Emerging from a three-year hibernation, Pearl Jam returns with RIOT ACT, a hard-hitting collection of 15 cuts that finds the band leaving behind the experimental nuances of BINAURAL and YIELD. Instead, Eddie Vedder puts on his hair shirt as he takes on both inner and outer conflict amid ambiguity. Hitched to the twin-guitar might of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, Vedder treats Dubya scornfully on the howling "Bush Leaguer" and manages to turn the camera inward on the waltz-flavored chaos of "I Am Mine."
The subtle presence of a humming keyboard on the driving "Get Right" is the sole concession to incorporating any contemporary nuance, and even then, howling guitars ensure this song remains firmly in the rock & roll camp. Other highlights include the thunderous "Save You" along with equally aggressive fret-driven tour de forces like "Ghost" and the slightly more ethereal "You Are." As one of the few survivors of the early-'90s grunge movement, (along with the often overlooked Mudhoney), Pearl Jam has managed to weather the choppy seas of pop culture and emerged with musical chemistry as rock-solid as its convictions.
Spin (12/01/02, p.137) - 7 out of 10 - "...Pearl Jam's seventh studio album balances emotive bombast with a taut-sweaty hard-rock attack..."
Entertainment Weekly (11/8/02, p.134) - "...[The] band's grooves still sound taut, emotive, and world-class..." - Rating: B
Q (12/02, p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...An adult rock record in which nuance succeeds over bombast. The songs take effect slowly..."
Uncut (12/02, p.132) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...It's their intelligence that keeps Pearl Jam ahead of the nouveau-grunge pack...'
CMJ (11/25/02, p.6) - "...It certainly includes all of the things Pearl Jam's fans have come to expect: 1970s-style arena rock riffs; gritty, angst-ridden vocals and a finesse for delivering hooks and scream-a-long choruses..."
Mojo (Publisher) (1/03, p.92) - "...Always earnest, Pearl Jam are still able to circumvent their innate seriousness with an instinctive talent and sense of control, and as such this album has plenty of ideas and plenty of 'moments'..."