So I just got done listening to the new Pearl Jam album, Backspacer.
I confess, as a child of the ’80s, I was never much of a PJ fan. Grunge put an end to the musical era that I grew up in, and it’s only now, a long time after the fact, that I can give a band like Pearl Jam its due.
But that’s really not what I want to talk about. Let me try to get back on track here. Eddie Vedder and Co. (among others) ushered in a music era in the early ’90s punctuated by angst and inner turmoil. Now, almost 18 years after they first hit the scene, Eddie and his grunge-y Pearl Jam cohorts have mellowed into a surprisingly positive outlook on the good things that life has to offer.
Hey, this album’s not perfect, as you’ll see in our review. It’s got some issues. But three times while listening to Backspacer, I felt my skin begin to go all goosepimply and my eyes well up with tears. Why? Because some of the lyrics on PJ’s new album express so precisely things I’ve thought and felt. One of those songs, “Just Breathe,” was a tribute to a faithful wife who has sacrificed much (“Nothing you would take,” Vedder says of her, “Everything you gave”). That song prompted me to pick up the phone and call my wife, just to tell her how much I love her.
Such is the power of music, to simultaneously tap into and provide an outlet for feelings deep inside that we may not even be conscious of until a song, a lyric, gives them voice and sets them wandering about our souls in surprisingly powerful ways–sometimes even from bands or singers we didn’t even particularly like before.
That’s one of the reasons why I love music … and why I love thinking about the words and images and messages that today’s popular musicians are asking us, those who listen, to interact with. They matter because they have the power to unlock stuff inside that we didn’t even know was there.