first_imgby Michael BennettClocking in at just 33 minutes, Into the Wild is disappointingly short. It wasn’t just the disappointment of good music coming to a close, it was the way most of the tracks barely had a chance to begin. The only song on the album that feels like a finished piece of work is ‘Hard Sun’, an Indio cover (which nonetheless fits in very well with the original tracks). The second track, ‘No Ceiling’, is a perfect example of this. No sooner has the plucky tune and lyrical message been established than the song ends. Several songs on the album come across like this as half-finished ideas for songs, which is quite frustrating (especially as they sound like very promising ideas).As a soundtrack, we can’t yet judge how well it fits into the film, but the album succeeds right from the start in painting huge open canvases of empty highways and wilderness. It feels like Vedder has strongly identified with the true story of a bright college kid leaving society for solitude in the Alaskan wilderness. He shows himself able to get right into character in songs like ‘Long Nights’ and ‘Guaranteed’, and relishes the chance to reflect on themes of freedom, society and loneliness. Still, the song that captures the story best is one not written by Vedder, but by Jerry Hanan; ‘Society’. At first I was put off by clichés in the lyrics, till I realised they were supposed to communicate a mindset, not a political statement. “Society, you’re a crazy breed”, sings Vedder, “hope you’re not lonely, without me”.Fans of Pearl Jam might be disappointed by Vedder’s restraint and the sparseness of the music. Anyone seriously interested in him as a songwriter, though, will want to hear him given the freedom to create an album almost single-handedly. For the rest of us, the subtle, meditative tones of Vedder’s record might be surprising – and a reason to look again at his band.last_img read more