Riot Act, despite the nerdy cover art, is one of Pearl Jam’s stronger late career efforts. While Eddie Vedder reasserts himself as the songwriting lynchpin on Riot Act, contributing key tracks such as the mystical opener ‘Can’t Keep’, the pretty ‘Thumbing My Way’, and ‘I Am Mine’, all of the members, apart from Mike McCready, contribute strong songs.
Matt Cameron in particular shines with ‘You Are’, creating the pulsing guitar sound by feeding it through a drum machine. Vedder has plenty on his mind as he remembers the Roskilde tragedy on ‘Love Boat Captain’ (“lost 9 friends we’ll never know”), continues his anti-wealth stance on the sixties throwback ‘Green Disease’, criticises the president on ‘Bushleaguer’, and often discusses religious beliefs such as in ‘Can’t Keep’. Jeff Ament also shines with ‘Help Help’, which strangely benefits from its repetitive inanity.
Riot Act isn’t necessarily an easy record, as the hooks are less obvious than on Ten or Yield, but there are plenty of good songs, even if the album drags a little at 55 minutes. Pearl Jam have seldom sounded so organised and coherent, and Riot Act is easily one of their stronger albums.