ALBUM REVIEW: Earthling
Review by: Alisha Verma
Artist: Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder’s Earthling is a return to form after 2011’s quaint Ukulele Songs, as his signature howling baritone and pulsating guitar the world has come to know and love from his days as the frontman of the legendary grunge band Pearl Jam are front and center. His first solo album in 11 years, Earthling is energetic and ambitious, boasting cameos from music legends Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Ringo Starr.
The album’s opener, “Invincible”, begins with the hum of a synth creating an otherworldly atmosphere soon met by the strum of an acoustic guitar and Vedder’s powerful voice, unmistakably his. This high-spirited opening song set the tone for a lively album, building up a momentum that is maintained from beginning to end.
As for the album’s strengths, “Brother the Cloud” is the album’s undeniable highlight. Catchy, yet heartbreaking, it harkens back to two major losses Vedder faced several years ago, the death of his stepbrother, and the suicide of his close friend and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Whether or not “Brother the Cloud” is about those losses is unknown, with Vedder wanting to leave the meaning up to interpretation. Even without any definitive link to Vedder’s losses, the raw rage and grief are worn like an open wound, making for a definite high point of the album.
The punk-oriented and unapologetically angry “Good and Bad” is another standout. The eerie chords of its opening are cut by its grimy riff and the frantic drums, all perfectly paired with Vedder’s crazed vocals.
Earthling’s main drawback is how the songs blend together as you listen, stifling the impact of Vedder’s strong lyricism. Despite all of the legendary cameos and Vedder’s captivating songwriting, the album seldom has anything awe-inspiring in its almost 48-minute runtime, despite the vivid songwriting and Vedder’s strong voice. Songs like “The Haves” and “Rose of Jericho” don’t stir any deeper emotion, while “Try” sticks out like a sore thumb at best with its odd mix of classic, Ramones-Esque punk and the squall of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica. Nothing about the album is overtly bad, but it fails to amaze or surprise – the type of album you listen to once and promptly forget.
Earthling will surely appeal to fans of Vedder’s earlier work in Pearl Jam with its straightforward rock and punk-influenced songs, but outside of previous fans, new listeners will struggle to find anything deep or profound to carry with them after listening.