I’m not sure how to begin this review. Eddie Vedder has a certain on-again, off-again place in my heart. Usually the on-again part is with Pearl Jam, leaving the off-again moments to his solo material.
I have to say this is one of those off-again moments. But keep reading.
To someone who hasn’t paid much attention since the mid 90’s, his newest record will come as a bit of a shock. If you’ve followed his natural progression, however, it seems to make sense.
“Ukulele Songs” is precisely what it sounds like it would be. Songs done with a ukulele. Just a ukulele. Typing ukulele over and over again makes it start to look like I’m misspelling it.
With interest and wary, I hit play. The first track “Can’t Keep” is improperly titled, as it DID keep my interest. It’s a short and sweet intro to this work, and made me think “woah, this could be good.”
As a songwriter, Vedder has already proven himself to be a notch above your average bear. He doesn’t fail here, and the tracks that make up this record are all obviously thought out and heartfelt. But I found myself growing impatient with the fact that it’s JUST UKULELE.
Any one of these tracks would make a very interesting interlude in between more captivating songs. Instead, as an interlude, Vedder tosses us the short (as in 8 seconds) ‘Hey Fahkah“, which is just him starting off on a wrong chord and laughing about it. I fail to see why that was a necessary inclusion, especially as its own track with its own title.
I’m all for natural progression. I’m not one to lap up the same sound over and over again. However, Eddie Vedder seems to be going the same route as many of his 90’s peers (Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden). If I understood songwriters like Neil Young and Bob Dylan more, then maybe this would click with me. It’s well done, and well composed.
But as a whole, this record just doesn’t work for me. Or maybe it works too well, which is why I started feeling bored, honestly.
It is rare for me to say something like “give me back the old Pearl Jam”, but in this case, I can’t deny that those were the feelings I had afterword.
Bottom line: If you’re in to the folk styles of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, then this will make a nice chill out listen on a rainy day. For the rest of us, we’re moving on.