Chester Bennington Dies

Jam On

"You get growing pains when you get taller, but we got them when we were trying to shrink," Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder says with a laugh, reflecting back on the extraordinary early years of the S

"You get growing pains when you get taller, but we got them when we were trying to shrink," Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder says with a laugh, reflecting back on the extraordinary early years of the Seattle band's career. The quintet's 1991 Epic debut, "Ten," remains a touchstone of modern rock, having sold 9.4 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But Pearl Jam grew famously uneasy with its sudden success, refusing to compromise its integrity in exchange for enduring mass popularity.

Instead, the band released a series of increasingly experimental albums that shook off nearly all but its most devoted fans. But on its new self-titled eighth album, Pearl Jam sounds more at home in its own skin than ever. The 13-track set probes the human toll of the post-9/11 world via a rich tapestry of characters and narrators, set to some of the band's best songwriting in years. The album arrives May 2 via J, Pearl Jam's first for the label after ending its career-long association with Epic in 2003.

Stepping back from the unvarnished anti-Bush sentiments of 2002's "Riot Act" and the 2004 Vote for Change tour, the new set finds Vedder re-embracing the vivid storytelling of classics like "Alive" and "Black." For a time, the artist considered using segues and narration to tie the project together under a single concept, but ultimately, he says a less structured theme "just fell right into place without even thinking about it."

Highlights include the breathless punk of "Comatose," the gripping rocker "Life Wasted," the brooding, psychedelic closer "Inside Job" and "Come Back," an R&B-drenched love song that builds to an anthemic finish. "This record feels like a coming together again in terms of accepting our natural strengths and also incorporating the best of our experiments," guitarist Stone Gossard enthuses.