Pearl Jam’s ‘The Fixer’: The Newsroom Argument

Today Pearl Jam unveiled a new song on their MySpace page called “The Fixer,” which is a featured track on their forthcoming album (due to hit stores — including an exclusive deal with Target — on September 20). Here is the brief conversation I had with MTV News’ James Montgomery, conducted over e-mail even though we sit across from one another.

Kyle: So Pearl Jam dropped a new song today. They’re a remarkable band, because they’re playing a type of music that nobody else has bothered to care about since about 1995, and yet they’re still one of the hugest bands on the planet. “The Fixer” doesn’t make me feel anything one way or another, though that guitar sound is a little Black Crowes-esque, isn’t it?

James: The deepest, darkest secret I harbor as a working music journalist is that I have never, ever been a Pearl Jam fan — to the point where I don’t even own a single PJ album. Not even Ten (I mean, I owned it, but I think my cousin stole it in, like, 1992.) Really, someone should revoke my membership card or something. Anyway, by admitting that, I am also admitting that I am probably not the best person to talk about PJ’s new single (this is sort of the same strategy I apply to get out of jury duty). But I like it. It’s lean and it’s got a kind of snarl to it, and the uh-uh-uhhhs remind me of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

Kyle: The thing about Pearl Jam is that I used to be a huge, huge fan, but I haven’t cared in a decade. I listen to every album once, get bored with it and put it on a shelf. Before I was a rock critic, I would buy every single Pearl Jam album the day it came out not out of excitement but out of begrudging respect. I haven’t actually liked Pearl Jam in forever, but I acknowledge that they are a great band, if you follow my meaning. I ain’t mad at’em, as the kids say. Based on the two songs I’ve heard from this record (this and “Get Some”), I can’t imagine anything will shift (except I doubt I’ll buy a physical copy of the CD, if only because Virgin Megastore is gone).

James: Is this the one that’s coming out in Target?

Kyle: This is indeed the album for which they’ve struck the Target deal. If this were a different era, it’d be really weird for a band who rallied so hard against Ticketmaster to hop in bed with a corporate giant like Target, but everybody pretty much agrees that musicians have been victimized by labels and pirates alike, so anything they can do to make money on their music is okay. Which I don’t necessarily disagree with, despite my punk rock upbringing.

James: Looking on the ever-reliable Wikipedia, I see this album is called Backspacer. That’s a cool title at least. Apparently, it “features a sound influenced by pop and New Wave,” which sounds either promising or disastrous, depending on what you think about Pearl Jam in the first place.

Kyle: If that means it’ll sound like a Duran Duran album, then I’m fine with it.