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PEARL JAM - PEARL JAM - SONYBMG
Record Rating: *****

Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam – SONYBMG Front man Eddie Vedder has never sought the role, yet he’s become the symbol of a generation with Pearl Jam hailed as one of the most relevant bands of Generation X of the ‘90s. A palpable influence on generations of mope-meisters, they’ve retained a passionate following through the years.

Nicknamed ‘Avocado’ (because of the picture of the fruit on the sleeve) the self-titled Pearl Jam is their first studio release in almost four years and their best in a decade. The album debuted at #5 on the UK charts and #2 in the US, while first single World Wide Suicide is the fastest charting hit in the band's career.

Like U2 did with their last release, the band made the choice to rediscover their roots, and they’ve done so with liberating results. The 13 tracks feature some of Vedder's most pointed writing and impassioned performances in ages, and while this isn't a concept album, it sounds like one. In between straight rock (Comatose) and searing slow songs (like the 7-minute plus Inside Job), the boys flex their collective muscle here, harkening to the razor's-edge sharpness of 1993’s Vs. Key tracks like Severed Hand and Life Wasted affirm that they simply ignore the pulse and pleas of the mainstream; this is the sound of a band relaxing and relying on instinct to make music.

While Vedder does make a self-conscious effort to recreate the band's gloomy heyday, the heart of the band actually lies in their gentle songs, as the album’s best track Marker In The Sand accentuates. The current crop of emo purveyors could learn a thing or two listening to this; the self-titled Pearl Jam is not an album about angst, but about transcending it, and the paralysing cynicism that goes with it. Two thumbs up.

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