Once upon a time (read: 1991), Pearl Jam was thrown into the grunge pit to die. They didn't. Instead, they became a machine of CDs and tours, congressional hearings and Ramones tributes. They took the "jam" and went classic rock, with a heavy reverence for stalwarts like Neil Young, even providing the Crazy Horse on Young's Mirror Ball. Much like Young, Eddie Vedder and company have decided the time is now to release their political opus. Opener "Life Wasted" struts like good ol' bar rock, and "World Wide Suicide" stomps Seventies blues. Yet a listen to the lyrics ("What does it mean when a war has taken over?") belies that party vibe. The punk romp of "Comatose" comes closest to harnessing Vedder's howl on albums like Vs., while "Army Reserve" and the prickly "Unemployable" and "Marker in the Sand" ("Now you got both sides claiming killing in God's name") stick it to the Man. The middle gets muddy, as they return to their weaker late-Nineties fare (read: "ballads"), but it's a strong album overall. Pearl Jam's fan base is no longer Generation X; more like its "collegiate" counterpart (read: frat boys). That the Seattle quintet will be rocking dorms just doesn't seem right.
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