Monday, June 7, 2010

Mirror Ball (with Pearl Jam)

Grunge gives back, as Neil teams up one of the genre's biggest acts for what could have been a mindblowing collaboration. I'm not a huge Pearl Jam fan, but its obvious to me that this pairing had potential. There are plenty of decent songs on Mirror Ball, but it often feels like a missed opportunity. The problem may be that there simply wasn't enough collaboration, and Neil essentially uses PJ as his backup band. He wrote all of the songs by himself save one (cowritten with Eddie Vedder), and they are all repetitive, midtempo rockers... What I'm getting at is that this is basically a Crazy Horse album, but with a slightly more polished, technically focused rhythm section. Which, in my opinion, is not an improvement. You get a lot more drum fills and guitar noodling and the occasional Vedder vocal, but it lacks that special 'Horse energy.

Some of my problem may be the production, which is a repetitive fuzz that often masks Pearl Jam and doesn't allow them enough room to establish themselves on the songs. Also, Neil's lyrics often seem oddly focused on talking about old hippie themes ("Jimi's playin' in the back room/Led Zeppelin's on the stage"), which strikes me as inappropriately retrospective considering the nature of this collaboration. He should be looking ahead, not back.

Still, there is some good material here, "Song X," "Downtown," and "Peace and Love," all solid hard rock songs with a good groove. The best song is easily "I'm the Ocean," 7-minutes of Neil and Pearl Jam blasting away at the same four chords over and over again that somehow never gets boring, and in fact seems to grow with intensity every second. (The final track, "Fallen Angel" uses the same melody, but is just Neil singing and playing an organ). I have a feeling that the material on this album would have come off better live, where Pearl Jam could have really dug into the material and put their stamp on it.

Rating: B -

Sadly, I do not own Merkin Ball, the companion release, a 2 track single with Neil playing back-up to Pearl Jam, although I really should try to pick it up some day.


Shenan said...

"I'm not present,
I'm a drug that makes you dream,
I'm an aerostar,
I'm a Cutlass Supreme,
In the wrong lane,
Trying to turn against the flow,
I'm the ocean,
I'm the giant undertow"

That part still makes me want to spread my arms out and spin in circles and feel all powerful every time I hear it. I'm not sure what the spinning in circles has to do with feeling powerful, but I think maybe it's like imitating an airplane (aero-plane...aerostar...)

I bet this would be an incredible song to hear live, let alone play live, if you are Neil.

Shenan said...

Bahaha OK, so obviously I'm doing my "bored at work" thing and reading your Journey Through The Past posts...and they really called the album "Merkin Ball"?!?

Dan said...


Shenan said...

Haha! Why don't we own this? I'm buying this.