Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Pearl Jam – Can’t Deny Me

Maybe it’s time for a band everybody doesn’t notably hate — how’s this?


Jonathan Bradley: Like spotting a distant knoll on a vast plain, one listens to a new Pearl Jam single in search of something to distinguish it from the surrounding stretches of sameness. The overwhelming impression of the band’s last 20 years is consistency: buzzing guitars, steady drums that pound rather than swing, and Eddie Vedder’s distinct voice growling indistinct melodies. If this new single is different — it’s not — it’s due to the touches of power pop in the arrangement: simple, crunchy riffing and a clap-along percussive breakdown in the middle eight. If these qualities had been sharpened and buffed up, so as to gleam like power pop should, they might have broken the featurelessness. It isn’t as if Pearl Jam is incapable or unwilling to stretch; No Code and Yield demonstrated that creativity and traditionalism do not need to be at odds in guitar rock. I’ve resigned myself to Pearl Jam’s asceticism, but I struggle to understand a commitment to it so great that they actively undermine any opportunity to make something memorable.

Julian Axelrod: We’re not exactly living in a golden age of protest songs, but even by modern standards this is some weak shit. I know the squealing guitar riffs, vague resistance platitudes, and Eddie Vedder’s throat-shredding yelps are supposed to convey righteous anger, but they could just as easily soundtrack an Army commercial or a Kid Rock jam about owning the libs. This is workout music for dudes who share Matt Taibbi articles on Facebook.

Nortey Dowuona: Another bleh grunge guitar chug. Horrible singing by Eddie Vedder. Invisible bass. Flat, “Real Rock AnD Roll” drums. This is worse than I expected.

Edward Okulicz: Nice tuneful chorus and an infectious clap-along bit, but you’ve got to wade through choppy waters (well, choppy riffs) and a verse that sounds improvised on the spot to get to it. For a song under three minutes long, it sure feels like a slog.

Will Adams: “Your lies are sick/They’re sick and they’re vile.” Remember how people thought that Trump’s election would mean we’d get good protest music?

Katherine St Asaph: Imagine finding your political #resistance in a 2018 Pearl Jam song. Your local bar band might sound more threatening and vital than this.

Alfred Soto: Republican presidents are good for Pearl Jam. 2002’s “I Am Mine” was one of their tautest and sharpest singles. This time out the useful churn that is their métier is closer to perfunctory; the song is quite deniable. To say “Can’t Deny Me” is unequal to the moment isn’t fair, but events are moving too fast for even Eddie Vedder’s control. 

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