After getting some crap for listening to Fuel’s Greatest Hits, I thought I’d drop some short reviews of the summer’s latest and greatest in music and movies. Up first: Music
Pearl Jam • Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam will never top Ten or Vs. and fans, fair-weather or otherwise, need to remember that little nugget. Be that as it may, the band’s most recent self-titled album comes close to matching the power of those initial gems. Like the high school sports star who peaked too early, Pearl Jam’s first two albums were amazing and then they virtually dropped off the face of music. (Okay, I’ll give you “Spin the Black Circle” and “Corduroy.”) Sure they recorded albums and toured, but their initial success was so explosive, it was all they could do to maintain their sanity and their music suffered.
So, it’s nice to hear Pearl Jam, well, jam on their new album. They kick it off with a garage band riff and catchy chorus with “Life Wasted.” “World Wide Suicide” sounds as fresh as anything off of their first three albums. They rip off Tom Petty on “Comatose,” but riff out on “Severed Hand.” Vedder does his best John Lennon imitation with “Parachutes,” a song that needs a voice like Paul McCartney instead of a straining baritone. The band then rips-off early R.E.M. with “Unemployable,” but here the 70s style lead guitar elevates the track. “Gone” is by far the best song on the album and should be the second single. The haunting vocal is right in Vedder’s wheelhouse.
Don’t call it a comeback, Pearl Jam’s been here for years. It’s just that now they’ve finally made a worthwhile album.
Red Hot Chili Peppers • Stadium Arcadium
I hate double albums. The producer/band should always take the best stuff and make one great album instead of two mediocre albums. For every one White Album we get twenty Michael Jackson’s HIStory. Who among you didn’t take the best tracks from Use Your Illusion I and II from Guns n’ Roses and make your own “Best of” cassette. I know I did.
Musically, the band is seriously tight. Frusciante’s guitar work is mostly inspired here. I love his solo on “She’s Only 18.” Flea has some nice moments to shine. Keides sings more than raps, which is a good thing. Chad lays down the rhythm like he always does.
When the Peppers get it right, they are one of the best bands in the world and when they get it wrong they sound ridiculous. They will never top Blood Sex Sugar Magik, but I think if they would have pared this overwrought double album into a smaller chunk, they might have really gave BSSM a run for its money.
The album has 28 tracks, but easily could have been pared in half. Don’t buy the album. Instead, simply download these 15 tracks and create your own “Best of.”
4.“She’s Only 18”
5. “Slow Cheetah”
6.“Especially In Michigan”
7. “C’mon Girl”
10.“She Looks to Me”
13.“So Much I”
14.“Storm in a Teacup”
15.“Turn it Again”
Def Leppard • Yeah!
Cover albums can be fun. I bought Styx’s Big Bang Theory and generally enjoyed it. With Yeah!, Def Lep reminds listeners of their glam roots by cutting versions of Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” David Essex’s “Rock On,” the Faces’ “Stay With Me,” Free’s “Little Bit of Love” and Sweet’s “Hell Raiser” among others. What we get is an album that sounds like a typical Def Leppard album, especially if you’ve never heard the originals.
One thing the band did on this record that I found interesting is that they covered songs by a lot of popular artists, but didn’t pick the most obvious track to cover. “Don’t Believe A Word” is a great song by Thin Lizzy, but it wouldn’t be the first one to come to mind to cover. The same goes for Free’s “Little Bit of Love.” I hadn’t heard the ELO song before, but the guitar work reminded me a lot of Collective Soul.
A highlight for me is hearing guitarist Phil Collen channeling a young Rod Stewart on “Stay with Me.” In fact, I’d love to hear this track on rock radio right now.
Some kid out there is listening to this album for the first time and thinking all these tracks are new. I hope someone sets him straight. And then buys High n Dry, Pyromania and Hysteria for the little tyke.