It takes Pearl Jam all of 37 minutes to remind listeners of one thing: It's among the best bands of this generation. Perhaps you knew that already, but I didn't. At least, I didn't fully acknowledge it until hearing the band mostly sprint through 11 new tracks on their latest effort, Backspacer. No song longer than 4 minutes, no huge surprises and no self-indulgence—just a brisk, no-nonsense, solid anthem-rock album with more than a few candidates for classic status.
"Gonna See My Friend," "Got Some" and "The Fixer" set a breakneck, punk-fueled tempo. Each features Eddie Vedder at his throatiest, delivering tremulous angst alongside radio-friendly hooks like the repeated growl of "I wanna fight to get it back again" on "The Fixer."
Check off "Unthought Known" as the obligatory torch song. With a nicely placed piano, it hits the same dramatic highs as anything from Ten or Vs. "Just Breathe" and "The End" do the same for those yearning for acoustic Vedder laments (and manage to overcome the unfortunate inclusion of orchestral strings).
I didn't realize until after listening to Backspacer that I now own every Pearl Jam album. I never meant to follow the band. I just always fell victim to the hits or wanted to hear the latest iteration. Backspacer delivers a subtle reminder that I should be paying a little more attention to a band that continues to stand the test of time.