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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl Jam is their hardest record yet, May 2, 2006
This review is from: Pearl Jam (Audio CD)
To start off, many people say this is a comeback album but the truth is they never went anywhere to comeback to. They've always been a 'classic rock' band at the core with influences such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Buzzcocks, among others.

I'll start off with the cover, which is a blue gradient background with an avocado. The avocado can symbolize many things since it has a unique pit. On the inside of this album you see that uniqueness with the artwork. Each song has two pages, one of the lyrics and the other a picture of a face zombiefied or altered in some way. The pictures are rather good and with the exception of the last picture which has Eddie's head covered in blood amidst the rest of the band members' heads also covered in various gory ways. It's no doubt a disturbing picture but you get the impression this CD isn't for the faint of heart. Most songs have a strong message about what's going on in the world from the war on Iraq to love ones lost.

I can say my political views are not the same as Pearl Jam's but it didn't stop me from enjoying the music. That's because the lyrics are done in a tasteful enough way to not alienate fans entirely but still get their message across. That's really the best way to do things IMO and Ed's lyrics shine. He's acknowledged he's gotten away from the story telling his lyrics used to have in earlier work and he comes back to that here.

To start off, Life Wasted is a strong rocking sound to kick off the album. The chorus can and probably will get stuck in your head after a few listens. What I love the most is Mike's guitar solo near the end. It's subtle enough to where you may not pick it up on the first few listens unless you're looking for it but once you recognize it the song feels much stronger. After that is the first single Worldwide Suicide, which has been well received. It's easy to see why it was picked as first single and fits well in the beginning of the album. I won't say much else because chances are you've heard it. The third song, Comatose, was played live once but this version is so much better. Granted the live version I heard was horrible quality but I picked up so much more here. The song has the pace of Spin The Black Circle or even Lukin. Eddie growls through much of the song and the pace is insane. This song is sure to be fun live and the addition of a quick solo by Mike helps give the song more substance. It's definately the fastest track on the album.

Next up is the song they played on SNL, Severed Hand. This is my favorite song on the album. The lyrics are a bit gruesome with "Tried to walk, found a severed hand/Recognized it by the wedding band". The best part is the chorus as Eddie sings "Yeh..." in a very memorable way. During the song it builds up to the bridge where it just explodes with a brilliant Mike 30+ second solo, his best on the album. Going to beautiful live as well. Next up is Marker In The Sand and I wondered how they top Severed Hand or where the album was going to go. Up until this point there's been 4 hard rocking songs and this one starts the same, or does it? Let me just say this song has a chorus entirely opposite what I was expecting it to me. I won't say how but it's a real treat. This song has the most politically driven lyrics as he sings "I feel sickness...A sickness coming over me/Like watching freedom...Being sucked straight out to sea". This song just keeps going strong and I love the end. Eddie really let's everything go and as he finishes you can hear Boom's organ come in which fits perfectly.

Parachutes is the first slow song on the album. People have said you can hear a strong Beatles influence but I can't say since I'm not a Beatles fan. It's probably my least favorite song but by no means horrible to the point of skipping it. The song stands out in the sense as it's the most different track on the album and I think fits perfectly in the middle. Unemployable was a B-Side on the WWS single and honestly have fallen in love with it the more I've heard it. The chorus is mainly what kept growing on me and Eddie sings it in a way I've never heard him sing before. Almost to a point where you wonder if this is still Pearl Jam you're listening to but it definately is. A nice mid-tempo song to kick off the second half of the album and it leads into the hard rocking Big Wave. This song has become my second favorite off the record. I was expecting a song like Oceans from Ten since it has that similar surfer theme going but it reminds me more of Pilate. The chorus is sung fast and I have to admit I love singing along with it. Mike finishes it off with another ripping solo.

Gone is the studio version of the live song Eddie played solo last year. Only this time the whole band is in it and I love this version all the more. It's a slower acoustic type song and the lyrics fit this day and age well as he sings "When the gas in my tank/Feels like money in the bank". The lyrics have a similar vibe to Elderly Woman off Vs and Eddie sings it like he did Indifference. Wasted Reprise is just a short one minute interlude with touching music as Eddie sings the chorus from the first song Life Wasted. It feels artistically placed on the record. Army Reserve follows as another song with lyrics very politically driven as it tells a story about those families left behind from the war. Come Back is a great bluesy song about yearning for a lost loved one. The song builds up to the climax at the end that gave me a few chills. It may seem a bit stale at first but stick it through and you'll be rewarded, I know I was.

For the last song we have Inside Job, a Mike McCready song. The first two minutes are a tad bit misleading, or at least they were to me. I was expecting something else when Eddie finally started singing but got something else. I like the song but it's not their best closer. It's certainly an epic 7 minute track that includes some vintage Mike guitar work. I'd put it about middle of the pack for a Pearl Jam closer.

All in all, I obviously love the album. If I had to I'd say I'd put it as their third best record behind Binaural and Vs. but there's still time to move up or down. It's definately their hardest rocking record since Vs. and you can see how much the band has grown. I'm just glad that the politics that are there don't bash you over the head and the slow songs they did have are top quality. I'd say this record will be up there for my Best Album of 2006 and I give it a 9.5/10 overall.
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