On 11. February 2022 Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder will release his third solo album called “Earthling” this review was written by me and published on Norway Rock Magazine web page.
Eddie Vedder is primarily known as a vocalist and frontman in one of modern rock’s most legendary bands, Pearl Jam. “Earthling” (Seattle Surf / Republic Records) is his first solo album since “Ukulele Songs” from 2011, and his third overall – his first was the soundtrack to the movie “Into the Wild” from 2007. Vedder is known for his social and political involvement and brings this further with him into the music and lyrics on «Earthling».
He has fortunately retired the ukulele and brought with him a star team of rockers who shake the dust off the solo artist Eddie Vedder and help him do what he does best; rock the house from basement to pipe. In the studio he has brought with him two Chili Peppers: Chad Smith on drums and Josh Klinghofer on guitar. In addition to being a producer, Andrew Watt is also playing bass and guitar – as he was on the latest Ozzy Osbourne record. All musicians are credited as songwriters on most songs.
‘Are you ready for a bit of…. A bit of echo victor? ‘ Eddie Vedder is tough enough to name drop himself in the first lines of the opening track “Invincible”, which could well have been an outtake from Pearl Jam ‘s excellent “Gigaton” album . ‘When we love, we are invincible’ is a recurring mantra from Vedder, love trumps everything!
“Power of Right” is a solid, almost The Stooges-like rocker. It is also not surprising that this deals with the politics from the alt-right that the United States has experienced in recent years. ‘Bright man scared, living in fear, an itchy trigger finger, a clown in his ear’ sums up well the tumult of recent years in American society. The left side stands sharply against the right side with a large power vacuum in the middle that no one can fill.
“Long Way” could have been a Tom Petty song, surfing on a wave of cool summer breeze and carefree times, the youngest daughter Harper Vedder is in the doing backing vocalson this track. “Brother the Cloud” continues with a good drive, bold chorus, and catchy guitar hook. The lyrics are clearly about the loss of a dear friend, and I would bet a lot of money that this may be the first time Eddie Vedder writes about the loss of his dear friend Chris Cornell ‘I had a brother, but now my brother is gone’ starts the song. ‘There`s no previous reference, for this level of pain, oh I could hear him sing’ he continues, and tears well up in my eyes. It could have been a sore ballad, but wisely Vedder gives the pain and despair plenty of room in a good pop rocker with airy guitars and plenty of room to shout out his anxiety and anger towards a friend who is lost in the clouds. A strong song.
“Fallout Today” is a warm rocker with a brilliant guitar solo from Josh Klinghofer. Summer, sun and a little Jeff Lynne beat over the soundscape. “The Dark” is a meeting between Bruce Springsteen and The Cult, may sound a little strange, but works brilliantly on this song. Again, Josh Klinghofer contributes with a bold guitar solo that lifts the song a few notches towards the end.
“The Haves” was the first single from the album, a calmly reflective ballad with beautiful piano and acoustic guitars. The text deals with inter-human contact and the growing divide between rich and poor.
“Good and Evil” has a brutal guitar riff, an almost manic song, a bit on the same street as “Mind Your Manners” from “Lightning Bolt” album by Pearl Jam, only even grittier and dirtier. There is little doubt that this is a dig at the far right politics and politicians in the United States, and not least a certain ex-president we do not bother to mention by name. ‘Do your rich accommodations, numb you to what you believe? Oh, for the love of a gun you`re like a bullet, aimed to deceive ‘
“Rose of Jericho” continues in the same track, fast rockers at a high tempo with a cool chorus that sits well in the ear together with an ingenious guitar riff.
On “Try” he has Stevie Wonder on harmonica (and eldest daughter Olivia on backing vocal duties), and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard Stevie Wonder so wonderful (no pun intended) on the harmonica, the coolest song in many years with harmonica riff, harmonica solo and pure joy. May be one of my favourite songs this side of the millennium shift! I get happy every time I hear it, and I feel like dancing! A surprising highlight.
On the song “Picture”, Eddie Vedder has brought Elton John aboard to a kind of duet, and Elton does what he does best, slurs words and plays the piano. Falls through a bit, possibly I’m a bit cynical here, but the song gets a bit sideways and a bit too lounge adult rock, but that might just be natural with the lounge rock king on piano and vocals. It’s a nice song, and the chorus is nice, it could have been worse, should have been better.
“Mrs Mills” is the only weak song on the album. The text is not surprisingly about Mrs Mills, who works in the basement with men who will never be able to take her home. A song Ray Davies has done better, The Police has done rawer, and with Ringo Starr guesting on drums, it becomes a weak Beatles copy, with a bit of cliché lyrics including French horns and Elanor Rigby cellos.
“On My Way” starts with a vocal sample from Edward Louis Severson JR, and draws a long line back to Eddie Vedder’s teenage anxiety epic “Alive” from Pearl Jam’s “Ten” album from 1991. And if you are a Pearl Jam nerd like me, then you know that Eddie Vedder’s birth name is Edward Louis Severson III. Maybe this is the closing of a circle, who knows? It ends “Earthling” in a dreamy psychedelic landscape where father and son sing a kind of duet into the sunset.
I had low expectations for this record. Eddie Vedder’s solo career has been a lot of gravel stones, with small specs of golden nuggets in between, unlike the mother band Pearl Jam where there are plenty gold nuggets with a little gravel stones in between. The big surprise was when this turned out to be a fantastic album, full of catchy choruses, guitar hooks and melodies that works well. It’s rock n roll, fuzz guitars, emotions, politics, and pure joy. This could have been a Pearl Jam album, but at the same time it has enough character to be a brilliant solo album, the imprint of Eddie Vedder shines through the entire album. “Earthling” is a big positive surprise at the start of the music year 2022!
5/6 | Ørjan Wremer
Release Date February 11, 2022