I recently picked up albums from a pair of Nineties bands that refuse to let themselves sink into the nostalgia act zone and continue to release new music. Approaching their third decade of existence how well do Weezer’s “Raditude” and Pearl Jam’s “Backspacer” stack up against their earlier work?
“Raditude,” Weezer’s seventh album, is a high concept album. Everything you need to know about the album can be found in the name. It’s like the band was sitting around in the studio, and decided to throw in everything they thought sounded rad. So you get an album that’s a blend of chunky power pop, eighties synth, Bollywood, and Lil Wayne, all wrapped up with Weezer’s traditional earnest irony. It is everything I want from Weezer and reaffirms them as one of the best power pop acts of their generation.
By comparison, “Backspacer” comes across as single minded. Pearl Jam primarily does one thing on this album, craft tightly wound rockers. There is a strong punk-sensibility to the album, which does not even crack the 40 minute mark in length. While it’s an effective conceit, there is a certain amount of sameness to the songs — the acoustic “Just Breathe” and “The End” being notable exceptions. It’s a perfectly fine album, and I really can hear what they were going for; I just don’t think the rockers are savage enough to offset how much the ballads slow things down.
In the end I think I rather the musical stew of “Ratitude” over the monotone of “Backspacer.” It’s a position that seems to flow against the stream of musical criticism. As near as I can tell the press is fawning over “Backspacer” and have a much more m’eh reaction to the Weezer. To me, though, Raditude is the album Pearl Jam set out to make, a blast of musical fun that exists just to exist.