Riot Act

What year is it, exactly? There’s a Bush in the White House, the economy sucks, war threatens the Middle East, and Nirvana, Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam all have new records out. Is it 1991 all over again? Nope, it’s a new day, especially in Pearl Jam’s case, coming off less sullen and angry than they were a decade ago. Don’t worry, the band that once defined Seattle’s defiant sound are still chafed by the indignant ruling class. But instead of a battle cry, Riot Act is an urgent plea to pay attention, stay informed and to not be ruled by fear. Where once PJ would rage in protest, tracks like “I am mine” confront sorrow with strength and resolve. But, the CD isn’t all change. In fact, Surfrider frontman Vedder seems to embrace the environment more than ever in this effort (eight ocean references throughout). And the standout track, “Help, Help” offers a methodical rising into that familiar frenzy that knows no obvious ceiling. Still, it’s the timely lyrical content that really shows what time it is, as they warn of shady designs by the government and the media: “The more you read, we’ve been deceived everyday. It’s clearer and clearer.” Still wondering what year we’re in? Thought not. Tim Donnelly