Pearl Jam’s self-titled eighth album was released on May 2, 2006. It has been certified gold by the RIAA.
I used to really hate avocado. Something about it really squicked me out. In time, I’ve grown to put my initial distaste for it aside. I’m quite fond of avocado now. So, in a way, isn’t my coming around to liking avocado a great metaphor for my relationship to Pearl Jam?
No, it isn’t. I’m still mostly squicked out by Pearl Jam. But hey, they have an album with an avocado on the cover. There’s your segue.
Life Wasted – My largest concern with Riot Act (a pretty lame record) was the feeling of utter exhaustion and boredom that seemed to rise up off of the whole thing. “Life Wasted” does not suffer from this issue. It is, truth be told, a fairly sturdy Pearl Jam opening banger. A little heavy on the straight-up rock ‘n roll tropes, but overall a satisfying affair. Some of the vocal harmonies are quite enjoyable. Vedder is at peak mumble on this one.
World Wide Suicide – I’m not sure that this is good, but the band sounds like they’re having fun with it. Another rocker-by-numbers and Eddie’s mouth is still full of marbles. Not the worst.
Comatose – I’d be shocked if they didn’t write this song after they’d forgotten how exactly to play “Spin the Black Circle” from Vitalogy, and this is what they imagined that song sounded like. Same song, kinda, but older. And worse.
Severed Hand – There’s a pretty promising intro action going on here, sounding like a muscular epic, and then it abruptly becomes a very embarrassing bee-bop-a-doo-dow rocker. There’s a pretty brilliant bridge section, though. But then there’s about a minute of wah-wah guitar solo action. This is a turkey of a tune overall. They don’t even stick the rock ‘n roll ending.
Marker In The Sand – I’m conflicted about this one. The rockin’ verses are pretty lame, but the chorus has an easy melodic flow that is pleasing to my ears. Is it possible that I wish for Pearl Jam to be less of a rock band and more of an AOR softie group? Regardless, this sounds like music that old people make.
Parachutes – A snooze-y song, but one with some interesting rhythmic ideas and chord structures. A few surprising turns can go a long way. It sounds like a Beatles ballad, but if it were sung by a billygoat with a hangover.
Unemployable – I had to listen to this song a second time, because the whole thing played without me noticing that a song was playing. That’s basically all that I have to say about it.
Big Wave – This is a fairly generic thumper. Competent rock music in the by-the-numbers sense, with a little bit of time signature weirdness embedded in it. I like time signature weirdness, so that’s another point. I hate guitar solos, though, so points deducted for the whole middle of the song.
Gone – You’re striking out pretty hard when you sound derivative of the acoustic ballads that Mark Meeks wrote in high school (okay, just in the first little bit, but still).
Wasted Reprise – For no reason that I can discern, this track takes the (totally competent) opening number and plays it with zero energy through what sounds like a harmonium. More like time wasted, right?
Army Reserve – You’re striking out pretty hard when you sound derivative of Dishwalla.
Come Back – Remember when I just asked if I’d prefer for PJ to stick to softie material? Scratch that. This song is PJ full-on trying on the slow & lazy blues-ballad shtick and it is just terrible. I would be so angry if I were drinking at some bar and people got on stage and played this kind of thing. Nobody should ever write a song while saying to themselves “I want to create something that people can gently sway to”.
Inside Job – This sounds like someone wrote a ballad in the mid-90s and decided that it was too generic and gloomy, so they threw it in a fire. But the song survived the fire and convalesced for 15 years in the woods only to emerge and exact its revenge on those who had wronged it. Its revenge is that it ends their album with a total bummer of a lousy tune. There’s also a hidden song, because it’s gotta be 1994 somewhere.
Avocados are better than this Pearl Jam record, but then again, avocados are better than most records. There are maybe two songs on this album that I would care to hear again, and a big pile that I would actively avoid ever having to listen to again.
When I went to listen to this record for the first time, I was very close to being finished when I realized that I had listened to the songs in incorrect sequence. Being a professional, I scrapped everything and started again. So I’ve already heard some of these songs one more time than I would have liked.
I will say, though, there’s no point in this record where I was forced to say “Oh man, holy shit, this is embarrassing”. The closest to that point is “Come Back”, a track that is extremely lame, but not explicitly painful.
It’s an underwhelming set of songs, with “Life Wasted” being the best of the batch.
…guacamole is kind of like jam that you’d make out of avocados.
Please check out the rest of this series, if you haven’t yet! You can read ’em here: