In 1991/1992 when Eddie Vedder started to become a superstar and a household name, I was still firmly entrenched in my love of Poison, Motley Crue and AC/DC, but the change was coming – not necessarily for me, but certainly for older kids.
I was about 15 before I fully appreciated the “grunge movement” – and while most were singing the praises of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, I became way more invested in Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. You might ask why… simply put, Cornell and Vedder had much cooler hair!
While Cobain gazed at the floor, Cornell had massive presence, and Vedder had unbridled energy. I remember watching a live video where Eddie climbed the building and monkey swung his way across the rafters. That was so cool to me back then. Still is, if I’m being honest!
Anyway, there’s a lot of water under the bridge between that Eddie and this current Eddie. He’s aged like a fine wine musically, and really embraced getting older gracefully. In saying that, there’s a vibrancy and energy on “Earthling” that defies his 57 years.
Opening with “Invincible” the record gets off to an excellent start. It feels a bit loose, and seems like there’s a lot of fun being had in the creation of it. The use of the phonetic alphabet is a different way to kick off an album, but what it builds up to is an incredibly uplifting track that you’ll be hard pressed to not get immersed in.
“Power of Right” features an infectious riff, and some great piano beneath its surface. Just like the previous track, there is an uplifting vibe at work. It’s a little on the pop rock side of things, but in all of the best ways.
Third track, “Long Way” is scaled back quite a bit. Almost a country rock vibe going on here, but really hard to actually place. The voice is familiar, but a a listener, it’s a little out of left field. Great harmonies at use here, and some really cool guitar accents for good measure.
The first single was “Brother the Cloud” and this is a very Yield era sounding Pearl Jam song. It’s honestly the bait, that might pull in a long time fan of the band. Where Eddie Vedders last full length, may have polarised certain fans, this will appeal to everyone. “Ukulele Songs” may have worked for some, but certainly not everyone.
“Fallout Today” has an undeniable groove to it, and Vedder almost croons his way through the vocals. “The Dark” follows a similar vibe, and it’s all so completely catchy, that it’s borderline incomprehensible!
Next up, is a gentle ballad, “The Haves”. This is a song about people having more than they need, but not having people to share with. I could be wrong, but that’s my interpretation, and I don’t think I could take it any other way at this point. It’s a poignant moment.
“Good and Evil” brings a faster paced punk rock flare, reminiscent of “Brain of J” and other Yield era PJ songs. It’s 100% an energetic “pick me up” after the previous track. Smashing out at under three minutes, it’s a lively edition from start to finish.
The same can be said for “Rose of Jericho”. Vedder really let’s his love of Ramones hit front street here. Musically, it’s way more complex than Ramones ever put out (I’m not saying they weren’t capable, but they certainly never came across as virtuoso!), but it’s great!
“Try” once again has massive energy, accompanied by some serious harmonica action. It’s so much fun tat it’s freaky. And the message is clear, with its repeated outro of “try”. That’s all you need to do, just try. There’s also the cry of “good men don’t have to pretend”, which speaks a thousand words.
The iconic Elton John drops in on “Picture”, and helps in no small way, to make this an absolute standout track, even amongst such a great album. Eddie actually sounds so much like his having a fan boy moment, singing with a man that has to be a hero to him. He’s only human after all, and if I were in the presence of Sir Elton, I’d be uncharacteristically lost for words. It’s a wonderful track, regardless.
On “Mrs Mills”, Vedder let’s his love of The Beatles take front and centre. It puts me in mind of Eleanor Rigby, albeit not as memorable as that. Still, it’s a worthy edition, and we’ll worth the listen.
The closing track is “On My Way” – short but sweet, and maybe not the closing number I was after, but with that said, it is still good, and does serve to put a cap on what has been a very eclectic, but thoroughly enjoyable listen.
You definitely do not need to be a Pearl Jam fan to get anything from this release. A good record is simply a good record, and I can see all sorts of fans appreciating “Earthling” for what it is, which is simply good music.