According to founding Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, who together with frontman Eddie Vedder wrote some of the Nineties’ biggest rock songs, the group is as tight personally and musically now as on its landmark 1991 debut Ten. “Our band is better than ever right now,” Gossard says. “Everyone keeps developing into the core of who they were ten years ago. It’s an amazing process to see that happening, and it happens because we’re together still, collaborating with the same people we did when we were younger.”
“Everyone’s finding a bit of peace with the universe,” he continues. “Letting go of old issues and just appreciating the bounty. We all show up at the studio at age thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, and are wowed that we still get to show up and play in the sandbox together. We’re probably five of the luckiest guys on the planet. Now it’s like, ‘Let’s do one of my songs and let’s do one of your songs. And let’s be sure that we don’t spend a lot of time bickering over stupid things.’ We count our blessing and try to make meaningful music.”
“Meaningfulness” has always been a part of Pearl Jam’s music and public life — they’ve fought for their rights against Ticketmaster, always play Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit and this year Vedder was an outspoken opponent of the means of America’s “War on Terrorism,” a perspective that Gossard says shows up obliquely on Riot Act.
“After 9/11, everyone went, ‘Oh wow, the earth isn’t exactly the way I thought it was,'” he explains. “There are forces out there that are out of our control. Or there are forces out there that are at odds with what would be our natural state of being. [On the album], there’s no obvious reference to it . . . There’s some politics in some of Ed’s lyrics. Some of it’s ironic and funny and some of it’s forthright.”
Pearl Jam will play a benefit show in Seattle on December 8th, with Mudhoney and Steve Earle also on the bill. The band will embark on a world tour in support of Riot Act early next year.