red lights

Mid-life crisis

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam - Riot Act
(Epic Records)
2 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 17, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

Thirteen years after their inception as a rock band, Pearl Jam are still plugging away. But judging from their latest effort Riot Act, it seems that the fire in their belly - one that burned white hot when they first started out, and has seen moments of renewed kindling on record, such as their often overlooked 1998 album Yield - is now reduced to a mere pilot light.
While there are still points of interest here, such as the driving "Save You," "Love Boat Captain" and the bluesy "1/2 Full," featuring some impressive leadwork from guitarist Stone Gossard, for the most part the overall effect of this album is numbing. Eddie Vedder's commanding baritone voice is now reduced to a weary reading of what it once was, while the songs themselves lack any sense of passion or reckless abandon.
As one of the last standing acts from the Seattle grunge movement of the early '90s, the band should at least be given credit for not treading water. Instead of trying to recapture their youthful exuberance, Pearl Jam have continued to evolve - to mixed results throughout the years - but have, nonetheless, had the bravery to always move forward with their music.
Never one to shy away from his beliefs, Vedder points a condemning finger at the Bush administration on "Bushleager," as he Lou Reed-dead pans his way through the number. But despite a venomous pen, the voice atop the soapbox just isn't quite loud enough anymore to get his point across to his gathering.
As bandmembers hover around 40 years-old, maybe it's just a musical mid-life crisis that finds Vedder admitting, "I'm starting to believe that this hopeless situation is what I'm trying to achieve," as the record closes. The sad part is, that with an album that lacks the intensity, not to mention the great songs of their yore, we can't help but believe it either.
Pearl Jam will be performing this Saturday, June 21st at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI. For more information call (262) 642-4400.

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