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Pearl Jam is last of flannel folk heroes
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff

The music world was transformed in the early 90s when grunge music ripped onto the scene. Bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam were all led by a new generation of beatnik social misfits: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Eddie Vedder. Seemingly proud of their growing addictions and fully clad in their ripped Levi’s, cardigans, flannels and Ramones and Iggy Pop T-shirts, they moaned distressing lyrics helping to create a new breed of music fan.

Many of the bands formed during that era are no more. Tragedy struck Nirvana and Chains early with the deaths of front men Cobain and Staley. STP was torn apart by egos and addiction, and other great grunge bands like Soundgarden and Blind Melon were also victims to similar fates.

But one has endured, and the last remaining flannel folk heroes just celebrated the release of their ninth album “Backspacer,” proving Pearl Jam is still one of rock’s most vital forces.

“Backspacer” bursts out of the gate with three fast-paced, hard-nosed tracks that echo with vintage Pearl Jam style. “Got Some” and “The Fixer” both resonate with the same powerful tempo and pulse pounding tone that came out in classic Pearl Jam tracks like “Alive” and “Evenflow."

From start to finish “Backspacer” runs just 39 minutes in length. Each song flows seamlessly into the next and is layered with the same organic tone that made “Ten” and “Vitalogy” instant classics.

Fortuitously enough, guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard help complete the album by offering their typical soulful and rugged playing in tracks like “Supersonic” and “Force of Nature.” And on two occasions, Vedder captures the same acoustic magic he discovered in the 2008 soundtrack for the Sean Penn film “Into the Wild” with “The End” and “Just Breathe”– no doubt the closest thing PJ will ever come to producing a love song.

 As is the case with all Pearl Jam records, Vedder’s expressive and moving vocals complete the album. It appears the band has finally come to grips with the contemporary political climate they once so publicly detested and are now willing to accept the world, and society, for what they are.

Vedder manages to refrain from offering his occasional political rhetoric and allows for a bit of reprieve by allowing the same tone and passion to permeate through his voice that has always managed to capture the depths of human desperation.

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