The centrifugal force of a grunge pioneer
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder releases solo album earthling on February 11, 2022. Reminiscent of tracks from Pearl Jam’s ’90s roots, Vedder’s raspy baritone portrays a wide range of intentional emotional displays. earthling tackles difficult topics such as finding hope, accepting grief while finding the strength to work through it, and how to use emotions instead of letting the human condition take over. While stretching himself out as a known grunge pioneer and a respectable artist overall, sitting down with this album was a tough listen. There’s an appreciation for the feelings, but there aren’t a lot of fuzzy feelings coming out of the musical aspects of the album.
earthlingThe opening track “Invincible” asks the listener “Can you hear, Are we clear? Cleared for lift-off, lift-off?” Vedder wipes the dust off the subject with an old-school sound. He puts it there down to challenge ourselves to look at all we have, not in terms of materialism but in terms of something greater than ourselves.” We have the heavens, we have the earth and in between we have great waves.”
“Invincible” leads into the song “Power of Right” which begins with a gruff guitar riff. Vedder’s vocals lean more towards a raspy growl that sparks interest, but quickly transitions into something softer and more springy, creating a meshy transition that isn’t entirely consistent within the same song.
“Fallout Today” is another song that adds very little to the overall album. It’s quite repetitive, creating many quiet moments and there’s no speed or progression to take the listener from the start to the end of the song.
The track “Good and Evil” begins with a bizarre cuckoo clock that launches into an eye-catching contemplation of what happens when an individual stumbles upon someone else’s gaze in the mirror. Lyrically exploring a seemingly simple human emotion that turns out to be a bit more complex, this track sticks to its guns without straying from its sound and intentions. It’s probably one of the only tracks on this album with undiluted promise.
With some redemption, Vedder duets with Sir. Elton John on “Picture”. The duo’s voices merge into a beautiful melody that captures the essence of hope and unity. Each powerhouse supporting the voice of the other creates a masterful work that leaves a strong sense of optimism in its wake.
Despite the title, earthling manages to exude an almost supernatural feeling. There’s a certain quality that, admittedly and with some doubts, keeps the plot wanting to listen until the very end in order to see where exactly Vedder intends to take his audience. Vedder also manages to surprise with moments of clever lyricism, almost as if he’s telling a secret rhyme, while ensuring to keep the favorite listener captivated by versatile sounds.
If you were expecting a rock n’ roll banger album, the likelihood of enjoying this album would be slim. As for the ultimate ability of Vedder’s talents, earthling swims too deep with ordinary. While earthling contains spectacular concepts and some bright moments of potential, the overall sound of the album is boring and repetitive.