Q&A With Eddie Vedder

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Pearl Jam is either album number eight or 188 from Eddie Vedder and Co., depending on whether you include official bootlegs (there’s 176 of them), live records (two), best-ofs (one) and odds ‘n’ sods collections (one). Either way, the 13-track LP is easily the Seattle quintet’s best studio effort since 1998’s Yield and a welcome return-to-form following 2002’s awkward Riot Act. Pearl Jam left longtime label Epic in 2003 and signed to J Records, the imprint run by 74-year-old music impresario Clive Davis. (The band’s new labelmates include Barry Manilow, Kenny G and Whitney Houston.) For a group as self-sufficient as Pearl Jam, something as cosmetic as changing record labels has zero effect on its musical output. Nonetheless, a change in scenery seems to have re-energized the band. While Pearl Jam finds Vedder once again raging against the machine (he has made no secret of his opinion of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq), this time out, his anger is focused and perfectly suited to these mostly hard-rocking songs that address the current state of the Union.

The 41-year-old Vedder spoke to MAGNET from Pearl Jam’s Seattle warehouse space.

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Q&A With Stephin Merritt

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“I do a lot of conventional things,” says Stephin Merritt. “But I don’t do them conventionally.” The singer/composer is best known for the pop-leaning Magnetic Fields and Gothic Archies, both of which he’s currently writing for and recording. But his latest album, Showtunes (Nonesuch), compiles songs from his theatrical collaborations with Chinese opera director Chen Shi-Zheng.

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Q&A With Tommy Keene

In a 1998 MAGNET interview, a somewhat frustrated Tommy Keene threw a scare into a small but slavishly devoted cult of power-pop enthusiasts by suggesting his then-current album, Isolation Party, might be his last. Thankfully, the prediction proved premature. Since then, he’s released a live record (2001’s Showtunes), another studio effort (2002’s The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down) and a rarities disc (2004’s Drowning), all to the kind of critical acclaim and commercial neglect that Keene has grudgingly come to accept over the course of a three-decade career. At age 47, Keene has just released his best work in a decade with Crashing The Ether (Eleven Thirty). Recorded at his Los Angeles home studio, Ether finds Keene producing and playing almost every instrument, yielding an album that recalls the twin peaks of his classic ’80s LPs: 1986’s Songs From The Film and 1989’s Based On Happy Times. The sessions that produced Crashing The Ether also found Keene simultaneously cutting tracks for a collaborative record with erstwhile Guided By Voices leader Robert Pollard. The duo’s disc—with Keene composing the music and Pollard adding lyrics and vocals—is set to be released under the Keene Brothers moniker this summer. Currently, Keene is touring as guitarist/keyboardist in Pollard’s solo band. It’s another plum gig for Keene, who’s previously handled similar chores for Paul Westerberg and Velvet Crush.

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Q&A With Moby

moby62qa550Like fellow one-named, slightly built, narcissistic workaholics Prince and Beck, Moby (the most charming and humanistic of that club) has slowed his output in the new century. Almost three years have passed since he released 18, a bloated album that still managed to soak up a wave of critical backlash. Moby’s new, sample-free Hotel (V2) is scarcely slimmer, even without its bonus ambient disc. While the first half of the record is stripped-down and kinetic, much of the second half—the primitive, sex-with-an-Atari-2600 burble of “I Like It,” the Vangelis-flying-too-close-to-the-ground “Homeward Angel”—never comes into focus. But even on 1995’s Everything Is Wrong and 1999’s Play, Moby’s industry trumped his inventiveness. His sense of economy—not no-wasted-gesture economy but rather bargain-basement, wow-it-has-a-shitload-of-tracks economy—holds up here as ever. Moby’s bang-for-the-buck philosophy seems tied to his relationships with various commercial users of his music. He revealed as much in a recent entry in his online journal, which cited childhood poverty as a possible reason for his shrewdness. Does the guy get a bad rap for issuing more licenses than a Las Vegas justice of the peace? Even he doesn’t know, and Moby is an expert on himself first. Hotel is another chapter of Moby’s meta narrative on the succor he finds in, well, being Moby. He can check out any time he likes, but he would never leave.

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