Is Pearl Jam coming back too soon with its new album?
Though conventional wisdom in the record business says it's best to wait a year or two between releases to build up a hunger among fans, the word is the Seattle band may have a new collection in stores as early as July.
That's just nine months after the release of the blockbuster "Vs."
The question is whether fans will see the quick return as a daring and spontaneous move by a band that claims it's out to break down the mainstream rock convention--or as a sign that the band is trying to strike while the commercial iron is hot.
Even U2's "Zooropa," which seemed to come out last year on the heels the band's "Achtung Baby," was actually 18 months after its predecessor. In that case, the "quick" release was hailed as a bold step.
So what do people in the industry think about Pearl Jam's plans?
"It's certainly an unconventional strategy, but right now they're pretty much the biggest rock band in the world, so if anyone can get away with it, they can," said Bob Bell, new-release buyer for the Wherehouse retail chain.
Some observers believe the move could restore some credibility that may have been washed away by the band's huge success.
"People may get excited when they see the band maybe getting excited themselves about making an album, rather than waiting the requisite time between records," says Megan McLaughlin, editor of the CMJ New Music Report alternative-rock trade publication.
Initial fan reaction to material that presumably would be on the album has been strong. The band played one new song, "Not for You," on "Saturday Night Live" last month, and others on its live radio satellite broadcast from Atlanta.
Some radio stations, including KROQ in Los Angeles, have already, in effect, been previewing the album-in-progress by playing "Not for You," taped off "Saturday Night Live." Gene Sandbloom, the station's assistant program director, says that it's among the most requested tracks on the station.
Don't expect, however, to have any clarification from Pearl Jam. Just as the group tried to release "Vs." with little fanfare, manager Kelly Curtis says the plan is to release the new album "as quietly as possible."
And what about tour plans?
The group, which canceled its summer dates in part because of the death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, may be on the road this summer or fall if it can work out details of a plan to hold ticket prices to $18.