There's a sense of impending doom permeating Pearl Jam's eighth studio release. 'It feels like it's the end of the world and we all got a good seat,' said lead singer Eddie Vedder in a recent interview.
Indeed, the song titles share the same sentiment: the likes of Severed Hand, Comatose, Life Wasted and the standout World Wide Suicide don't suggest that the celebrated grungers are about to get cheery, and all the better for it.
Yet the term 'grunge' is inappropriate this time around: this set is infused with a vital, punk ferocity not heard since the band's early days, and this alone ought to reclaim lost ground on their recently plummeting sales figures.
Their last studio outing, Riot Act, only sold about 500,000 copies. If this eponymous self-reappraisal doesn't restore them to early career highs then it will be the loss of those who don't hear it. By now, Pearl Jam have moved well away from the sort of anthems that characterised their heyday, yet Vedder is seemingly still wracked with as much angst as ever.
The stars of the show, however, are the riffs of Mike McCready and Steve Gossard, propelling the songs forward and at times grabbing Vedder's vocals by the scruff of the neck. Compelled to address the war in Iraq, on World Wide Suicide the lead singer furiously berates those who 'tell you to pray while the devil's on their shoulder,' while the glorious chiming guitar on Army Reserve recalls the Cure's Porl Thompson.
Anyone who took time out to visit the band's Lost Dogs outtake compilation will hear that Vedder & Co have taken note of their past for what ought to be a mighty comeback.
The Pearl Jam engine is purring once again.