Nearly 15 years after Ten, Pearl Jam finally returned to the strengths of their debut with 2006's Pearl Jam, a sharply focused set of impassioned hard rock. Gone are the arty detours (some call them affectations) that alternately cluttered and enhanced their albums from 1993's sophomore effort, Vs., all the way to 2002's Riot Act, and what's left behind is nothing but the basics: muscular, mildly meandering rock & roll, enlivened by Eddie Vedder's bracing sincerity. Pearl Jam has never sounded as hard or direct as they do here -- even on Ten there was an elasticity to the music, due in large part to Jeff Ament's winding fretless bass, that kept the record from sounding like a direct hit to the gut, which Pearl Jam certainly does.
Pearl Jam are an orthodox-sounding rock band who have never mustered the credibility of their Seattle grunge contemporaries, Nirvana - but they have a grassroots popularity that enables them to challenge the rock industry's most cherished ideas about ticket prices, bootlegs and promotional videos. An air of aggressive self-righteousness especially attends frontman Eddie Vedder, respected for his awkward-squad personality. Despite being over 40, he musters absolute conviction in writing and singing lyrics of male teenage angst, such as the single here, World Wide Suicide.