It was in the early Nineties when Pearl Jam unleashed themselves on the world, finding success on both sides of the Atlantic. This, their first release in four years, is their eighth studio album and sees them currently on the American leg of a world tour. They've also been given a prestigious headlining role at the Carling Festival, a slot that in previous years has been occupied by Metallica and Guns N' Roses.
With heavy riffs and at high octane pace, Pearl Jam announce their return with "Life Wasted". Eddie Vedder's vocals are nearly indistinguishable, which they remain throughout the eponymous record, but for all its energy the track remain solid rather than becoming spectacular. The intense "World Wide Suicide" contains on the same vibe, while the sinister "Comatose" will keep inhabitants of moshpits more than happy â but already it seems that the band struggle to get beyond mediocre grunge-rock. Only a catchy riff elevates "Severed Hand" from other tracks such as "Marker In The Sand", which is barely note-worthy.
From out of nowhere, "Parachutes" drops in (sorry, couldn't resist) with a mellower sound often found accompanying campfires in the summer. Vedder does his best Jack Johnson impression, and the unpredictable key changes keep the song interesting, but the former professional surfer need not worry about a rivalry for his crown of acoustic genius. "Big Wave" sees the band in aggressive mode again, but thereafter the album dissipates, with a lack of ideas being their downfall. The short gospel "Wasted Reprise" is completely out of place, and the climax of the blues-flavoured "Come Back" is a pale imitation of Prince's "Purple Rain". Pearl Jam may be back, but they'll still be living on past glories.