It's a shame that Pearl Jam is a great album. Not because there's anything wrong with Pearl Jam tugging their huevos out of their pants, whose waistlines increasingly edge upward on the quintet's 30-something bodies, and putting together a pop-rock album with fire and vigor. The first three songs, particularly the radio-perfect "World Wide Suicide," showcase a screaming, bouncing-off-the-walls Pearl Jam that sounds straight out of the mid-'90s and redeems the band's declining relevance. Rather, it's a shame because the album, which retreads the best moments on Vitalogy, No Code and Yield, wins out mostly by comparison to the rest of the modern-rock landscape. If mainstream radio wasn't such a mess, certain facts--"Comatose" is a near-replica of "Spin the Black Circle," "Gone" is a watered-down version of "Given to Fly," the middle third of the album washes by with barely a memorable hook--would be enough to sink the ship. But Pearl Jam's status as grunge nobles affords them the right to ride the nostalgia train and keep old fans happy with the status quo. Hey, it could be worse, as evidenced on Binaural; this time, at least Pearl Jam loaded the old rig with a shitload of coal.
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