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Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam

For years now, I’ve half-heartedly picked up every Pearl Jam album hoping for a renewed spark in the band, and with each release, have ended up disappointed. Since 2000’s Binaural the band has put out experimental studio records that rarely rocked and lacked immediacy and presence. So when I say that Pearl Jam’s eighth, self-titled release is their best in years isn’t saying much considering the context. Is it better than their debut Ten? Come on now. Nothing they ever do will match that intensity, but Pearl Jam is akin to the underappreciated, stadium radio-rock of 1998’s Yield. In Pearl Jam, the band launches into the riff-laden powerhouse “Life Wasted” right off the bat, before sliding into first single “World Wide Suicide” (their best and most interesting single since “Do The Evolution”), following up with two furious rock anthems, “Comatose” and “Severed Hand” — both should blow fans away live. While Pearl Jam returns the band back to it’s rock ‘n’ roll roots, the album is balanced by mid-tempo think pieces found in the soulful, organ filled “Come Back,” and “Gone” which features my favourite lyric: “When the gas in my tank/ Feels like money in the bank.” The album’s lyrical material is obviously fuelled by the social state of the world and by the war in Iraq — and with this record, lead singer Eddie Vedder takes full advantage of his band’s notoriety to make a personal statement on the war. Along with Vedder’s honest and meaningful lyrics, and the band’s renewed interest in making popular music, Pearl Jam’s latest will find a welcome home in your stereo instead of collecting dust on the shelf like past releases. (Monkey Wrench/J Records) Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5 Stars

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