Over recent weeks, there has been two great albums released by bands who where about when I was really starting to love music in a big way: Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains.
Pearl Jam's offering, Backspacer, is an immediate rush at thirty eight minutes long. Most of the songs are punk-pop, everything being stripped bare until what is left are little diamonds at the bottom of the music miners pan. The songs are also genuinely happy, which as a bit if a surprise at first. What this band have done really well in the past are dark, moody pieces that one wants to get lost in- so that the real pain of the outside world is displaced for a few moments by the soothing effect of an imagined pain. Not that the pain is such songs were purely imaginary - they may have been real enough for the writers themselves - but the audience normally grapples with art and music in a different way than the artist.
One big plus for this album is how there is a single thread running through it. When I checked the credits, I noticed that Eddie Vedder had written all the lyrics. This consistency hasn't happened in a long time. Other band members are great lyricists - but the over all effect with many contributers, is that those albums don't work as a mood piece. Instead, those offerings become a bit jumpy and wacky, which can be fun if your feeling listless- but not if your wanting to get lost.
Backspacer does contain two songs that relieve the musical punk-pop, with acoustic numbers that are very much of an ilk with Eddie Vedder's solo album Into The Wild. This is a reminder of Eddie's potential as a solo artist which perversely gives him greater control over his band, making Pearl Jam more focused and driven.
Black Gives Way to Blue is a broodier album. Despite the new vocalist, many of the trade mark Alice In Chains habits are still there. The vocal melodies, down tuned riffing plus the intelligent and emotional lyrics. The title track, which arrives as the last song, really got me. It's an album about continuing on- after the death of a loved one. It is an album about how the deceased has had an irreplaceable influence on who you are as an individual. It is an album that both celebrates and mourns.
The Black Gives Way To Blue album is not as 'instant' as Backspacer - but it is one that will continue to intrigue me for many years to come. Despite how much I love the Pearl Jam effort, I am not so sure how much I will be loving it in five years time.