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Eddie Vedder - Earthling (Album Review)

Monday, 28 February 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Danny Clinch

If you only know Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam’s angst-ridden early ‘90s output, you might expect to hear a middle aged man brooding over his very existence on this solo album. In which case, leave those thoughts at the door and prepare yourself for a sprawling collection of plush, life-affirming anthems that reflect Vedder’s belief in the power of human connection.

After two average soundtrack efforts and a bizarre ukulele-based project, ‘Earthling’ is a much more accessible and high quality solo offering. Far removed from your typical ‘lone wolf’ affair, the vibe between Vedder and his collaborators makes this record sound like the product of a fully invested group, rather than a superstar backed by efficient, but sterile, hired guns.​ 

Joining him on this adventure are Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, former Chilis guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and producer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Watt.

An exceptional talent who’s worked with everyone from Miley Cyrus to Ozzy Osbourne, Watt’s vibrant sonic choices gleam as the songs’ crystal clear textures combine to create a rock and roots-based record delivered with the production values of an uplifting pop album.

Invincible catapults us straight into anthemic territory, with acoustic guitars and keys sparkling together like redemptive spotlights. Rose of Jericho and Good and Evil are pure bred bangers that swagger along on Pearl Jam punk riffs and The Haves is a mesmerising ballad about realising true wealth has nothing to do with possessions.

Every element here showcases love’s ability to heal divisions and promote our best selves. From finding ways to navigate the daily grind (Fallout Today) and overcome ingrained prejudice (The Power of Right) to remembering lost friends (Brother The Cloud, a superb song about Chris Cornell), ‘Earthling’ often takes a ‘show don’t tell’ approach to promoting the importance of unity when the world needs it most.  That driving notion is subliminally reinforced by collaborations with Elton John (Picture) and Stevie Wonder (Try), as well as references that highlight how Vedder’s connection to music gave him purpose. 

Long Way, meanwhile, might be the greatest song Tom Petty never recorded with Jeff Lynne. In fact, the only thing that could have made it more of a Petty track was if Benmont Tench turned up to add his legendary Hammond organ to proceedings. Which he does. Likewise, Mrs Mills is a cheeky double entendre-laced tune about Abbey Road’s legendary piano. The only thing that could have made it more of a ‘Sgt. Pepper’ cut was if Ringo Starr lent his trademark drums to proceedings. Which he does. 

Although ‘Earthling’ suffers from a little stylistic whiplash, listening to the whole record makes you feel like you’ve tuned into Vedder FM and are witnessing all the  influences that shaped the songwriter’s artistic palette. Most importantly, considering how many of his ‘90s peers have succumbed to their inner demons, hearing Vedder sing “I know we got a lot of life, life to live yet,” might be the best musical moment of 2022.

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