The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


A review of the album Backspacer by Pearl Jam

PearljamReview Snapshot: If you want the smooth waves of the surf, some rocking little riffs and more fine songwriting from Eddie Vedder, then Backspacer is for you. Die-hard fans like myself ought not to be disappointed. 

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
What's not to like about Eddie Vedder? Surfer, writer, and a mysterious creature that puts forth his vision of the world with a voice that has only grown better with age. More importantly, Vedder is the iconic figure in Pearl Jam, the Seattle rock band that survived the 90s and have become enriched as the group continues to play to sold-out venues.

Backspacer represents a mellowing of the group, with lyrics that reflect a more relaxed Vedder. As if to prove this, the album bursts forth not with the heady rushes of a track like 'Go' , but rather with a Johnny B. Goode style blues riff on 'Gonna See My Friend.'

This slice of home-grown Americana rock continues with 'Got Some,' a frantic start to a track where Vedder grunts a little, his voice acting as the addict's devil-on-the-shoulder: 'I got some if you need it / Get it now, get enough before it's gone.' This is the song to really remember from the album and at the moment it is being played on air as their second commercial single.

First single 'The Fixer' is a catchy pop number that merges opposites: 'When something's broke / I wanna put a bit of fixing on it.' Its breezy vocals and Vedder's sliding vocals indicate acceptance and a willingness to grow with relationships, to water them and let them flourish.

As a whole the album is a more optimistic Pearl Jam with less to prove to the world. There is no direct political song that's the equivalent of 'Brain of J' from the album Yield or 'Bushleager' from Riot Act.

Indeed there is little to dislike about Backspacer. The album might not have a bone-crunching 'Porch' or 'Leash' track on it, but the simpler, peaceful songs are a welcome antithesis. 'Just Breathe' is a Buddhist mantra: 'I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love / Some folks just have one, others they got none.'

From surfing on 'Amongst the Waves' to the beautiful finger-picking in 'The End' the album symbolises gratitude, with Vedder the engaging prophet. Backspacer is a worthy follow-up to previous Pearl Jam offerings and die-hard fans will not be disappointed.

Niamh Madden

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