Pearl Jam, "The Fixer"

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The last time Pearl Jam checked in with the lead single from a new album, Eddie Vedder was snarling that a "war has taken over" atop an assault of guitars on "Worldwide Suicide." Three years on, the veteran Seattle band returns with "The Fixer" (from its September album "Backspacer"), a song shot through with a level of optimism not seen since Pearl Jam's 1998 "Yield." A sonic heir to that album's midtempo road ode, "MFC," the similarly sub-three-minute track is puntuated with bright "yeah yeah yeahs" and downright rosy lines like, "I want to try to love again." But with Vedder mixed down among Stone Gossard and Mike McCready's warm guitars and the throat-ripping moments of his delivery somewhat muted, there's a sense of reserve that makes "The Fixer" a tease for hearing PJ in its uninhibited natural setting: live. --Jessica Letkemann