If you want anthemic, angry, youth-rock, you probably won't like Riot Act. If you want Pearl Jam to regress to the songs of college frat parties and white-hat-wearing Jeep-drivers, you probably won't like Riot Act. If you think "Alive" is a happy song about being alive, and all the joy that brings, you probably won't like Riot Act. That said, I think it is a brilliant album-full of melancholy and torment, pathos, political and social frustration... yet, somehow, it is ultimately hopeful. It's pleading and hoping that we'll all be okay; that there's always a beacon, even when things are at their worse. And, I love that, upon a few listens, the listener can hear all the influences the band has claimed: from MC5 to The Who, from Neil Young to Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan.
This album is multifaceted, and, through this, it highlights all the qualities about the band that make them great-the qualities that have helped Pearl Jam overcome and outlast the hype. You know, qualities like integrity and true musicianship. It has the rockin' guitar solos, but it also has glorious acoustic work. It has subtlety.
My personal favorite tracks are "Love Boat Captain," "I am Mine," "Green Disease" and "All or None." But that's this week. Last week I was nuts over something else. I find that each listen reveals a new gem. In fact, after a hiatus with my Pearl Jam listening (yeah, I shelved them for awhile) buying this album renewed my interest in the two albums I'd not yet owned: Yield and Binaural. Because of Riot Act, I came back to my obsession with Pearl Jam's music. The album does "read" like a bit of a returning. It is reflective, reflexive and unafraid.