Pearl Jam Yield (****, Epic)
With Yield, Seattle's Pearl Jam -- the biggest-selling rock act of the 1990s -- hopes to bounce back from 1996's lackluster No Code, which fell way short of the multimillion sales of the group's previous three releases.
That album was so mellow, dreary, disjointed, forgettable -- or experimental as the band likes to say -- it failed to register with the mass audience the group had already attracted.
"I found myself waiting in a couple of places for some more up-tempo numbers," Eddie Vedder, lead singer and general face man for the group, admitted recently to the Los Angeles Times.
i>Yield -- due in stores on Tuesday -- is more balanced.
There are quiet, reflective moments, but soon the guitar thrash and drum thunder, which drives some of the best Pearl Jam songs, come crashing through.
The first track, Brain of J, is a slightly off-key, fast-paced rocker.
On Faithful, which begins softly, Mr. Vedder sings, "I'm through with screaming" -- but don't believe it. In fact, it's not long before he lets out a few bloodcurdling yelps.
ith a funky, John Bonham-esque swing to it, No Way, written by guitarist Stone Gossard, suggests that the band has given up its fights with the corporate music machine and ticketing mogul Ticketmaster. "I stopped trying to make a difference," Mr. Vedder sings.
None of the 13 new songs are as instantly catchy as Daughter off the band's sophomore effort Vs., but Wishlist and In Hiding both have a kind of pop sensibility heretofore unexplored by the band.
On Wishlist Mr. Vedder rattles off the things he wishes he could be, as if being one of today's most recognizable rock stars isn't enough. The most amusing wish: "I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro's hood." Structurally, this song is reminiscent of the Dire Straits' hit So Far Away.
In Hiding, with beautifully simplistic guitar work and strong vocals from Mr. Vedder, sounds like the most obvious hit.
i>Yield isn't without its experimental moments, including some short percussion piece by drummer Jack Irons denoted on the CD sleeve with a red dot and an Eastern-mystic-inspired hidden instrumental track.
But the first single, Given to Fly, released for radio play on Christmas Eve, is more accessible than most of No Code.
While Yield is a marked improvement over its predecessor, Mr. Vedder doesn't tell the stories like he used to in older songs such as Alive, Jeremy, Daughter and Elderly Woman Behind a Counter.
T hear Pearl Jam, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8101. You'll hear part of the song Wishlist from the CD Yield.