Earlier this week, Pearl Jam released the first single off Backspacer, the band's upcoming (and ninth official) studio album. Titled "The Fixer," the song sounds like an attempt by the Seattle grunge legends to carve out a new space in the pop-rock landscape. While it's hard for me to speak ill of Pearl Jam--I still get a pit in my stomach when I hear the opening chords to "Yellow Ledbetter"-- "The Fixer" is one dull piece of music.
The hardest pill to swallow--given Pearl Jam's 20-year career--is how derivative it sounds. Take the opening guitar riff: An attempt at garage rock, it echoes something out of a Jet song. And the repetitive, optimistic chorus and tinkling keyboards sound like a dirtier version of "Beautiful Day" by U2. Even the lyrics of the songs sound like a veiled plea for Pearl Jam's career: "I'm gonna fight to get it back again."
There's nothing about this song that shows the band's grunge influences, or even Eddie Vedder's ability write emotionally-charged lyrics. True, it's probably been since 1996's No Code that Pearl Jam proudly flew the grunge flag, but Vedder's 2007 solo work for the Into the Wildsoundtrack showcase the raw emotion that made Ten such a classic. Here's hoping that "The Fixer" is just a rogue track, and the rest of the songs on Backspacer have those same low, strained vocals and open guitar chords that Pearl Jam does best.