Joshua Love’s review of “Backspacer” by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam

Band: Pearl Jam

Album: Backspacer

Critic: Joshua Love

Publication: Pitchfork, 2009

Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Jargon Palsy

Longest Sentence: 72 words




Hi, Josh. I’d like to introduce you to a concept called “editing.” It’s a useful tool at a writer’s disposal to help pare down clunky or useless words. Take these examples of how your writing could be improved by employing this wonderful tool:


“a certain nostalgist’s sentiment” = nostalgia

“sure isn’t inclined to help” = doesn’t help

“might seem like” = was


I know it’s hard, but editing is actually a rewarding experience of self-improvement. You might also consider revising and outlining.


I say this because your writing is baffling. Your points are baffling. Your reasons are baffling. I’ve provided some examples:


“particularly listenable”


What the hell is particularly listenable? I think if you’re capable of hearing and you listen to something, it fits the definition of listenable. Or is that the bare definition, but “particularly listenable” describes something else entirely?


“But at least “The End” manages to land on the right side of affecting thanks to its painfully honest depiction of romantic dissolution”


What’s the wrong side of affecting? Isn’t that disaffecting?


“Sooner or later, however, you remember these guys wouldn’t know a melody if it bit them in the ass.”


If that were true, then I don’t think Pearl Jam would be “the root of all that was overwrought and evil about mid-to-late-90’s guitar music.” Popular music isn’t popular without strong melodies. Try looking up “melody” in the dictionary, Josh.


“Eddie Vedder’s voice, which can display its craggy richness and masculine grace only when the band isn’t trying to break land-speed records.”


Yeah, he really sounded like a woman on “Go,” “Brain of J,” or “Porch.” And yes, those are faster than mid-tempo songs. Yet, when a mid-tempo does roll around on the album, you say that it’s “thoroughly forgettable dreck.” Well, I guess the final frontier for Pearl Jam is to write extremely slow, 12-minute songs. And I bet you’d LOVE that.


“Once upon a time this was a group that was on top of the world and yet still took all kinds of bizarre chances, recording shit like lengthy tape experiments and songs about bugs”


How droll! Bugs, you say! Hitherto unheard of in rock music to sing about the common arthropod! Plum rotten they don’t do it in these times.


“with the spotlights long since extinguished, Pearl Jam seem content to do things by the book.”


…says the Pitchfork writer who wrote an 816-word, five-paragraph review. If that’s not by the book, I don’t know what is.


I’ll be looking for you to work on your editing in coming reviews, Josh. You’re dismissed.