Friday, August 28, 2009

Waiting for 2010 #106: Pearl Jam "The Fixer" b/w "Supersonic" Quasi-Review

On Monday, I received in the mail a vinyl 45 of the first single from the upcoming Pearl Jam album Backspacer: "The Fixer" (b/w "Supersonic"). I might as well do a biased quasi-review of both songs.

Music on vinyl is more, often than not, awesome. It has a kind of vibe of "special occasion recorded music" that can't be matched by its digital counterparts. So to have the single pressed on white vinyl feels a bit more special, due to this aesthetic rarity.

OK, I'll stop gushing about vinyl.

The A-side, "The Fixer," is an upbeat rocker with some odd time signatures. It seems like Matt Cameron's experience in Soundgarden is finally being matriculated into the Pearl Jam fold - after 11 years in the band. The rest of the band is great on this track, too. It is available for download at iTunes, and until Monday, the live music video is a free download.

You can check out the music video below, but this is a live recording of the song, with crowd noises and not much recording studio gloss:



But let's talk about Eddie Vedder here.

Like young Elvis and old Elvis, there's angry young Ed and mellow aged Ed. Up until Yield, I'd say, existed angry Ed. This Ed was pissed because he was young and pissed off as some young people are. We'll say that Yield's Ed was an intermediate step like how black leather jumpsuit Elvis was an intermediate step before donning the white rhinestone jumpsuit. So to reiterate:

From Ten to No Code, Eddie Vedder was Angry Ed;
Yield rocks.

Binaural fully featured a Mellow Ed. Ed and other bandmembers share the songwriting duties in each album, so lyrically the band would be at its most mellow for Binaural. At this point in history, Angry Ed no longer existed and the spirit of the time wasn't so bad. The most they could rally against at the point in time are the corporate fatcats they would "Soon Forget."

Enter the George W. Bush Administration and the Iraq War. While Mellow Ed still existed during this time, lyrically, Pearl Jam was back to being pissed off. This is reflected in the anger of Riot Act and the "Avocado" self-titled album.

Exit Dubya. With Ed being Mellow Ed and the spirit of the time being more optimistic (from Pearl Jam's political point of view), the lyrical content of "The Fixer" is pretty optimistic. And so this is what I expect as far as lyrical content for most, if not all, of Backspacer. The words probably won't be not about sunshine and roses, but a determination and optimism of getting things back to good.

Anyhow, the B-side "Supersonic" is also slated to be on the forthcoming album. At first listen, it sounds like a combination of old school rock 'n roll swagger, punk rock (especially the Ramones tracks with the rock 'n roll swagger), and a bit of Van Halen. Presumably it's guitarist Mike McCready who's playing some very un-Mike (and un-Stone) guitar licks that are closer to Van Halen I/II-type patterns than bluesy Hendrix-influenced scales that we all know and love. It's exciting and different. From the credits, "Supersonic" was co-written by Ed and Stone Gossard, and parts of the song do hearken back to the No Code track "Mankind," one of the couple of Pearl Jam songs with Stone on lead vocals.

In conclusion, Pearl Jam's live performance of "Got Some," the special release of the "Speed of Sound" demo, and the release of "The Fixer" single (with the B-side "Supersonic") have all gotten me excited about the rest of the album. I'll guess I have to wait a month. I can't wait to put the LP on my turntable. (I'll also rip the CD, but when an album ends up on iTunes and my iPod Shuffle, it ceases being a complete work but becomes scattered, random songs on a playlist.)

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