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Monday, February 2, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Yield' Signals Pearl Jam's Return To Rock Of Old

"Yield" Pearl Jam (Epic)

The opening blast of "Brain of J." signals that Pearl Jam is back and rocking hard again.

Apparently stung by the ho-hum critical and commercial reaction to its last album, the Eastern music-influenced, spiritually oriented "No Code," Eddie Vedder and company are returning to the hard sound that made the band a sensation in the early '90s.

Uncharacteristically, Pearl Jam is going all out to promote "Yield," which hits the stores tomorrow. A PR agency has been hired to push the disc, Vedder is doing interviews again, record stores are getting lavish display materials and, although it hasn't happened yet, the band will probably start making videos again. Apparently, the downsizing Vedder always said he wished for the band, wasn't so pleasant after all.

While "Yield" will likely do far better in sales than "No Code" - almost certainly debuting at No. 1 in Billboard - it probably won't be the blockbuster the band, and the record industry, is hoping for. While it's a better, more accessible album than "No Code," it doesn't have a wealth of radio-friendly songs, and the lyrics are often murky, even nonsensical, unlike the direct, forceful songs that established the band, like "Jeremy," "Alive" and "Evenflow."

"Given to Fly," the first single from "Yield," has been well-received on rock radio, because fans have been waiting for new Pearl Jam music for two years, and there's not much else happening in rock these days. But the song sounds like warmed-over Led Zeppelin, a cross between "The Battle of Evermore" and "Going to California." Another of the new album's noisy rockers, "Push Me Pull Me," has vocal harmonies straight out of The Who.

The best new rock song is the cynical "Do the Evolution," although Vedder's screaming vocal does become grating and the choir bit is too cute.

Among the slower songs are Vedder's mystical, Zen-like "Wishlist" ("I wish I was a sacrifice that somehow still lived on") and his soothing song of loving concern, "All Those Yesterdays," which has a Beatles-like lyric and arrangement.

The album's packaging is beautiful, especially bassist Jeff Ament's pictures in the booklet accompanying the disc.

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Playing word association with `Yield'

Pearl Jam's newest release, "Yield," is a 13-track collection with an extra hidden instrumental track at the end.

We asked Eddie Vedder to play word association with the titles; his answers follow the song titles. "Brain of J": Conspiracy theories.

"Faithful": M-Y-T-H. Faithful is a myth.

"No Way": It's Stone's song. Adding the words `No way' to the line `I'm not going to make a difference' was my ambiguous take on it.

"Given To Fly": It's a children's story.

"Wishlist": (Laughing) I thought I'd lighten up. "Pilate": That's Jeff's. I'll just say Masters and Margaritas. "Do The Evolution": Drunk with technology.

"MFC": It stands for mini fast car. You drive them on an open road outside of Rome. They go as fast as one of those little things will go. You know, they've got really small wheels, it's amazing how fast they can go. It's kinda like me, yeah (laughing again). One of these days I'm going to get to where I'm going and just stop. Get to the year 2000 and stop. What do I see for 2000? It's not a big-deal day for me, but I'm excited about the idea that everyone will be thinking about one thing all at once. It'll be this form of mass conciousness. I'm sure nothing will come of it, except maybe the biggest simultaneous hangover in our still-young history. "Low Light": That's Jeff again. Introspection. "In Hiding": A life fast. "Push Me. Pull Me.": Dr. Dolittle.

"All Those Yesterdays": It's a lullabye.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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