Pearl Jam, "Backspacer"

81 Billboard Rating

Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder still uses a typewriter to craft lyrics, and the band's new album, "Backspacer," is named for a key on his favorite old technology. A reluctance to dismiss the past has always marked Pearl Jam's career, and this newest effort specifically. To help recapture its rollicking, mid-1990s energy, Pearl Jam recruited its longtime producer Brendan O'Brien. "Backspacer" opens with a charging block of fast-paced, radio-ready alt rock, while "Gonna See My Friend" and the Police-ish "Got Some" ride on sizzling guitar riffs that play off Vedder's signature impassioned vocals. The lead single, "The Fixer," is a buoyant pop gem. The whole album has a pleasurable mix of lean, mean rock'n'roll and pensive ballads that reflect both the state of the world and the band's place in it. The album closes with "The End," a string-tinged love song with a careful beauty that proves that Pearl Jam has not only returned to form, but has revitalized itself.-Lavinia Jones Wright

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