Epic - 2002 - 59 minutes

Pearl Jam may never again reach the frenzy of their early 90's success, but as sales dropped they became a much more interesting band in the process - taking on Ticketmaster in the US, releasing bootlegs of their own gigs (78 from their 2000 tour), and winding up critics with a self-imposed exile from press and MTV.

The albums they let do the talking in the meantime ('Vitalogy', 'No Code', 'Yield', 'Binaural') stand as a body of work that few from the last decade can compete with and while 'Riot Act' comes with a higher media profile, it adds to the legend.

Informed by the deaths of nine fans at the Roskilde Festival in 2000 and the band's take on mortality afterwards, the rockier numbers only heighten the rootsy introspection with a loose feel running throughout. The Dubya-baiting of 'Bu$hleaguer' aside, Eddie Vedder's lyrics fill the album with a pair of four-letter words that there's just too little of: love and hope. And on tracks like 'I Am Mine', 'Thumbing My Way' and 'All or None', they hit both with a passion that ranks with the best of their career.

Seven albums in, this story seems a long way from over.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Can't Keep - Save You - Love Boat Captain - Cropduster - Ghost - I Am Mine - Thumbing My Way - You Are - Get Right - Green Disease - Help Help - Bu$hleaguer - 1/2 Full - Arc - All or None