Pearl Jam’s seventh album, ‘Riot Act,’ sounds like a midlife crisis. It’s messy, complicated, a little ornery and defiant in its right to roam. Following 2000’s ‘Binaural,’ another tricky record, and its massive world tour, the band took a yearlong break before reconvening with a set of songs partly informed by the events of 9/11.

‘Riot Act’ is a mournful album, one that’s reflected in the subdued style, tone and playing. But it’s also an album that takes delight in challenging fans’ expectations. It’s not an easy record to get into; it doesn’t pack the arena-rock punch of their best work. Even its best songs – ‘Save You,’ ‘Love Boat Captain,’ ‘I Am Mine’ and ‘Thumbing My Way’ – rarely show up on fans’ playlists.

But ‘Riot Act,’ which celebrates its 11th anniversary today, serves as a necessary step in the band’s independence. They left their longtime major label not long after the record came out, and when they resurfaced -- four years later -- it was with a self-titled album that marked the start of their creative rebirth. The music on ‘Riot Act’ reflects their defiance: It’s complex, experimental and lyrically clouded at times. After ‘Riot Act,’ Pearl Jam started to figure out how to make albums for both their fans and themselves. This one was mostly for them.

Watch Pearl Jam's Video for 'I Am Mine'

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