If the recent deluxe edition of Pearl Jam’s Ten reminded audiences of the band’s prior glory, then Backspacer serves notice that—even two decades into its career— the Seattle quintet remains a vital, vibrant unit. The bandmates curl together like the five fingers of a fist on the album’s first four cuts—a taut, punkish introduction highlighted by “The Fixer.” Here, amidst a flurry of churlish riffs, frontman Eddie Vedder lays out the crew’s latest mission statement: “When something’s gone/I wanna fight to get it back again.”
While the group’s self-titled 2006 release found it reinvigorated by the ineptitude of the Bush administration, Backspacer’s drive sounds more internal; raging against the dying of the light is a recurring theme (“Get it on/Before it’s gone,” Vedder howls on “Get Some”). These hold- tight sentiments are even echoed in a pair of affecting ballads (“Just Breathe” and “The End”) that sound like holdovers from Vedder’s acoustic excursions on the Into the Wild soundtrack.
Sonically, the album sports a wide, deep soundstage and a thunderous low end. Vedder’s earth-rich vocals are captured especially well, particularly on the anthemic “Amongst the Waves,” a song that suggests that sometimes it’s better to keep on keeping on than to struggle needlessly against the current.