Dray, I know it’s a bit much.)

    In terms of pure vocals, I think Eddie sounds amazing here… all that red wine is somehow molding the sound of his voice into one of my favorites all time.

  • Excellent write up Mr. DeLine.

  • I just picked up the new CD yesterday and I love it. Listened to it maybe 5 times already. Great write up. My favourite song is Just Breathe, I love Eddie’s vocals. I have only had the chance to see them once live and it was an amazing experience that still brings chills. Keep it coming boys!

  • i think im the only sober one here. the album is terrible.

  • The album gets lost after “Amongst The Waves”. Rehashed riffs of Mankind and Comatose. Songs that are radio built and could be done by Maroon 5 or Pink. The thing about a Pearl jam song is you could only picture them performing it , it had their signature….that is lost here.

    They wrote all of these songs before going into the studio for the first time in 9 albums , it showed. The songs lost the cohesive thread (sound) that other albums had. while I like the steady use of piano and Allman-esque dual guitars…ultimately this album is over produced. There is no grit.

    37 minutes of selling out. Ed better keep his mouth shut at the shows now about the “corporate monsters” he often refers to or Target might pull the album. Selling out when you are already millionaires smells like greed at its best.

    This is one man’s opinion but this 15 year Ten club member is embarrassed by this album. It feels like a phoned in money grab. I guess I know now how true Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen fans felt when their band became irrelevant business men.

  • Hey Chris decent review I think anyway dude.

    I am a long time fan of Pearl Jam myself and I have to say although I understand where mike is coming from, it has to be said that this album has been a long time coming. As a fan who has followed them since Ten I firmly believe we as fans needed a breakaway to breathe new life into the old proverbial dog as it were. I personally love the allbum and who cares if it was produced for a commercial boost, well worth it in my eyes if it brings PJ to a wider audience and gives them the necessary boost (Pearl Jam) which will keep them going for the next 19 years.

    Btw Chris awsome moment to join the jammily as Sean puts it, for me it is all the way back to Mother Love Bone with Ament and Gossard but I have to say with PJ the butterfly certainly emerged from the cocoon! It also has to be said that Vedder like a fine wine is getting better with age lets hope he can keep it up as his vocals do sound awsome on the new album. As for The End I have to agree with Jeremy80 on this one however interpretation is everything in The End. GREAT REVIEW THOUGH!

  • Great review! I love this album, i think it is there best since Yield and I rank it up among their best evers – though, not quite as good as Ten, No Code, Yield, and Vitalogy.

    What a refreshing sound on this album – great stuff. I never had interest in “Into the Wild” but a few reviews have mentioned “Just Breathe” in the same vein, I will have to give it a try.

  • @ Mike

    Just listen some more Mike. I am a very long time fan myself, and I thought they lost a bit on Binaural, Riot Act, and Self Titled. Not that they were bad albums, just not great. This one is truly great in my opinion.

  • You are all high as hell. This band has never done anything but slowly go down…and this is absolute bottom- until the next album.

    “Practiced are my sins,
    Never gonna let me win, aw huh,..
    Under everything, just another human being, aw huh,..
    Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
    To make me bleed.”

    Sheeesh….when did some high school kid lamenting about being a kid become acceptable for an almost 20 year career?

    Horrid…pedantic…boring…uncreative…and again it highlights how badly these guitarists suck..

    And I’m a long time fan…

  • Music is not very special. Some Nice songs.
    The art of American record producing has hit an all time low on this one. Dynamics are as flat as a sheet of paper. Compression it’s called in the music industry. I can’t listen to this album.

  • Ok,I think your write up is seemingly too nice.I am a LONG time Pearl Jam junky,one who has 18 shows under her belt,and the will to say I can die a happy woman after meeting my idol,Mr.McCready in 2006.But I disagree with your persuasive outcome for Backspacer.I “got” albums 1-8 and in retrospect grew with the band.
    But this?Sorry to say PJ has dissapointed this long time bruiser with 32 minutes of “fun”.No depth,no feeling.Where’s the angst?The love,and the meaning behind it all?

  • this may sound crazy but has anyone purchased a backspacer cd from target that turned out to be some rap/reggae kind of stuff. I was given one unopened as a gift it came from target the cd is printed with the backspacer design and has all inserts etc. ?////

  • downside = not the real disc

    upside = wicked collector’s item (ebay it!)

  • I really tried to love this album, but I just couldn’t. I mean I enjoyed the bridge of “Supersonic” and I thought “The Fixer” was kind of catchy, but the album just didn’t do it for me. I really enjoyed the eponymous album with “Severed Hand”, “Come Back” and “Inside Job” as notable songs, but something happened between now than then as far as I am concerned. Pearl Jam are very talented players, singers and songwriters it just did not translate to this album in the ways that I so enjoyed in the past. Not bad…but just not my cup of tea.

  • Great review Chris. This is an awesome disc. I have been around since way back and I think even the band would admit to struggling to find their true voice and sound on a couple of records as all supergroups who are around for a long time do, but they have definately hit their stride with Backspacer. There is something for everyone here and one can become a new fan right from here. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here we come.

  • i only started listening to PJ recently, and got the ten album the other day and loved it, and then found out about backspacer and downloaded it and i think it’s just as great, in a different way. if all the albums inbetween (which i will definitely get)are in the same style as ten, i can probably understand why some long time fans might not like backspacer as much, but i thought it had just as much quality and depth to it as ten, just with a different mood. my favourites from backspacer are just breathe, amongst the waves, unthought known, supersonic and speed of sound. can’t wait to hear the other albums.

  • Interesting that you talk about new pearl jam fans, as I am one, I’m relatively young and I’ve discovered pearl jam recently and I have never fell in love with a band like this before. I do like backspacer as a whole, but I think their old stuff is far superior. I own several albums and I think the weakest are probably binaural, yield, and the self titled album. As most of you will probably agree I’ve found ten, vitalogy, and vs. As their best work, backspacer is somewhere between these two groups in my opinion. Just wanted to say that I hope they tour in my area, because god, their music is amazing, eddies voice is incredible. I must say elderly woman on vs. Is probably the best song I have ever heard.

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