Music Review: Pearl Jam’s “Backspacer”

Originally posted 2009-09-21 22:41:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

This most recent Pearl Jam release is aptly titled; in many ways, Backspacer is closer in focus and energy to Ten than any of their more recent efforts.

Most reviews have wasted little time in pointing out that this album holds the band’s record for brevity — 37 minutes from the first guitar strum to the final vocal fade.  This can, of course, be interpreted in one of two ways, the worst case scenario being that the album was hurriedly prepared and produced.

This could not be further from the truth.

Backspacer is a strong, purposeful album comprised of eleven very upbeat, very direct tracks that leave little room for the listener to catch his breath over the record’s half hour span.  For the most part, these tight, three minute tracks are energizing and satisfying, catchier and cooler than anything Eddie Vedder and company have turned out in a long time.

This is, of course, a mixed bag.  After all, short, to-the-point pop rock is fun when done properly — which, by the way, it certainly is here.  Still, the electric soundscapes of 2000’s Binaural and the distortion-drenched protest of 2002’s Riot Act were excellent installments in the Pearl Jam catalog, even if their respective values have been minimized by critics who seemed more concerned with comparing them to early releases like Ten and Vs.

It should be noted that 2006’s Pearl Jam lacked cohesiveness as an album, although several songs on that release are among the best of their career (“World Wide Suicide” or “Marker in the Sand,” anyone?).  This eponymous release is an album of wild energy and abandon, which works particularly well in the first half of the track listing.  That being said, Vedder rips his vocal chords to shreds in his effort to sing without holding any emotion or effort in reserve.  This works well in some places, and yet crackles to pieces in others.

Pearl Jam's "Backspacer" (2009)

On Backspacer, Vedder has somehow been able to amp up his emotions and energy, and yet his vocals stand out as some of the best of any Pearl Jam recording to date.  Some songs, like the opener “Gonna See My Friend,” harken back to the roughly shouted vocals of Pearl Jam.  Most, however, feature Vedder at his best.

The opening track is also notable for a strumming pattern that is evocative of some mid-1950s Chuck Berry-esque riffing — with a decidedly grunge rock twist to it, of course.  “Gonna See My Friend” is a catchy track but certainly does not stand out among the other excellent album starters of their career.

From the first millisecond of “Got Some,” there is suddenly evidence that this might be an excellent album.  Jeff Ament’s collaboration with Vedder is a nice addition to the other outstanding Ament contributions — think: “God’s Dice,” “Ghost,” and “Low Light;”  if you’re really kind, forget “Pilate.”  The best part of “Got Some” is that, by the time it has finished, you haven’t even heard the single yet.

“The Fixer” comes next, a tour-de-force taken on very convincingly by Vedder.  I have vacillated about three or four times a day since I picked up the album on Sunday, and I’m still not certain whether I like “Got Some” or “The Fixer” better.  I suppose I’ll just have to keep listening…

As the album continues, there are other rockers performed at breakneck speed (“Johnny Guitar,” “Supersonic”), as well as considerably slower, more instrospective numbers (“Just Breathe,” “The End”).  These latter tracks were clearly influenced by Vedder’s recent solo project, writing and recording the soundtrack for the Sean Penn film Into the Wild.  The fingerpicking patterns that open these songs are reminiscent of his solo tracks, yet these songs clearly show the progress Vedder has made in such a short time, particularly in terms of structure.

For once, I am forced to agree with Rolling Stone‘s assessment of this album.  Their four star rating is a simple means of stating that Backspacer is an excellent album, but not a masterpiece.  From track 6 to “The End,” the album takes some repeated listening to really be appreciated.  At first, I felt that some of these tracks were too tight and traditional to ever truly stand out.  As I’ve listened, more and more of these songs have stood out, like the soaring “Amongst the Waves” and the excellent “Speed of Sound” (listen to Vedder’s vocals in the first few lines as he momentarily invokes Leonard Cohen).

Backspacer may not be the next Ten, but it is silly to even entertain that desire.  (If you read music reviews in the major magazines, you wouldn’t know it though!)  What this release does offer is an energetic, cohesive Pearl Jam album — and that, for me, has always been more than enough.

“Society” by Jerry Hannan (Covered by Eddie Vedder for the Into the Wild Soundtrack) – Chords, Tabs, & How to Play

Originally posted 2009-06-08 22:37:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jerry Hannan (Covered by Eddie Vedder for the Into the Wild soundtrack)

INTRO: Am (hum over chord)

C       G              C
It’s a mystery to me;
We have a greed
C      F                       G
With which we have agreed.

G           F
And you think you have to
G                           Am
Want more than you need;
F                         G
Until you have it all,
G                 Am
You won’t be free…

Am    F
F                     C
You’re a crazy breed.
C                         G
I hope you’re not lonely
G          Am
Without me.

When you want more than you have,
You think you need.
And when you think more than you want,
Your thoughts begin to bleed.

I think I need to find a bigger place,
Cause when you have
More than you think,
You need more space…

You’re a crazy breed.
I hope you’re not lonely
Without me.

Crazy indeed;
Hope you’re not lonely
Without me.

INSTRUMENTAL:  Over verse and chorus chords

There’s those thinking more less,
Less is more.
But if less is more,
How you keepin’ score?

Means for every point you make,
Your level drops,
Kinda like you’re startin’ from the top,
And you can’t do that…

You’re a crazy breed.
I hope you’re not lonely
Without me.

Crazy indeed;
Hope you’re not lonely
Without me.

Have mercy on me;
Hope you’re not angry
If I disagree.

Crazy indeed;
Hope you’re not lonely
Without me.

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

“I Am Mine” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-06-02 00:28:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Pearl Jam chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to a very special edition of the Laptop Sessions.  This is Chris Moore writing for the first Monday — the first day, for that matter — of June.  And June 1st is a special day for entertainment, as this is the date of the very first Tonight Show hosted by Conan O’Brien on NBC.  As I type this, I’m watching the beginning of the episode and loving every moment.  For me, Conan is the ultimate late show host, and I truly hope that he will establish himself as a primary late show host in the minds and hearts of viewers throughout the nation.  I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, as I haven’t watched an episode of Late Night for years.

I haven’t been disappointed.

As I’m watching the first segment with Conan’s “run to California,” his opening monologue, and his “tram tour” video, I’m remembering why his late night show was one of my favorite reasons to stay up past midnight in college.  Well, that and late night Burger King chicken fries and burgers, of course.

My song choice tonight is directly inspired by Conan’s first night on the Tonight Show.  His first musical guest — a band which he said he was delighted “to the bone marrow” about — is Pearl Jam.  Thus, although I was planning to record and post the first Relient K Laptop Session, I decided instead to record a Pearl Jam song.

As a special treat (I hope), I’ve recorded a Relient K song to tide you over until I can get back to the one I wanted to record.  In fact, this is probably for the best, as I started to work out the chords for “At Least We Made It This Far” and found that all online sources for Relient K chords were terribly inaccurate.  So, I’ll keep working on that one and get back to it soon.

Tonight’s session is my cover song version of Pearl Jam’s “I Am Mine” from their 2002 album Riot Act.  The first single off the record, “I Am Mine” is a great track that tackles existential issues.  My favorite line is “I know I was born and I know that I’ll die; the in between is mine.”  What a great line.  When I’m stressed out, I sing this line in my head to remind myself that I’m in control of my life, at least to a certain degree.

Although I like the music and vocals on this song, to be fair, it is not perfect.  Case in point: I’m not so crazy about the line “The oceans are full because everyone’s crying.”  There’s something about that line that cheapens the overall impact for me, kind of like the line “It sucks to grow up” turned Jim off to the Ben Folds song “Still Fighting It.”

Regardless, this is a great song, and I worked very hard to do my absolute best to record an enjoyable cover session for you.

I can’t believe that I actually stayed up late enough to watch the entire Tonight Show, but here I am.  This leaves two truths:

1)  I will be setting at least a couple extra alarms for tomorrow morning.

2) I got to see not only the Will Ferrell interview, but I’m about to watch the Pearl Jam performance, which is supposed to feature material from their new album.  Can’t wait!

So, that’s it for me tonight.  I wish you a great week, and hope you’ll come back to enjoy new videos all throughout the week.

See you next session!

“Society” (Eddie Vedder Cover – Song by Jerry Hannan)

Originally posted 2009-06-08 23:03:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Eddie Vedder chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to the first installment in a fresh new week of brand new material at the Laptop Sessions, the best cover song music video website in the universe!

I was FINALLY able to find the Into Thin Air soundtrack on sale — thank you, Best Buy — so I’ve been listening to it all week.  Although I have discovered several other songs that I like very much, Eddie Vedder’s cover version of Jerry Hannan’s “Society” is still my favorite track on the album.  It was very disappointing for me to discover that it is a cover, but it’s such a great track that I have to stifle my desire for original material, at least temporarily.

I first heard this track from my friends and colleagues Dan and Larry over the summer as we played some music of our own.  At the time, I had not yet immersed myself in Pearl Jam, but I was immediately drawn to Vedder’s simple but powerful vocals on this track.  Apparently, as they told me, Vedder had contributed eleven songs (9 originals and 2 covers) to the soundtrack of the film Into Thin Air, based on Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name.  Although some of the songs are very short and there are two tracks without lyrics, the Into Thin Air soundtrack is essentially an Eddie Vedder solo album — his first full length solo project since he began singing with the other members of Pearl Jam.

Whether you’re a Pearl Jam fan or not, I think everyone here at the Laptop Sessions will be able to appreciate this great acoustic tune.  It was a pleasure to record, from beginning to end.  In fact, I ended up with several early takes that I could have settled for, but kept playing and playing until I arrived at this version, which I felt was most loyal to the original version.  (Well, maybe not the original version — rather, the Eddie Vedder version of the Jerry Hannan original.  Although, Hannan provided background vocals and guitars for this track, so it’s closer to an original than your average cover.)  When I finished recording, I had the sort of sadness I always get when I’ve figured out a song and yet, the recording being finished, don’t have any real reason to keep playing it.

The bright side here is that I’ll get to play it a little bit today during school, as I’m bringing my guitar in to practice for our big Writing Club / Creative Writing open mic night.  This is the first time (at least since I’ve been at the school) that the Writing Club has teamed with the Creative Writing classes to put on the open mic.  The result?  To begin with, we’re in the theater instead of the cafeteria and it promises to draw a more significant crowd.  The only downside — and it’s a significant downside, if only for me — is that the show runs from 6 to 10pm…  This Thursday.  And Thursdays mean baseball, fast food, and wrestling with my friends.  We had originally scheduled the show for a Friday — which I was excited about — but there was a scheduling conflict and the best available day for everyone else was Thursday.

Either way, it’s only one week and it’s for a good cause.  With some luck, I’ll be able to catch the second half of wrestling.  If not, there’s always the iTunes download if I hear I’ve missed a great episode (as last week’s was!).  Until next Monday, I hope you have a great week.  Don’t forget that you’ve got at least two things to look forward to: Jim Fusco Tuesday and Jeff Copperthite’s “Thumpin’ Thursday.”

See you next session!