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Pearl Jam: Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam: Pearl Jam

Release Date:2006

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 5/31/2006

At this point in Pearl Jam’s career, studio endeavors are more of a formality than anything else. New albums are just a spark to reignite the cycle of interviews, reviews, touring, and eventually—especially—yet another lunch-sack-brown avalanche of multiple-CD sets documenting the quintet’s live adventures. Whether this plan is narcissism or generosity on Pearl Jam’s part is up for debate, but even the band’s weakest moments benefit from live performance, snowballing righteously into mighty guitar-shred clinics, alive and sloppy and ineffable. In other words, you don’t really need Pearl Jam—unless you want to scope out the template the band will spend its summer exploring and exploding.

Admitting that Pearl Jam outdoes both Binaural’s dreck and Riot Act’s down-with-Dubya-isms isn’t saying much. This time, the band comes off disillusioned and reinvigorated, delivering ragged but sometimes only bearable semiglories. “Unemployable” is essentially an Offspring hit drained of that vital double-shot of adrenaline. Ax showcase “Big Wave” is awesome until you remember that Soundgarden wrote a meaner, gnarlier “wave” song 12 years ago. But there’s also the one-two punch of the rousing-if-rote “Life Wasted” and the relatively accessible “World Wide Suicide,” where Eddie Vedder growls, “What does it mean when a war has taken over?”, as though his coarse conviction could still swing the 2004 presidential election.

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