If its debut album 15 years ago made Pearl Jam apprehensive with success, the Seattle quintet better buckle in for a return to eminence. On its eighth studio release--and first since 2002--the band socks away the adventurous experimentation that dogged some of its most recent records to investigate a post-September 11, war-ravaged world overflowing with urgency and significance. "It's the same everyday in a hell manmade/What can be saved, and who will be left to hold her?" lead singer Eddie Vedder wonders in "World Wide Suicide," one of several contemptuous rants on the Bush administration. Yet the album's spark is more than political. Songs like "Life Wasted," "Comatose" and "Big Wave" embrace the garage-rock past, as guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard play off each other with the primal lucidity of a decade ago and drummer Matt Cameron, one of rock's best, adds raw backing vocals to Vedder's polished craft. But Pearl Jam also turns up some of its most harmonious works since "Daughter," including "Marker in the Sand," with its radio-ready chorus, the tuneful "Parachutes" paced by Gossard's divine strumming, and the burning narrative and Urge Overkill punch of "Umemployable." Finally Vedder pleads for a lover's return in "Come Back," a keyboard-soaked love song complete with a chilling Gossard solo. It's got a soulfulness that begs for Sam Cooke to sing it and an originality that shows that a vibrant and cocksure Pearl Jam is back in town--and ready to retake the world. --Scott Holter
Recommended Pearl Jam
Live at Benaroya Hall
Live on Two Legs
Live at the Garden (DVD)
With over 65 million albums sold, Pearl Jam returns with their first studio record in four years. 'World Wide Suicide' is the lead single and video (directed by Danny Clinch) from the album impacting prior to release date. The band will be touring the globe through July 2006 in support of the new album.