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The Capn's Log: News

Pearl Jam

 Their Name Means Jism. How Quaint.

 

Introduction

Ten

Vs.

Vitalogy

No Code

Yield

Binaural

Riot Act


The Lineup Card (1990-2002)

Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitars)

Jeff Ament (bass)

Stone Gossard (guitars)

Mike McCready (guitars)

Matt Cameron (drums) after 1998 Also Of Soundgarden

Jack Irons (drums) 1995-98 Also Of Red Hot Chili Peppers

Dave Abbruzzese (drums) 1992-4

Dave Krusen (drums) 1992-4 Also Of Candlebox

  Pearl Jam, by default, has become the Great American Nineties Rock Band by being the only artist to actually survive the decade (more or less...those pesky drummers keep coming and going) intact. Let's grok on the grunge/90's rock explosion circa 1991-2 and the bands that were involved in that, and then let's play Where Are They Now just like our names are Jon Ferguson and Serene Altschul like on our favorite music stations. Is Serena Altschul still on MTV, or is she doing the inner city murder and car-accident beat for some second-tier East Coast network affiliate? Eh, it's not like you guys watch MTV either. I give you that much credit.

Back to the game! Nirvana checked out in 1994 when Kurt punched in his time card. Alice In Chains choked on Lane Staley's drug problem. Soundgarden broke up in like 1997 because half of them didn't want to wuss out their music and the other half did. Smashing Pumpkins was crushed by the weight of Billy Corgan's ego and faltering record sales in late 1999. Stone Temple Pilots is still here, doing package tours with the Doobie Brothers and no one gives a shit. Wannabe stars like Better Than Ezra and Candlebox and Blind Melon are gone. Hard bastards like Helmet and Rage Against The Machine and Tool are gone (though their influence also lives onward like cockroaches deep in your walls). The only real group that fit into the whole super-popular early 90's radio scene that still remains standing is the Red Hot Chili Peppers who I don't count because they've been around since like 1982 and don't really fit into that whole American Hard Rock thing. That shows the power of Pearl Jam right there, that they have been able to somehow overcome the mistakes and foundation cracks that scattered their competition like an overturned Buzz Bin. Perhaps that's because The Jam got all their shit out of the way early in the band's career, back when most of them were part of a scarily bad Seattle hair metal band called Mother Love Bone, who were one of the Bright Shining Stars of the local crowd in like 1989. Their leader, Andrew Wood, took the Hot Dose To The Stars in 1990 and the remaining players joined forces with the similarly godforsaken group Green River and formed Pearl Jam when they added San Diego surferman Ed Vedder on vocals. Since busting the whole thing open as the safer first alternative to Nirvana in the worldwide 1992 Seattle music explosion, they've only had to keep replacing their drummer nearly every album, appear in the dorky period movie Singles, stop making videos, fight TicketBastard in Congress, had fans crushed at a European gig a few years ago, and fend off blatant ripoffs like Creed from their rightful turf as the premier American hard rock band.

From what started out as what seemed to be a much more commercial version of the Seattle Sound, Pearl Jam has also been one of the best in sticking close to their DIY/punk ethos, strangely enough. They don't do things that are obviously antagonistic like yer RATM's, but the band is constantly involved in benefit concerts and plays the rock star game very reluctantly. In fact, most of the time you just don't tend to hear very much from Pearl Jam in the mainstream press. And I wonder why? Hmm...could it be that they refuse to kiss ass and suck dick? Ahh yes, the rock star machine rolls ever onward, and we'll hear a little bit about that from the band as well. Now they don't release videos, or at least don't do it very often, not after 'Jeremy' was played about a bazillion goddamn times on MTV in 1992, anyway. And they certainly don't appear in their own videos anymore. That's like a rule. Like the infield fly rule, or the rule about not flicking your weed roach off the balcony. If anything, now they've regressed into a cult act, albeit one of the most popular cult acts in the world. They tour forever, release shitloads of live albums, change their setlist nightly, play a bunch of covers, yadda.

What they don't do is anything original, and that's the major failing of Pearl Jam. They're hard rock, pure and simple. They aren't rough enough to be called punk or even 'alternative', because they stopped being an alternative the first time they released a followup single. Alternative to what? Themselves? They'd killed off hair metal but good (with Nirvana and Soundgarden and the others, of course. It was a group effort.), but then what? Pearl Jam sounds like an amalgamation of all the non-bluesy American hard rock bands ever made. The guitarists solo like all they ever listened to was Are You Experienced? and Kiss's Alive!. Sometimes they come across like Crazy Horse, other times like Cheap Trick, other times like Rush (seriously!), but there's a missing link where I can say their own sound comes from. The lyrics, hey, they're pretty original for a group of guys that sound like a pothead cross between U2 and Jello Biafra. And when they really try to get on the experimentation tip they trip over their pretentions and lose a few fans. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being unoriginal as long as the music stays good, and they're pretty great at doing that.

As a finish, I'd like to mention that Pearl Jam started out named Mookie Blaylock after the dynamite young NBA star then plying for the New Jersey Nets. Mookie Blaylocks university? The University of Oklahoma, where I went. I met the guy one time there at a graduation ceremony. Thank you, thank you very much.

Peita peitawakelin@optusnet.com.au
Any Short Comments?: I rate A to Pearl Jam.
I like your writing and think you are a good writer, but I do not agree with some of your comments you have stated! Pearl Jam are an individual band and write lyrics with meaning. They do not try to write like other bands and that is what I love about them. You listen to a song and hear the lyrics, and not all of them make instant sense, you have to go away and think about it. They are great and if only I could meet them. It is my dream and its all I want! Sounds crazy I know but I am so connected to them and their music. Well I'll leave it on that note. But everyone has their own opinions and they are not unoriginal.
Thanks :)
 


Ten - Epic 1991

Described by this guy I used to have German class with back in 1992 as 'a real downer of a record' (his favorite ever being Led Zeppelin I, the good lad), it took me awhile to realise that, yes, the subject matter of nearly all these songs is a real bummer. Jeremy shoots up his classroom. A kid finds out his stepdad is not his real dad, and then has an incestuous episode with his mom. A teenage girl wrongfully committed to a mental institution. Psycho killers. Heartbreak. Homeless people. A real smiley-face packed bunch of party tunes, huh? The next Get Happy!, no less! But I have an excuse, now let me just explain. I had no idea Damn near each one of these songs has an arena-ready, fist-pumping, beer-swilling 'big triumphant lick' that easily impresses the less upright of our colleagues. No wonder Kurt Cobain hated this band...it was making music for jocks, as long as you weren't listening to the lyrics. Or even if you were, it was still cool to be 'grungey' in 1992 and wear a PJ t-shirt that said '99% of kids prefer crayons to guns' or something equally sophomorically liberal (I'm a pretty hard left-winger, just so you don't castigate me for that comment. But it is sophomorically liberal.) Of course, Nirvana had its own problems with hooks being misinterpreted by bone-dumb testosterone junkies, so it's not like they had much room to talk.

Musically, Pearl Jam put together those fist-pumping hooks pretty well, though damn near each of the songs has an almost southern-rocky guitar solo section that goes on way too fucking long for guys that don't solo very well. I mean, talk about Wah abuse! Leave the fucking Hendrix-isms alone, for Chrissakes! One thing you're not going to find on this record is many riffs...and the ones you do find are Jane's Addiction clones ('Why Go' comes to mind). Instead, two chord dual-rhythm guitar sequences is about the norm, leaving all the melody duties fall on the shoulders of Eddie Vedder, who does a fantastic frigging job of it. And even though they're leaning so hard on sawblading through chords, they're not doing it in a way that even whispers in the ear of punk rock, like Nirvana. Or heavy metal, for that matter, like Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. They're content to be middle of the road, and have their over-reverbed, bearded chord sequences tell stories of Journey tours of years long past. Some have questioned their ability to play at all, and while I certainly don't think there's anything on Ten that's too hard for someone as hilariously hamfingered as myself to play on the guitar, I wouldn't go saying these guys are fit for the short bus, either. They're just young and don't like practising scales yet, that's all. Oh, to be in the right place at the right time...

So while it seems that Pearl Jam is sorta Not Quite Ready For Rock Stardom, they got their fame on anyway for some reason. Why, then? If I listen to this album with an open ear again, I'm still very impressed. They've reached around in the Classic Rock toolbox for those reliable old pieces, stuck to certain parameters (no lyrical cliches, no blues, nothing acoustic, not too many overdubs, everything has a 'serious' tone), and played the game right. All the pieces fall into place with the addition of Eddie Vedder, who's gotta be American rock's premier vocalist who doesn't either sing blues or screech. His baritone dances all around his range, he growls and spits out little spoken asides, he blasts the volume when it's called for, and has the pipes to hold out a note for nearly frigging forever if he wants to. Definitely comparable to Thom Yorke for best 90's rock vocalist, and on this album it's his personality that wins over the crowd and the critic. Without Eddie, this would be a dunk in the lake. With him, its a dunk in the lake with a sensitive sexy rock God who my wife thinks is cute. 

Songs. The running order places all the hit-worthy songs at the beginning of the album. Your 'Even Flow', which I can never stop reinterpreting as 'Sleazy Ho' ('Spreads her legs like butterflies'....blame sophomore year of high school for that. Horribly stupid and embarrassing, which is why I still like it.), your 'Jeremy', your 'Alive'. I like 'Alive' the best out of these even though the 'Ohhh-oh Ohhhhh I'm still alive, yeahhh!' note-sliding chorus doesn't give me chills anymore, now that I know it's not a song of affirmation but a song of protest at that fact. Awww, that angst'll get you every time. I like the songs that break out of the mid-tempo rocker norm, like the heartbreak torch rocker 'Black', which has the great line 'I hope someday you'll have a beautiful life, I hope you'll be a sun in someone else's sky, but why can't it be me?' Corny, sure, but a good one. I also like the stately U2-ish 'Oceans', the fast-'n'-loose psycho-riffing on 'Porch', and the heaving 'Deep', which is about heroin, rape, and selling out, all in one, and with another great line 'To the sky above, he just ain't nothin', but he's got a great view, and he's in...in too deep, yeah!' Yeah, the album's kind of a bummer if you're looking too closely to the scrawled lyric sheet, but isn't that what Being A Nineties Kid was all about? Wasn't it? Ever wonder why 'Generation X' sold out so quickly from it's youth-oriented rejection of the greed of it's parents? Because, for the most part, Gen X-ers and the band that represented them wanted to be their parents, and simply replaced real rebellion and change (which, like it or not, the hippies worked for) for whining at every possible opportunity. Like the boy that cried wolf, or the goth chick that cried suicide, these people kept bitching and whining about stuff so much that nobody listened any more after Kurt died. 'Vee ahr nihilistsss, Vee belieef in nuthink!', but coming from a sullen face-pierced kid in a $75 Abercrombie and Fitch flannel shirt his parents bought him. Like that's to be taken seriously. Once those people got a few more years on them and got their dot-com cookie in 1995-6 (had to lure 'em in there with casual days and foosball tables, though didn't we?) they signed up with the Cubicle Brigade faster and easier than any previous generation since World War II, and are happy to work fewer hours at lower pay just as long as you keep feeding their nearly-forgotten 'edgy' early ninties tastes for Starbucks coffee, relaxed fit jeans, and 'rugged, unconventional' SUV vehicles. The downfall of the grunge generation in two sentences, ladies and gentlemen.

I'll be here all the week! Next up, why you don't want a Limp Bizkit fan running your country in 20 years. And cream cheese...the savior of the universe?

Oh yeah, why is the album called Ten? That's Mookie Blaylock's number, baby!

Capn's Final Word: Hard rock is updated for the shallow generation. Doesn't live up to it's alternative hype at all, but does pretty well with those Rock Anthem Cliches.

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Jacob Sneakthaslinger@aol.com     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Whoa, am I indeed the first commentator?  Where to begin...well, for starters, this album changed my life back in high school and steered me clear the hell away from the rote predictable punk rock and bland hip hop I was ingesting by the truckload back then.  In fact, my love for this album is more like sentimental value than actual musical appreciation.  I was having a hard time dealing with life back then and this album helped me cope, ok?  No other record has ever done that for me, I don't think.  As soon as I first heard "Alive" in its entirety, it immediately became my favorite song, and it probably still is.  "Porch," "Deep," and "Even Flow" also make me squeal, moan, and jump for joy.

That said, in retrospect, this really seems like one of those albums that's not quite as good as it could be.  First complaint is fired at the production...holy shit it sucks.  Half the time the band sounds like they're playing in a cave full of bats, like a bunch of neanderthals.  And Eddie's voice is pushed WAY up there in the mix(that reminds me...I'm
entirely fucking sick of people complaining that his voice seems to have gotten "weaker" over the years.  It's because the first album was also the most over-produced one, dumbasses...besides, could YOU or anyone you know handle singing this loud for 6 albums in a row?  Didn't think so), making it hard to concentrate on anything else, which can get annoying even though I love the crap out of his voice.  Second complaint concerns the songwriting.  Throughout the whole album you get the feeling that this material was thrown together very quickly(which it was) and that the band hadn't really even spent a lot of time with each other prior to making it(which a few, but not all of them, had).  Gossard's songs are all the highlights here, but Ament's contributions are lackluster for the most part("Why Go" totally sucks and "Jeremy" is by far their most overrated song).  So in conclusion, I can no longer overlook all of its flaws after all these years, but it's still a pretty damn good debut, and one that will probably always hold a special place in my ear canal.

Slappy Wilson     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Best Album of the Nineties.  Like Stairway to Heaven, it was understandably way overplayed. Thus diminished not by anything native to itself, but by being too popular.  In fact, a brilliant piece of work.  Some of the least played numbers are still stunning (Oceans, Garden).

Your writing style is very, very entertaining and enjoyable, though you need a fact checker before writing entire paragraphs based on mistakes.  You list nonexistent or misunderstood lyrics, and factual errors, then expound on them.

Also, many of your opinions, while interesting and worthy of great respect, are wrong.  I'm sure you'll correct these at some future point though.

(Capn's Response: Guh!! I'm taking smack from a guy called 'Slappy'. Isn't this one of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse?)
 

Divyang    Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Surprised by your liberal views on this album.Usually you tend to see the more negative aspect of things.This album has some good songs and maybe  It might sound better to me if i listen to it one more time.But apart from Alive it's not really that memorable. Deep I don't like.Apart from that there is nothing to be despised on this album.P.S-I was surprised when you published my 9 year old brother's Reader Comment.On your Pink Floyd Page(Wish you Were Here).I was surprised when he started digging Pink Floyd.and relieved.I was afraid he would start listening to 50 cents like other guys of his age.What the heck,people of my age(16)consider Linkin Park better than The Doors.So you can see why I was afraid for the guy.

(Capn's Response: So, I'm Mr. Negative all of a sudden, huh? One person's negativity is another person's shitty taste. You say you have a review site...does your distaste of punctuation continue there, too?)

 


Vs. - Epic 1993

A near-devastating dropoff in quality after Ten, the Angry Llama Album (how do you know the album isn't actually called that? Does it actually say on the packaging? Noooo!) comes across like an defensive maneuver on the part of the Pajamas against all those attacks against their grunge indie cred. In response, they stop writing those triumphant, life-affirming hook lines that were clumped all over Ten, and replace them with uninteresting, hairy riffs that attempt to make Pearl Jam sound less polished and end up making them sound inept. They bash through songs like 'Go' and 'Glorified G' as if making a huge alt-y noise is a lot more important than creating any real sense of melody or tension. The songs that do have more than one idea involved ('Animal', for example, has this really cool heavy part that sounds like the Chili Peppers, and then this funky lighter section on the chorus that lets Eddie Vedder come to the front with the absolutely distasteful hook line 'I'd rather be with an animal'...alright, Ed. I'll just assume your wife is okay with that.) are unfortunately few and far between. Also more successful are the songs that ease up on the distortion...when the guitar players don't have their Marshall crutches to stand on, they come up with something like 'Daughter' or 'Indifference', both of which have pretty, memorable melodies, though I pretty much dislike the Black Crowesy 'Daughter', and the words rank as some of Ed's most cloyingly angstful....'Don't call me daughter, not fatal...the picture kept will remind me...' revisiting the subject matter of 'Alive' again for the womenfolk, huh, Ed?. In fact, this album has some of the PJ's more irritating lyrics ever. 'Glorified version of a pellet gun', over and over and over? Whoo...I see fists a-pumpin' to that one. I mean, I'm pretty pro-gun control, but taking this tack to attack gun worship in this society seems like a cop out, this message that 'it's just kids stuff'. C'mon...talk about killing cops or the craziness of militia groups or Nazis or something! God, I really find this song annoying on all counts. I think that's what kills this album for me...the fact that the good songs ('Dissident', 'Animal', 'Daughter', 'Rearviewmirror') all have some irritating little detail about them...some phrase in the chorus that rubs me the wrong way, a guitar figure that's way too loud, Eddie Vedder's vocals too out front...and the bad songs have the same problem. Nearly every song on here has something that annoys the living fuck out of me, sort of like ABC situation comedies. Only 'Rearviewmirror' gets by unscathed...it's just a nice little driving riff tune with a little bit of a Police Zenyatta Mondatta feel to it, and probably the only evocative chord sequence on the album. I really visualize a car on a highway on this tune...and, interestingly enough, future albums would take this sound to much higher levels. Thank God they didn't choose to develop 'Glorified G' into a career.

And when no attempt is made towards a melody...watch for your life. Take 'W.M.A.' as an example - this is a groove song based on a tribalist drum figure, not a Tony Danza bit different than the intro to 'Once' on Ten, except this one has this childish and childishly naive lyric that somehow manages to damn police-MAA--aanns and, um, I guess rich people in the same breath. It's FUCKING ANNOYING SHIT! It makes me want to slap the living shit out of Vedder and make him go back to writing concrete lyrics about insane asylums and incest again. 'Blood' and 'Rats' pull the same trick, but with more infantile screaming and even less interesting heavy wah-wah work. Ohhh, I can barely make it through this part of the album. If Eddie Vedder bellowing out pizza-flavored howls over 'ironic' funk leads sounds like fun to you, I suggest you check out the early works of a band called fIREHOSE...they suck righteous testicles too. And if 'Daughter' was irritating, at least it was memorable...'Old Bitch I Once Got Change From At A Stuckey's Store In Some Podunk Redneck Town While I Was On Tour And Now I'm Gonna Write A Populist Anthem About Old People Because Of Her' is another sad attempt by Pearl Jam to identify with absolutely every female human being on the planet, set to this non-song backing probably dashed off by the band during a bathroom break. Ugh. At least he comes right out and wonders out loud whether all this whining and protesting is ever gonna get him anywhere on the closing 'Indifference'. He ends up realising that it may not do a goddamn thing. And the band somehow ends up making a song that sounds so much like The Unforgettable Fire that you wonder how you missed it...until you realise that you've already long forgotten the songs on the second side of Fire that all sound just like this.

Ohhh...Pearl Jam get oh so precious and pretentious on Vs. that I wonder if they're embarrassed by this record so many years later. Oh, they changed the sound of Ten, alright, and altered their sound for good with this record. In fact, I'd say almost nothing on here could fit comfortably on their debut record...it's that different (so different I hated this record when it came out...it would've gotten a D at that time. I've come around somewhat.) However, all the groove songs they no doubt consider to be 'experimentation' fall flatter than a year-old Sprite, the screaming and yelling do nothing more than make me run for the volume knob, and even the changeups like 'Old Woman' and 'Daughter' aren't unqualifiedly successful. I think they let their press and egos get to them a little on Vs., and judging by some of the press they released at the time, wherein Eddie Vedder made statements of the sort that Vs. was 'important music' or something (I did hear something very egotistical come out of Vedder about this record, but I can't find the quote...just trust me. He may come across like a humble populist, but he can act the rock star like the best of 'em if you give him a microphone and a sympathetic interviewer.). And about that he was dead wrong. Vs. wasn't important for anyone but the band. All of it's grunge-mania era sales placed them at the pinnacle of their popularity and set them up for the long haul. And thankfully left them free to make better albums in the future, no doubt as another 'rejection' of the popularity of this record. Ain't the punk ethos great?

Capn's Final Word:  An album of failed experimentation within the confines of early 90's alt-rock. Pearl Jam are denying their true calling as arena rockers, the REO Speedwagon of the 90s!

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Jake McMofo     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Iffy at best.  "Overblown" and "pompous,"(two things that Ten has been accused of being even though it's NOT) are two adjectives that come to mind.  "Slump" is another.  Lacking in everything that made Ten so beloved amongst jaded high schoolers...the intensity, the ferocity, and the emotion that made Pearl Jam exciting the first time around are all gone for the most part.  Only on the opener "Go" and the near-closer "Leash" do they come close to the best moments of the debut.

As for the rest?  It's all a bunch of experimental bullshit that may be interesting at parts, but is otherwise stupid,  useless, and amateurish.  "Glorified G?" fuck it up the poo-hole!  "W.M.A.?" What's that stand for anyway, "Wipe My Ass"???  "Blood?"  Yeah, hopefully that's what you were coughing up when you finished the vocal track on this song Eddie,
you self-righteous whinging piece of shit.  "Rearviewmirror?"

Holy fuck, I love Rearviewmirror.  That riff just loops and loops until it spins your head around like the Exsorcist.  The ending is extremely block-rocking too.  Almost redeems the entire album by itself.  Then what do we got?  "Rats?"  Blah, they forgot they weren't a funk band for a minute.  "Elderly Whatever?"  Pluh, alright melody, fuck those lyrics
and guitar chords.
  Plus "Dissident" is somewhat enjoyable even though it uses what can probably be called the most generic classic rock riff in the history of the world.  Overall, P.J. getting nervous and fucking up.  Oh well, they're human too.  The next album was a huge improvement anyway.

 Nick C  altrockreview@hotmail.com   Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I can't believe you rated Vs the lowest grade for a Pearl Jam record! The second best PJ record after Ten - virtually all the tracks are early '90s rock classics. Especially Rearviewmirror....

Justin     Your Rating: A

Any Short Comments?:     Your an ass. VS is pearl jams best album by far.

 Mike     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: If you actually think Pearl Jam get embarrassed by any of the numerous eggs they've laid, you must be less of a cynic than I am.

On second thought...probably not...

But the only two songs that I remember or like from this stultifying bore are "Animal," which is a fast, fiery rocker, and "Dissident," which is a fantastic song. The one where Eddie decrys White Male Americans has a great drumbeat, but little else, and most of the rest could have come out of Politically-Aware Everyband circa '94. No balls to speak of. What makes Eddie think he's Liberal Jesus, anyway? All that separates him from the great unwashed is a cool voice and not taking a shower in months. Joey Ramone had the same two things and you never saw him jacking off in a hall of mirrors and releasing it as "Riot Act."

 


Vitalogy - Epic 1994


Pearl Jam operate as a unit, and everything improves. I get this gut feeling from Vitalogy, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of this stuff was performed live in the studio. Even if it's not, it sounds like it's written and performed as a band. Eddie Vedder isn't the main focus of attention, like on Ten, and his mistakes aren't amplified by his brightness in the mix, like on Vs. Even if he's screaming his head off, like on the pro-vinyl rave 'Spin The Black Circle' (one of their most convincing alt-rock songs, albeit someone correctly stated it robs Husker Du's 'Beyond The Threshold' like it was a lonely highway Texaco store at 3 am on a Saturday night), he's not doing it right into your cerebellum like on the last album, and my conditioned response is to bop my head and not cringe my face. The music, too, is progressing into this organic vegan beastie, and the awesome power of a fully operational dual-rhythm guitar attack is made witness to on 'Not For You', for me a true highlight on a great album of songs without obvious melodic strengths. I almost choke on the words, but, umm...Pearl Jam sound sincere on this record. I buy it. They got me. They're a genuine band that cares about making decent records that have lots of good guitar sound, a palatable populist message, and some dumb songs about bugs on them. They're not trying too hard to blow your mind anymore, and don't even feel like they care about their status in relationship to their peers (which they did too damned much on Vs.) If they want to sound like Crazy Horse's younger brother, dammit, that's what they're gonna sound like! They're all closet hippie potheads anyway, why not just lose the pretense that they belong to anybody's punk revolution and just make decent tunes? That's what I was saying all along! Thank Christ for basic, interesting rockers like 'Corduroy', 'Not For You', the faster 'Whipping', 'Black Circle', 'Immortality' and 'Last Exit' that make up the bulk of this record. They're all at least good, and frequently great.

More tunes: 'Nothingman' and 'Better Man' are ballad tunes I can eat with some ribs and beer...the message of 'Nothingman' isn't necessarily clear (I think it's about lost dreams or somesuch other crap), but I sure like the gentle drunken roll of the chorus. That's purty. But 'Better Man' ain't. It's about this old wife-type-person stuck in her dead-end life because 'She can't find a BM'. Well, I'm sure she can find a Bowel Movement, dammit, but I thought I'd be cute and shorten the name of the song down to its component initials just like someone would do in a Reader Comment. Sorry it failed so dearly. I atone for my sin. Anyway, so like on 'Daughter' and 'Old Woman blah blah blah...' on the last album, Vedder patronized his female characters. They were these victim people saddled to these hopeless, one-dimensional situations like Vedder saw them on 20/20 and decided to write a song about it. 'Better Man' feels like a real person, a person with freewill, who has life happen to them as a result of their own lame decisions, not some boogie man 'Bigoted White Guy' to come and scare them at Halloween. And the triumpant hook sure don't hurt, either. I'm happy to see they haven't lost that ability for good. Without those choruses I'm afraid we're left with Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train...Part II: The Revenge Of Casey Jones'. I also need to say something about Vedder's vocals on this song...the way he builds from this fragile crack to a more confident outrage is amazing. Still one of the premier vocalists in rock.

As for mistakes, I don't like the rote rocker 'Satan's Bed', especially those whip sounds...I hate whip sounds, and 'Aye Davanita' sho sounds like fillah ta me, Mista Jam, Sah! Oh, and there is Vitalogy, but they're cute, easily ignorable little oddities like the jokey accordion torture 'Bugs' or the quick little whine 'Pry To', and only one is really a bummer, the horrendous affront 'Foxymophandlemama' that closes the album off on a really disturbing, unpleasant note. This little kid tells us he'd rather be struck than hugged 'because you get closer to the person', and then talks like Satan over repetitive feedback noise for seven long minutes. Eeeks. I'm on the next plane to Clarksville when something like that comes apart in my lap. Lawd have moicy! Curse Eddie, burn your posters, kick your pet...just don't let this bull patty ruin the album for you, because this really is a big anomaly on a record otherwise free of pretension. To call it unlistenable would be an insult to all the other songs I ever called unlistenable. It actually makes me loathe myself. I guess it's good they got it all out in one place...

Capn's Final Word: The third try gets it right...Vitalogy builds a strong foundation of hard rockers, builds a nice frame house on top with the ballads, and then promptly locks the nutso members of the family in the attic.

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Jake    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This one's a godsend, if you were disappointed by Vs.(like I was).  No more sissyass acoustic country-ish sounding crap!  YAY!  No more shitty funk-sounding vomit songs!  WOOOO!  Just rock, rock, ROCK and ROLL BABY!  And the record starts off with two of their fastest, most bitterly anguished songs yet: "Last Exit," a rumination on
suicide in 5/4 time, and "Spin The Black Circle," the best Husker Du rip-off since "Territorial Pissings"!  Must've been a tough pill to swallow for all the meatheads who started listening to Creed 3 years later after they realized that Pearl Jam weren't dumb enough to attempt the BOMBAST of Ten ever again.This is their darkest, most depressing album...even to this very day.  Maybe that's why they felt the need to include the dumbassed experiments like "Bugs" and "AyeDavanita"...without them, the album would be completely devoid of any sense of humor.  However, there's NO excuse for the inclusion of "Stupidmophandlemama, whothefuck'sideawasthis?" that's a total anticlimax following the spectacular depression ballad
"Immortality."  I guess they were going for an "L.A. Blues" type of album closer, but with a bunch of little kids repeating inane, banal shite over and over again, and NO COOL NOISES whatsoever through the entire course of it's seven minutes.  Imagine how many people sat through that and screamed "FUCK YOU, PEARL JAM!  I'M NEVER BUYING A RECORD FROM YOU
ASSHOLES AGAIN!" 
Those people were all ingrates, because the high points of this record are just too good to be ruined by the most Horriblest Album Closer Ever.  "Corduroy" with it's catchy-ass riff and poppy-ass chorus!  "Better Man," which Eddie wrote when he was 16!  SIXTEEN!  How good were the songs YOU wrote when you were 16?  "Satan's Bed," a rock song that isn't
rote at all, and I, being a masochist, LOVE whipcrack-noises!  "Whipping" with one guitarist wielding the same 3 chords over and over while the other guitarist bludgeons the same one-note riff over and over!  A BIG improvement over the last album in every way.  Too bad Kurt Cobain didn't live long enough to hear this album...it probably would've convinced even HIM that Pearl Jam are a good band. 

Speaking of which, too bad nobody took a picture of the time Eddie and Kurt were slow-dancing to "Tears In Heaven" at the MTV awards....I mean, talk about your ultamite Gen-X jack-off material!  I damn near bust a nut thinking about that every day...that is, until Courtney Love barges into my fantasy and I can no longer sustain an erection.  GODDAMMIT!

Bryan     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Vitalogy was definitely an experimental album for PJ.  Some of their best stuff came from this album, ie Corduroy and Immortality.  I do have one problem with a statement you made though... Better Man was not about "Eddie watching 20/20 seeing victims"... Better Man was written a long time ago and was a personal song about his mother... or as Eddie states from the Live in Atlanta Concert at the Fox Theater in 93.. "This song was dedicated to the bastard that married my momma!".  If you like the way Better Man was done on this album... look up the Orginal version of Better Man from Eddie's 1st band Bad Radio.  You may only find it on a P2P file swapper... but its definitely worth a listen.  

Slappy Wilson     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: No, this album was more of an utter, utter piece of crap.  'Aye Davanita', which you pan, was the best damned song on the record.  It amuses me that as Pearl Jam sunk from the groundbreaking first album, in which every song was "good", with each successive album we have to really "work" at it to actually  "enjoy" the damned thing.  Reviews simply explain that each new records is just less "accessible".

Lets face facts.  The records have gotten worse, and worse, and worse.  No, it's not that they don't sound "commercial" anymore, and I'm just not "discriminating" enough, or that I have an "immature" musical taste.  It's that they suck.  They're bad albums.  Sure, they'll have an okay song or two, but they're mostly just shit.

Cool cover art on Vitalogy though.



 


No Code - Epic 1996

So many people have claimed this is the 'weird' Pearl Jam record, so many people are so wrong. What's so weird about this record? Do they totally make a new form of music with their collective 10 sets of hands? No way! There's more wacky shit on the Ventures $100000 Weekend than on No Code. And you wonder why the world is messed up. This album's strange reputation is just another example on my list of Reasons Generation X Is The Most Grotesquely Conservative Group Of Young People Since The Middle Ages. I mean, what's weird about taking it slow and mixing up your strokes a little bit over the course of a record? Your mom sure liked it like that! She told me after she loaned me this copy of No Code I'm playing right now. The album starts off with a dang creepy nighttime lingerie in the moonlight kind of haunt-ballad...I guess maybe you might be right. This is Pearl Jam consciously trying to alter their view in the public eye. Not on 'Hail Hail', though, wiseass. Thanks for pointing my mistakes out to me. 'Hail' is just a full-bore rocker featuring Veddy Petter's 'creaky' voice that bears little resemblance to anything he's done before, but the song is about as accessible as your mother. In case I need help with my homework or something. Shit, I haven't had homework in like 4 years, what am I talking about? I guess I'm just confused because that's the excuse I use when I'm actually off having intercourse with your mom.

Anyway, slap yo momma and call me Pop but she sure liked the way I did it when I did it to the Eastern-y rhythm tracks like 'Who I Am' and the raving 'In My Tree', and your father looked on mournfully as I pulled out my 4-inch spliff and got a little party on along with the Best Song On Ragged Glory That Isn't On Ragged Glory The Last Time I Looked Through The Haze Of Ganj Smoke That Envelopes All My Neil Young Records called 'Smile'. You know, I hate when people use the euphemism 'party' for any sort of objectionable activity, beit sex or drug use or mailbox baseball or running around the swimming pool or engaging in genocide. I mean, I'm sure Goering said to Goebbels one day...'Hey there Joe, why don't we go out and party on some Jews, then we can party with some Jager and call over a few members of the SS and have a party while partying on their party platform?' Like the Nazis weren't all sexual freaks. Psha. At least that's one thing you can count on the good ol' U.S. for...you can count on us to have our perversions hidden way down deep and not subject to experimentation on horrified groups of prisoners. Unless we're talking about your mom, that is.

Talking about your mom, she got a little bored about song seven, which was just another rocker rave-up that just didn't seem to be all that original, and went and got some BlowenChows down at the local QuikTrip, and met up with your dad, who'd gone down to cruise the toilets and ended up finding out that Pearl Jam had even gone and gotten bluesy with 'Red Mosquito'. Well, I don't necessarily like people who put Peee-sike-er-dailic Sixties blues cliches in their ballads material just to make it less boring, but then I realised that the slide solo sounded a lot like Mountain, and I like Mountain because Leslie West gets all sweaty just like your mom. But then the end of the album just went slow boring song, rote rocker, slow spoken word tone poem (maybe not tone poem...let's say maybe a noise expletive. Or a feedback knock knock joke. Anyway, it's boring too.) and some rootsy thing at the end where you know they're being serious at trying to be kd lang because the former Chili Pepper drummer is using brushes on his drums and you can't actually hear the music. But I didn't hear all that song because it was time to go home and watch Charmed. Boy, I love Charmed.

So anyway, minus the idiotic tangent I just left on and it's many tributaries and what-have-you's, I respect Pearl Jam trying to do different things, and if you're in the mood for a bunch of slow tunes, this is the Jam for you. I'm just not moved other than to go 'hmm...that's interesting' and wait for the next song to start to give me another surprise. I rock myself silly exactly once ('Hail Hail'), and while I don't really dislike any of the tunes on here, I sure don't seem to recall a damn one of them either. Ah well...it doesn't suck.

Capn's Final Word:  Again able to wriggle around in their Pearl Jam suit without coming across pretentious-like, it's still a close call whether they do or not. The songs aren't as good as Vitalogy, though.

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Cole     Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: no, *your* mom. also, I don't like pearl jam that much. same goes for generation x.

 

Tony Souza     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Probably my favorite, though I like 'em all. The main difference is that unlike the other drummers that drummed for this group, Jack Irons had an influence on what the music sounds like on here. I don't think the songs "In My Tree" and "Who You Are" whould have been made without him behind the drum kit. This was also the period where they were consciencely trying to get out of the spotlight that they were in in the first half of the decade. There was some experimentation on Vitalogy, (notebly that stupid sound collage stuck on the end) that just didn't work for me, but on here it seems more focused (Present Tense). "Hail, Hail" isn't the only song to get my blood pumping as "In My Tree", "Habit" and "Lukin" all get me going as well. I agree that some of the slower acoustic-based songs, while still good, do drag a bit. Good groups grow musically with time and Pearl Jam do so with No Code.

As far as the number of live releases are concerned, the 25 releases are from the European leg of the 2000 tour. They released a bunch more from their American leg later. The reason they released so many live albums is because they wanted the fans to have quality-sounding live cds of their shows at a reasonable price (all the cds are double cd recordings of each show), and not have to pay $50 for a shitty sounding bootlegged concert. By doing this, fans have a complete live documentation of their 2000 tour and can pick and choose which ones they want to hear.

Jacob the Mick    Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: The people who called it "weird" were either paying too much attention to the album cover/layout(trading cards?  With lyrics on the backs of them?  GASP!  They've gone and done lost they minds, they have!), or just can't handle music that doesn't adhere to the "distortion cranked up all the way" rule of "grunge" rock. 

Sorry for overusing the quotation marks there.  No Code finds the band changing their approach(and their drummer) yet AGAIN!  But is it for the better?  Well, they certainly don't sound depressed as hell anymore, though the album does have a few melancholy songs("Off He Goes" and "Smile", two of my favorites here).  But for the most part, this stuff's SO much more uplifting, as though Eddie had JUST suddenly realized that as long as millions of disaffected, impressionable youth were hanging on to his every word, he'd might as well say something about the positive aspects of life for a change.  Of course, by this time those kids had long since given up on Pearl Jam, but that's beside the point. 

And boy, after that "W.M.A." crap on Vs., I thought that they'd suck major asspipe(Prindle-ism!  I think I spend too much time at his site) if they'd ever attempted that tribal drumming thingy again.  I was wrong, cause "Who You Are" and "In My Tree" are both very nice, angst-free songs with pretty melodies and great instrumental interplay and whatnot.  I'm also quite fond of that "Red Mosquito" song which features some of the coolest guitar tone on the solos I've ever heard this band use.  I can't believe that somebody on Prindle's site called that song "quite possibly the worst song ever written" or something to that effect.  Apparently, that guy has never heard "Glorified G" before.

I haven't talked about any of the rockers yet, because I don't really like them all that much.  Oh sure, "Hail, Hail" is alright, but "Lukin," "Mankind," and "Habit," which are the only songs here that even attempt to kick butt, sound like they took about 10 seconds each to write.  And Stone Gossard's singing voice sounds eerily identical to Robbie from the Goo Goo Dolls(which is not a good thing).  And ech, the album ends on a boring, uneventful note with "I'm Open" and "Around The Bend," or as I like to call them, "Perfect Cures For Insomnia."  Goddammit, why didn't they end the album with "Present Tense"??  That one's got "album closer" written all over it!

So yeah, it could've been a LOT worse, but give me one good reason why it couldn't have been better and I'll up my grade to a B+

Slappy Wilson     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: This record is just the rocking "Hail, Hail" with a bunch of other shit.  Pearl Jam continues their descent.

Great name for an album though.



 


Yield - Epic 1998

Hey folks! I haven't written a review in like almost a week and a half because my wife and baby came back from Russia and I started a job and it's taken me like 10 days to figure out that Yield is actually both Pearl Jam's most consistently good record since Ten and the record in which they retrench (or 'advance in a counter-front direction' if you talk like a WWII Soviet General, or 'Goo!' if you talk like my baby girl)  into basic, down-home dime-store Floyd the Barber hard rock like what most of Vitalogy was doing when it wasn't pulling scary faces and gooning around like on 'FloppyMopHandleLodgedInMyRectumMakesMeSingLikeThisand  TooMuchTHCMakesMeLikeIt. In fact, this darn album is so much like frigging Vitalogy, except the hard rockers are a little more interesting but a little less rocking, and the 'experimental' stuff almost completely falls on the side of the 'easily ignorable' rather than the 'gut-naggingly blasphemous', so I say split the difference and give 'em equal grades. I'll also say that, though 'Faithful' and 'Brain of J.' (Mascis?) are both fairly good songs, the album doesn't truly kick in until 'Given to Fly' gives us a prayer to the adjective 'soaring' like the band does nothing better than simulate the feeling of being 30000 feet above the clouds, going at 1000 miles a second and feeling like your sitting still...the song is grand and is a highlight the rest of the album just can't reach.

But the middle segment tries...jeez, I mean, after No Code just sorta came and went from the supermarket shelves without actually being caught up in the nets of the shipping carts, Pearl Jam released three of these songs as radio singles...and even did a video for 'Do The Evolution' for MTV. Of course, 'Evolution' sorta sucks as a song and the video was just '101 Animated Reasons To Hate The Human Race And Wish You Were Actually A Mindless Sea Fungi That Never, Ever Tested Hairspray On A Little Cute Bunny Rabbit's Eyeballs', which is the type of Pearl Jam message that I just fucking hate (yes, sirs and sirs, 1998 was the time that most people stopped listening to annoying Generation X angsty whining altogether. Me included. After this I spent about 3 years listening to annoying British whining. Now I mostly get my philosophies from old-school country music and Bazooka gum wrappers.) I mean, the 'hard gritty rocking' is mostly just a bunch of crud on Vedder's voice, and I can't even remember the dang riff at all. Oh, and even though I think it's sorta cool, my wife wants you to know that she severely dislikes 'Wishlist' and finds it unconscionably whiny. She used to turn the radio station back when they used to play it all the dang time back four years ago...and she likes this band. So, you know, take it as you will.

The rest of the songs I feel like not talking about at all because, shit, they're really just more of that decently good Pearl Jam hard rock that you and I and a dog named Cujo all know so well. I still think you should get Ten and Vitalogy first, but hey, when have you been listening to my ass? Nothing much sounds that good after 'Given to Fly', but none of it sucks, either, unless you count the rap mistake snippet that wasn't even given a title. They're simply over doing a lot of stuff that sucks...they've plain gotten it out of their system. And even though I wouldn't at all say this album sets my world on fire, it did get me successfully through two 45 minute-long commutes without too much use of the fast forward button after I learned the album (I'd say the untitled track, and maybe one of the stupider filler songs near the end got the 'beep treatment' today.) and most of the time entertaining the heck out of me. So Pearl Jam is marking time...they're at the peak of their powders, and a little tad bit of Pearl Jam doing what they do best is sometimes exactly what we need. Or maybe we just need oral sex.

Capn's Final Word: An album that probably seems fleshier and more flawless than it really is, precisely because it plays the game not to lose. Better songs than No Code, too.

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Jacob Mc. Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Actually, this one reminds me more of Ten than of Vitalogy.  "Arena," "Rock," and "Bombast" are three words that come to mind when I hear the choruses to "Faithfull," "In Hiding," "MFC," and "Given To Fly," if that goddamned Led Zep ripoff melody sung LOUDER and in a higher octave counts as a "chorus."  Hey, it's no crime...Lep Zep ripped off lots of people.  All I'm saying is, if there's any record where Pearl Jam tried to recapture the grandeur of their glory days, it's this.  That's what brings it down to "not as good as it should be" in my mind...after 3 records in a row of trying to expand the diversity of their sound and shifting gears from "weird yet half-assed" to "darker, harder-edged" to "quieter, more introspective," they're suddenly content to just settle down into a "Modern rock band writing classic rock songs" mold for the most part.Not that the material isn't up to par; it's just that they've stopped doing things they've never done before.  In fact, most of the record sounds like - *gasp* - Pearl Jam actually care about how many records they're selling!  For the first time ever!  Oh sure, you've got your "No Way" with the awkward melody and weird-yet-badass lead guitar tone, and your "Do The Evolution" with it's jungle-funk-thrash-boogie-swing-jive-penis backbeat, as well as your "Stupidass Red Dot Song That Jack Irons Should Be Beaten Up For" and your "Push Me, Pull Me" which is actually just Eddie talking while a Japanese radio station blares out of Jeff's bass amp, but even the best of those have got "filler" written all over them.  They just don't sound like much effort has gone into them, at least not to me.  And they sound so out of place next to "No Code-ish yet was less boring" pretty ballads such as "Wishlist" and "Low Light".  And WHY the fuck did they decide to end the album on a really dull! note AGAIN??  Bastards.  All complaints aside though, I really enjoy "Brain Of J", the song that proves that Pearl Jam haven't lost their ability to write a solid, bitchin' rock song, and you'd have to be a fucking Nazi or something to not like "MFC."  Overall, just call this one the "comeback" album because it actually got some radio play and commercial suckcess(compared to No Code anyway). You know what happens whenever Pearl Jam seem to grow comfortable with who they are...time for a new drummer, guys!

Slappy Wilson      Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Yeah, two more good songs released with a bunch of crap and called an "album".  Funny it didn't sell well.


Live on Two Legs - Epic 1998

Uncompromisingly professional live album from the masters of the obvious, showing that while they may have worked out all the misdirected (and unintentionally funny) rage of their early days, they may have broken their connection with the audience at the same time. Eddie Vedder is no longer trying to out-Jesus Bono onstage anymore, and while the infrequent reports that he may be doing something provokative onstage like putting a Bush mask on a mic stand and dancing around it (Crimey! He's advocating impaling the head of the President on a stick in some sort of sick Satanic ritual!! Luckily it's the one part of the President's body the President doesn't seem to need to use on a regular basis...) for the most part the guy just does normal rock 'n' roll stuff nowadays, just with his better-than-average pipes. The band, though, well....I'd like to say they're special, but they're really just passable. The rhythm section especially hurts on this album...instead of the beat being rock-solid and driving, more often it's just present and accounted for, like that one dude I remember teaching in high school who would come in and say hi every day, never missed a class, but never did a goddamn stroke of work his entire semester in my class. Just sat there and watched me and grinned, that's all.

Like I firmly believe, Pearl Jam really want to be arena rockers, go for the long haul and put out samey albums every few years, tour a whole bunch for a whole fuckload of years until finally they're coupled with Creed and Soul Asylum and a reformed Alice in Chains with that bald Jew guy from live taking over for Layne Staley on a package summer tour through Wyoming and portions of western Montana round about 2030. They write songs that sound good live, and they wring as much from those anthemic chord sequences as they can...shit, it's all they've got besides Eddie, and lemme tell you, it's really almost enough. I can listen to the creamy crunch of 'Courdoroy' and the fruit filling of 'Nothingman' without a hint that I might be wasting my time, and there's really none of the self-indulgent crap that marked the studio albums right around this point, though Eddie does throw in my favorite verse from Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World' in the middle of 'Daughter', probably one of my very least favorite PJ songs, but I can forgive him. I suppose I really could go back and listen to Yield again to decide if I really like a lot of these songs, but I sure don't mind 'em...hell, they're not delightfully mediocre flawed dull guys rapidly reaching middle age for nothing!

Capn's Final Word: More boring than you'd probably expect unless you're expecting competent guitar rock without a lot of extra juice, which you probably are if you're into latter-period Pearl Jam.

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Binaural - Sony 2000.

Enjoyable but not very interesting....a more advanced case of the disease that set in on No Code and grew worse with Yield: Pearl Jam has a limited set of ideas, and after running through their particular deck of cards, they simply shuffle them up again and start over from the top. Sure, yeah, Yield was like the big ol' Pearl Jam sell out bakesale, with the MTV videos and the singles and all the airplay for 'Wishlist' on 'modern rock' radio stations instead of Marcy Playground or the Verve Pipe (what a Verve Pipe may be, and what it may look like, are things that have haunted me ever since my third year in college. Forgive me.), but Binaural had the added fun of having 'Last Kiss' to introduce it (though it's not on the record, punkily enough), the biggest Pearl Jam single since, you know...whenever. I hated that 'Last Kiss' cover...I thought it was a tasteless voyage into irony that didn't fit Pearl Jam much at all, and anyway....it didn't rock and it wasn't pretty. But it's not on this record, so let's just get over ourselves and our preconceptions and get right down to what makes this album exactly what I thought it would be: Yield II.

Hey! If you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself? And if you were a former member of Soundgarden, would you join up with a band that stole your fame? Yes and and emphatic yes, I'd say. You see, I forgot to tell you that the Gardeners' Matt Cameron took over on drums for the killer Jack Irons, who was sick to death like he'd never been sick before or something like that. Not that it really matters too strongly or anything. Pearl Jam is Pearl Jam now, and just as long as you can put up with your gicky song featuring ukelele ('Soon Forget') or weird vibes that make your gut crawl out your mouth and go running down the street in disgust of your ears, you're gonna get your rockin' fix on. But, unfortunately, that's all you're gonna get with Binaural. This is Yield sans 'Given to Fly', in other words. The distortion without the surprisingly subtle show of compositional mastery. The tapioca pudding without the marachino cherry. The sex without the squishing sound. Not sadly incompetent in any area, but lacking that certain shimmer to put it over the top and make it memorable.

Sheeit...maybe this should be a lower grade for reasons that now that I'm here in front of my chosen reviewing medium, I'm really at a loss to seriously remember much to praise on this thing. In fact, I don't have this disc with me right now and I'm having serious trouble remembering anything off the second side at all. I know there's a really repetitive song near the end...is that 'Rival'? Oh, and the usual 'ruminative ballad' that ends the thing...I just know that's on there. And the ukelele filler-cheese. Okay, I guess I've reconstructed enough of it to know it's a fairly weak sequence of songs. And lack of strong material is the total hit here - There's just too many 'generic Pearl Jam rockers' on Binaural. 'Light Years' is damned good, but its no 'Given to Fly', and 'Evacuation' and 'Insignificance' stick out as something great, too. Crap. Maybe I shouldn't be reviewing this album until I've listened to it a million times and have the whole thing memorized, but I'll tell you right now what I'm absolutely sure of: first, the rockers aren't as fresh as on Vitalogy, the hooks can't match Yield, it's not a left-field change of pace like No Code, and they still haven't been able to recreate the great bombastic Ten feeling yet, so you're really left with the nuts-and-bolts Pearl Jam. Chunky rocking chord sequences over Crazy Horse-feed backing, workmanlike but decent guitar solos, uncomfortable lyrics and good singing from Vedder. Some stupid potheaded 'experiments' that belie having too damn much time in the studio without someone to tell them 'no!'. A new drummer under the tree each Christmas. Benefit concerts. Endless series of live albums. Beer and weed. You be the judge if that's enough for you. I honestly don't think it's enough for me, not when there's still thirty-odd Chicago albums to try to tell apart from one another, that is. Unless Pearl Jam does better than this, I'll be looking for love under other rocks for the time being.

At least they're not Creed, who want nothing more than to be Pearl Jam. Sad bastards.

Capn's Final Word: More Yield with fewer ideas. Maybe this particular black circle needs to be changed out some time, eh?

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Riot Act - Sony 2002.

Well, either consistently coming up with entirely adequate Pearl Jam records is a whole lot more difficult than it looks and I ought to get a lot more excited when the former members of Thee Lost Seattle Druggie Bands put together yet another perfectly enjoyable, entirely forgettable album full of decent regressive album rock, or I ought to get a lot angrier that they've now completely abandoned the wild hair up their ass that gave birth to their best work 8-odd years back and resigned themselves to making perfectly enjoyable regressive guitar-rock albums. What I'm so mush-mouthedly saying here is that Riot Act really is just another Pearl Jam record, no cute covers of old necrophiliac anthems or way-out hardcore molar-busters to put their increasingly conservative audience off their $85 Ambercrombie and Fitch khakis. If anything, they're back in Neil Young mode again, cranking out the same old busted-amp chord sequences that ol' Shakey copyrighted back in 1969, except, you know, worse. Hard to distinguish between them, you see, just like their hero Neil had problems with about 5 years back (and 10 years back, and 15 years back)...it seems that old flannel might never die, but these sorts of goateed half-melodies sure begin to rot after awhile.

Shit, man, the best song on here (other than the cantankerous swipe at the Monkey at the Wheel of the Country, 'Bushleaguer', that is), 'I Am Mine', manages to sound completely derivative of about five other Pearl Jam mid-tempo songs, and 'Thumbing My Way' could have been yanked out of the short shorts of just about any random bunch of Nashville (or Austin, for that matter) alt-country hicks in about 15 seconds. The ultimate ripoff is when I realised the line 'to the universe I'm just nothing' from 'Love Boat Captain' is maybe, just maybe just about exactly the goddamn fucking identical to the hookline in Ten's 'Deep', thus finally proving my point that Pearl Jam has and has always had about 4 different songs in their reportiore, and they just change out the guitar tones and effects every now and again just to keep stuff honest. Listen, whenever these guys attempt something else, it either comes across as a total experimental failure or as a dumb joke by a bunch of whiny has-beens, but when they do their little schitck, everyone's a happy motherfucker, CDs get sold, arena seats get filled, and once again Eddie Vedder gets patted on the head for 'keeping the faith' in light of how much actually shitty music is out there. Man, not like he probably shouldn't be...Pearl Jam's version of how rock music should sound probably matches mine about 85% on a good day, it's just that they've stopped looking for those other, new ways which rock music might sound really fucking bitchin' as well. It seems they've left all that to Radiohead to figure out.

At the end of the day is another Pearl Jam album which I like fairly well and probably will never remember they put out unless I think really hard, and I usually don't like thinking about things that much unless somewhere along the line it's going to yield me either a good chemical buzz or some great sex. The electro-itchy 'You Are' is probably what U2 should've sounded like through most of the 1990's, 'Help Help' is good and swirly and scary in a way that reminds me of the best non-thrash heavy metal, 'Save You' and 'Ghost' are full-bore stompers that deliver the groceries and stick around for the hot fucking with the housewife, '1 2 Full' is a fair pass at bluesiness that probably divines the future of Pearl Jam best....Your Favorite State Fair Headliners Play All The Fist-Pumping Hits!

Capn's Final Word: Well, they traded that pesky experimentalism for consistency....and a one-way ticket to irrelevance.

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Garrett     Your Rating: A
[rant]
Dude...

Do you even give a damn what the music is about? 

That is the thing with Pearl Jam.  The music is 'about' something.

Some of it is an emotional release for Eddie, a cleansing of the soul, trying to come to terms with emotional baggage.  Re : Ten (Alive, etc),Vs. (Rearviewmirror, etc), Vitalogy (Betterman, etc), No Code (Present Tense, etc), Yield (I think),and Binaural (Sleight of Hand, etc).

A lot of it is just the fact that they like to make music, they like to record and create. Judge it as you may, it is personal and it is art.  The fact that other people really enjoy it has at times been a boon and a bane for the members of Pearl Jam, I am sure.[/rant]

Now...that said, I think that Riot Act is great...not because I can listen to it without thinking too hard (which I can, it has a lot of good music)...great because it is about something. 

Songs about dealing with life, about greed, about corruption, about making decisions...Music that entertains and/or instills thoughts. 

Music that you don't have to be ashamed about listening to. Music for musics sake.

I don't think there is a track on here that I don't love except for Love Boat Captain.  I don't dislike it, but if I had been there when they were writing the music I would have made a couple decisions about how to arrainge it differently.  Since I feel like it is a musical choice that I don't agree with, I end up being very shallow about what is very personal music...much like the original reviewer...heh...

I really like the whole record.  I Am Mine and Cropduster are probably my favorites.  My wife really likes Save You, she is actually excited about a Pearl Jam song, something that hasn't happened in a while.

I understand that not everyone gets the same things out of music as the next guy.  But, even in you only listen with your ears, this is good music.
 

(Capn's Response: [Irritated lecture to blind fanatic]

Sir

I assume you've bought into Pearl Jam As Suffering Artists, probably their most manipulative and disgusting ploy and one of the main reasons I trust them about as far as I can throw them, which isn't real fucking far. Listen, see if this sounds familiar....it goes something like this:

*I'm so very broken up that I am forced to sign huge deals with major record labels like Epic so people will *ack!* BUY and LISTEN to my music! It's so precious, I don't want anyone to look at it! It might just blow away in a cloud of dust! Like you! Are YOU one of the chosen few who is good enough to listen to a Pearl Jam album? Just between me and you, I think YOU understand what my song is about, but that guy in the stocking cap and cutoffs next to you? He hasn't a clue.*

Listen, sheep. 'The fact that other people really enjoy it has at times been a boon and a bane for the members of Pearl Jam, I am sure.' Well, then why don't you fucking STOP then, if it hurts poor Eddie so very badly? Eddie Vedder may care a little bit more about people than some rock stars do, but the man is still up there singing songs and selling tickets and selling albums. He's not Ian McKaye and he's not Neil Young.

 Does Eddie Vedder somehow hold exclusive rights to artistic integrity now? Riot Act is great...great because it is about something.  life, about greed, about corruption, about making decisions. You know, the last few Britney Spears albums were about some of the same things. Same with the Rolling Stones. Same with frigging John Coltrane. Same with motherfucking Sesame Street. There's PLENTY of artists out there who write songs about 'somethings', and while Eddie Vedder may have been, at times, more successful than a lot of them in getting his point across, he's just another dude in another band writing songs that he thinks are somehow important. He's not the only one. Music that you don't have to be ashamed about listening to. You're ashamed listening to other kinds of music? Why? Why do you have to be ashamed of anything? Because you're afraid what other people will think about you, or are you not living up to some personal creed when you're not listening to music 'worthy' enough? If I want to blast my motherfucking ABBA at mountain-splitting volume out of my car windows, that's my own choice. I'm not going to feel 'ashamed' about it somehow.

I don't dislike it, but if I had been there when they were writing the music I would have made a couple decisions about how to arrainge it differently.  Since I feel like it is a musical choice that I don't agree with, I end up being very shallow about what is very personal music...much like the original reviewer...heh...Did you ask Eddie's permission before you went rearranging his song? Don't you think he might get miffed and go hide out in some Seatlle basement for a few decades, just becuase YOU had the NERVE to think that a song called 'Love Boat Captain' MIGHT SOMEHOW BE IMPROVED?!?!? So once again we're back to the 'Pearl Jam Music Cannot Be Touched! It's FRAGILE!' argument that I think even Eddie Vedder would think was crap. Thinking about music, what you like and don't like about it, isn't SHALLOW. Thinking that you don't have the right to think about it IS.

Anyway, I pretty much like this record. We're in agreement there. I think it's good music. But it's not as good as what Pearl Jam is capable of doing. And THAT, my dear fanatic, is what my criticism is all about.

[/Irritated lecture to blind fanatic]

Chris     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: While I think PJ does tend to repeat itself they still put out great songs.  You Are and Love Boat Captain are the standouts here, the mixture of Eddie's emotions coming through and the feeling the music invokes is a potent combination that most bands can't pull off as consistently as PJ.  I would like them to mix up the songs a bit more on their next release though, they are trying to make albums where each song fits into a certain pattern or mood.  The album Lost Dogs is really fantastic, it has a wide variety of styles and is arguably their best album in years. 

 

Rick     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: How is the line "To the universe I don't mean a thing" in ANY way a ripoff of "Deep"?  "To the man above her, she just ain't nothin..." isn't even the hook, for Christ's sake.  And if your going to criticize a line of music, and then quote said line, at least get the lyrics right.

(Capn's Response: Dude, call me a fucking idiot, but if Bob Dylan were to rewrite one of his own lines like that, people would be all over his ass. He's written over 40 albums, Eddie hasn't even done eight.  Listen, the line has a different subject, but the intent, cadence, and performance is EXACTLY THE SAME. It's blindness that prevents you from admitting the fact that your band has now made the same album three times in a row. I swear, no other band has such a bunch of sheep for a fanbase (not even the Dead, if you can believe it), and Eddie Vedder is your PC-Fascist Fuhrer.)

bill anderson     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: the reason that that PJs last two records dont strike any chords with me is because of eddys voice. eddys voice in ten, and songs in or around 91,92 are what his voice should sound like. The voice that creed copied. if he would use that voice in new songs they would be alot better.

(Capn's Response: I hope you're not insinuiating Vedder should try to sound like that dogfucker in Creed, but I agree with your point.)

Jim     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Dude, tell me this, do you call yourself a pearl jam fan.? i've read all your reveiws on their various albums and it seems to me you knock every one of them. Why then do you waste your precious time making a site deticated to a band you say you "like" if your are goin to hit down every album they release.


(Capn's Response: First off, never once did I claim to be a Pearl Jam fan.  I'm not a 'fan' of too many people. See, that's the difference between me and you. I enjoy Pearl Jam when they're doing their best work and think they're lazy and derivative the rest of the time.  You don't have the ability to distinguish between differing levels of quality because you're a 'fan' and therefore have to like each and every shred of PJ product that comes sliding down the pike. And did I not award three of their albums A- grades? I promise you that's pretty fucking good. And as for wasting time, I'll just say that if I've shown just one person out there the difference between an honest expression of one's opinion and blind devotion, I won't consider talking to you and all the other Vedder Bootlickers who have written to be a waste of anyone's time.)

Dave     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Personally I'd give this album album a C grade but I figured I'd agree to das capitan's assessment because I pretty much agree with what he says.
  Y'see, I honestly do like this record, I love that there song "I am mine" and some other stuff here is highly spiffy. But when did Prole Jam become so...middle aged? This whole album is clogged up with classic rock guitar sludge that a million other bands (especially in this era of retro "garage rock" tripe) are dishing out in alarming quantities....did you know Mike is in a UFO tribute band now, does that honestly surprise you AT ALL?
  ps* "Thumbing my way" blows, a songwriter as obviously talented as Ved Pedder could crank out a million sensitive acoustic folk rock ballads in one drunken jam seesion, so why the hell is he clogging up album space with one of them?

 


Capn's Note: Pajammy released a series of 72 live albums from their 2000 live tour. Seventy two. The Grateful Dead have only released twenty four Dick's Picks sets (plus about 12 other live albums), and they toured for 30 years. Pearl Jam puts together a few months of shows and releases all of them. Alrighty. I don't own any of those, and I probably will never do so.

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