Sound — 7
In my personal opinion, Pearl Jam have once again made a poor choice for a first single, because for me "The Fixer" is one of the weakest tracks on a pretty strong album. The album is by no means a departure from Pearl Jam's previous work - but at 37 minutes for eleven songs, with just two tracks sneaking past 4 minutes it is by far the bands shortest album to date. The opening four tracks, "Gonna See My Friend", "Got Some", "The Fixer" and "Johnny Guitar" combine for less than 12 minutes, but it is all energy. There is a clear and concise feel about the music, which I'm sure is partly (at least) down to the return of the brilliant producer Brendan O'Brien. There are not a huge amount of solos throughout the album, and few nods to the past - this is not a "Ten" or "Vitalogy" -but maybe an album sharing a sound somewhere between 1998's "Yield" and the most recent "Pearl Jam".
Lyrics — 9
Whilst this may not have any complex songs or structures, one thing it does showcase is the fact that Eddie Vedder is still one of the best lyricists in rock today. There is little angst except for perhaps "Got Some" which seems to be about a drug deal, but moreover Backspacer seems to suggest Vedder has found peace in life, with lyrics of love and friendship dominating the album. "Just Breathe" is one of the most beautiful songs Vedder has written while "The End" shows he still can pull on emotions as he writes about someone who is dying and afraid, leaving a family behind. This is not to say the album is soft and this direction from Vedder is subtle, and never gets sappy.
Overall Impression — 7
I was reluctant to buy this, as I wasn't overally impressed when I heard "The Fixer" (or "Supersonic" for that matter), but there are some great tracks on this album. "Gonna See My Friend", "Got Some" and "Johnny Guitar" have that great punk attitude the Eddie Vedder has developed over the years whilst "Amongst the Waves", "Unthought Unknown" seem to soar like "Given To Fly" and there is beauty in the acoustic tracks "Just Breathe" and "The End". If you are like me and moved on from waiting for another "Ten" or "Vs" and enjoyed the ST album and "Yield" then this album is worth buying (if not for Vedder's lyrics alone). However, if you still long for 1993 and are waiting for another grunge opus full of long angst-ridden songs then this may dissapoint.