“Vessel stabbed. Next up? Volunteers?”

Pearl Jam – “Once” from Ten (1991) and “Immortality” from Vitalogy (1994)

Because of the recent hype around the 18th Anniversary reissue of Pearl Jam’s debut Ten, I’ve been diving back into the catalog of a band I haven’t listened to with any real interest in about 8 years. What I’m finding is that the first 4 PJ records are absolute monsters. Ten and Vs. reek of an earnest early ’90s obsessed with absent fathers, gun violence, homelessness, heroin, abortion, teenagers with “issues”–the sort of poker-faced stuff the culture wars of the early Clinton years fed itself with. Ten, which I thought for years was a.) overblown and b.) the genesis of the band I hate most in the world, turns out to have one-upped Loveless in the textured guitar department (this is how you do reverb and compression, folks); plus Eddie Vedder sings like Al Green or Van Morrison or somebody, a soul shouter always ready with a well-placed holler or mumble.

And Vitalogy. My god. This is one of the best albums of the ’90s. No joke. For all the talk about experiments and brittle punk rockers, don’t forget that Vitalogy is Pearl Jam’s most tuneful record. These are great melodies, well-played by a limber band. (Listen to the guitar solo on “Immortality.”) The songs on Vitalogy have a classic quality that seems to have started to elude PJ around Yield, when, not coincidentally, Ed Ved started letting the other guys write melodies and started trying to write Fugazi songs (“Grievance”? “Insignificance”? Yuck.).

That still doesn’t negate the fact that PJ’s albums are among the best-sounding albums of all time. Listen to these fuckers on headphones and they sound incredible.

Like Led Zeppelin and The Who, their two most frequent comparisons, Pearl Jam’s secret strength is an absolute killer bass player. Jeff Ament’s melodic licks are the tastiest parts of any Pearl Jam song — enough to distract you from the often-terrible lyrics.

God, what kind of dork am I, going on about Pearl Jam like this? Jesus.

Buy it here

Posted by Glenn

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11 Comments

Filed under 1990s, Grunge, Rock

11 responses to ““Vessel stabbed. Next up? Volunteers?”

  1. Hardly the dork you make yourself out to be Glenn.

    A few friends and I have been going on about the band since the re-release first came up in the news and it’s been so refreshing to revisit a lot of their catalog.

    Even an album like No Code, which gets pissed on by everyone, sounds amazing–hell, it sounds a lot better now than it did then (and I loved it then!).

    Cheers

  2. Chris, thanks for stopping by.

    No Code is an incredible album. The first side, especially, is tough to beat. And it sounds SO good.

  3. Jordy

    Coincidentally, I listened to both of these albums last week while driving through northern VA. I had a huge (albeit late) crush on Pearl Jam about 8 years ago. This was just in time for them to start sucking with Riot Act. But in my opinion, everything before that was really great, if not epic – Black, Tremor Christ, Daughter, Elderly Woman, Faithful, I could go on and on. No shame in that at all.

  4. Glenn, your post inspired me to “Spin The Black Circle” that is Vitalogy today on my lunch hour. I remember buying it in about 1995 or 96. It was my first PJ album (though I had Merkinball before that), and it’s great. No Code is perhaps my favorite though; “Hail, Hail” is one of their best songs. I stuck with them up through Riot Act, which has a few not-bad songs on it, but I haven’t paid attention to anything they’ve released since then. I got burned out on them the summer I saw them in concert. Anyway, nice work.

  5. Blake

    I’ll pile on here.

    I really got into PJ in high school and stuck with them for as long as I could. I own every full length up through Riot Act, which seems to be where they lost people. I’ll go with Adam though and say that every album before that is really good in its own way.

    Today, before reading this post, just felt like listening to some Pearl Jam. I grabbed my “Live on Two Legs” disc and hit the road and cranked it up in my car. I was suddenly back in 1997. Good times.

    Nice post, Glenn.

  6. Jordy

    Live on Two Legs is good, esp. their cover of “Fuckin’ Up.”

  7. rob

    Let’s not be too hard on Yield. “Brain of J.,” “Do the Evolution,” “Wishlist,” and “Faithful” are some of my favorite Citizen Dick tracks.

  8. If we’re talkin live stuff (this is non-album, but still…) gotta hit up their Sonic Reducer cover… each version I’ve heard has been tight and intense.

    Cheers Glenn

  9. “This weekend, we rock Portland! Yeah!”

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