Earthling

Eddie Vedder

Seattle Surf Co., 2022

http://www.pearljam.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/02/2022

Eddie Vedder’s third solo album sounds nothing like his first two… or like his previous 11 as the frontman for Pearl Jam.

Make no mistake, the authoritative baritone, earnest lyrics and powerful delivery are still there. But instead of sounding dour, Vedder embraces joy, crafting a throwback to the classic rock of his youth—complete with special guests—and creates a compelling yet fun listen. Most of the songs are not ones he could have performed with Pearl Jam, but the band has always left room for its members to branch off the mothership and do their own thing from time to time.

The highlights are many. The driving “Power Of Right” is all head rush energy, “Invincible” is a soaring, multi-tracked anthem of hope and “Long Way” is the best Tom Petty song in 30 years; apparently Benmont Tench thought so too, as he contributes keyboards here. “Brother The Cloud” sounds like the more positive flip side of the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 No Code era of Vedder’s songwriting, positive where that album was necessarily off-putting; it hits hard, though, due to its lyrics of loss (whether it’s about Vedder’s half-brother or Chris Cornell is open to debate, and Eddie won’t say).

Speaking of Tench, the superstars are out in force here, and one imagines Vedder having a blast playing with his childhood musical heroes instead of just covering their songs. Ringo Starr joins for the Wings-esque “Mrs. Mills,” and it’s every bit a pointless but impeccable-sounding slice of ex-Beatle whimsy. Elton John and Vedder duet on the sped-up country-fried “Picture,” and it’s the most alive John has sounded in years.

But the real treat—in keeping with the line of superstars playing instruments quickly and joyfully—is the under three-minute “Try,” in which Stevie Wonder turns in the fastest harmonica playing you’ll hear outside of a bluegrass album in the last 20 years. He doesn’t sing. He just plays as if being chased by a tiger, stopping only briefly for Eddie to squeeze in his vocals. It’s nearly punk, and it’s a hoot.

Elsewhere, the earnest “The Dark” and the power-pop-rock “Good and Evil” and “Rose Of Jericho” (each around two and a half minutes) color the album. Only “The Haves” fails to really chart. Then, after “Mrs. Mills,” the album closes with an odd two-minute swath of atmospheric noise and a coda to “Long Way,” with Vedder duetting with another male singer whose voice sounds like it’s coming from a ghostly manor.

That singer? His late father, who was something of an amateur musician, and who Vedder did not know until after he died. Any Pearl Jam fan, of course, knows that the lyrics to the classic “Alive” were inspired by this story, so it’s something of a full-circle moment to hear Eddie, in a way, be able to finally interact with the man he never knew.

Credit for the disc also goes to Vedder’s backup band, the Earthlings, made up of Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, ex-Pepper Josh Klinghoffer (who now tours with PJ) and guitarist Andrew Watt, who also produces. Together, they create a 13-track joy of a disc that’s irresistible.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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