Pearl Jam's Backspacer has moved me to revisit every other PJ album. I'm choosing to review this one since it's the last one I bought (on cassette tape, bitch!) and the last one I listened to. For years, I wrote it off as experimental garbage, but upon repeated listens, I see it as a hearty step up from 1996's No Code (easily my least favorite PJ offering). The boys were in a rocking mood. A frenetic energy is reflected in the music, and the songs are much more focused. I was a dumb teenager when Yield came out, so all I wanted was another Ten. Clearly, Yield is not another Ten. It's not another anything, which is why it works.
My opinion is an about-face from where it was eleven years ago. In my eyes, the first four tracks are flawless. They have an inexplicable charge that I can't pinpoint. The riffs are in the right spots, the arrangements progress with an exertive ease, and the vocal melodies strike me a certain way. "Given to Fly" is a textbook example of craftsmanship. The verses are stately and majestic, soaring like an eagle flittering above a pebble-ribbed mountain range. Relaxed chords crash into a huge chorus that brings "Animal" to mind. I can't think of a more appropriate title than "Given to Fly."
"Wishlist" follows with a whimper. This is the album's first indiscretion. I've never liked this track, and I never will. Boring, repetitive, clumsy, boring, repetitive, repetitive...you get the idea. Yield goes into hibernation until "Do the Evolution" comes along and wakes everyone the fuck up. Man, Eddie is pissed off here. He sounds like he's about to jump out of his skin. You gotta love those lyrics ("I'm in love with my lust/I can kill 'cause in God I trust"). The accompanying music video demonstrated the fact that PJ were approaching an artistic zenith. Unfortunately, we are confronted by a filler track in the guise of "-." It's as pretentious as the title would suggest. I'm sure they were just goofing around, but couldn't they have tacked some more music onto the disc?
"Low Light" is a highlight. I'm a sucker for layered harmonies. "In Hiding" is the most complete incantation on display, as far as I'm concerned. It's amazing that there is a live staple on all of PJ's albums. I don't know how they do it. We get a second filler track after "In Hiding," and this one is even more aggravating because it had potential to become catchy. This is why I initially saw this record as experimental garbage. PJ is notorious for having extra songs left over from each recording session, so why not use one instead of dumping junk like "Push Me, Pull Me" onto precious polycarbonate plastic?
Yield ends with "All Those Yesterdays," a throwaway that wasn't thrown away. You can see how conflicted I am. Most of the tracks are solid gold, but the others reside on the bottom end of the spectrum. My take is that it's 70% excellent. Pearl Jam began to click with this opus and they would fully realize their veteran discernment on 2000's Binaural (an underrated jewel, if you ask me). Thank Satan that they are still waving the Seattle flag high. I've enjoyed every record since Yield, so hopefully, they won't break up or overdose on recreational narcotics anytime soon. With Alice in Chains alive and kicking, I feel like it's 1992 again. Now if we can just get Soundgarden to reunite!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 6:29 PM