- 11 Feb 22
I always preferred Pearl Jam to Nirvana myself. There, I said it. I was living in America when Vs. excitingly sold just short of a million copies in its first week and was playing on every station across the dial. I was there in the Point Theatre in 2006 when they took to the stage like a ferocious young band with something to prove rather than saunter on as one of the biggest acts in the world. I was also present the last time Vedder played a solo gig here, charmed thousands of people into forgetting their phones and, allegedly, paid the fines to play overtime - wrote a cheque in the wings, I heard - simply because he wanted to keep going. In other words, I’m firmly on his side, so it pains me to say that he's put his name on better records than Earthling.
It's far from terrible, with plenty of moments when that golden throat opens up and lets rip, but he’s written stronger songs, some of the arrangements are a bit formulaic, and the guest stars – his voice doesn’t mix well with Elton John’s on ‘Picture’, Stevie Wonder’s harmonica is wasted, and sounds almost speeded up, on ‘Try’ - are unnecessary. That being said, Ringo Starr features on the beautiful, Beatley ‘Mrs Mills’. With its McCartney bass line, its 'Penny Lane' horns, its beguiling strings, and Vedder climbing up that melody, it's the best song here.
Accentuating other positives, it's easy to imagine yourself jumping up and down in a field - and having a good time while you're at it - to the rousing choruses of ‘Brother The Cloud’ or ‘Power Of Right’. ‘Invincible’, despite its dodgy start, sounds like late-period Who playing something from late-period U2 like 'Magnificent' and it also has a perfectly serviceable sing-along bit, while ‘Long Way’ reminds you of a half-decent Tom Petty album track. On the other hand, songs like ‘Rose Of Jericho’ and ‘Good and Evil’ try a bit too hard to rock, something the venerable Vedder never had any difficulty with in the past. There's nothing wrong with 'The Dark' or 'Fallout Today', or even 'The Haves' with its commendable 'you've got enough and sure if we have love don't we have it all anyway?' message, but they don't really take a hold of you.
Because he’s Eddie Vedder and because he’s class, he turns it around, slightly, with dreamy closer ‘On My Way’. It completes a circle started with that spoken word/let's go opening of 'Invincible' - they both allude to movement - but, for the most part, Earthling finds our man treading water - with aplomb on occasion, admittedly - rather than swimming forward.