Reevaluating PEARL JAM – Part 1

Alternative Rock broke in a major way right around the time of my early adolescence. As such, the whole phenomenon was ridiculously influential on me; the music, the fashion, the attitude – it put a permanent stamp on me. I loved it madly, and the biggest bands of the era – Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and especially Nirvana, were my heroes. And then there was Pearl Jam. Arguably as big (or bigger) at the time than the others, PJ were a group that just didn’t take hold with me. They seemed weaker, somehow. Like my Dad’s music dressed up in my clothes.

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Artist’s rendering of the impression that Pearl Jam gave me as a teenager.

Pearl Jam would continue to not win me over for the duration of my youth. I knew a handful of the songs, but I didn’t buy in. Now, 20 years later, my love of Alternative Rock primarily takes the form of quaint nostalgia and the begrudging acceptance that much of what I loved as a teenager has aged in such a way that it comes off as fairly silly at this point. I still love Nirvana, but couldn’t be bothered to listen to Soundgarden, and am essentially embarrassed by Alice in Chains. But what of Pearl Jam? They appear to have endured. Through charting a course of relatively untampered-with creative output and a dedicated touring regimen, PJ have managed to establish themselves as a Rock n’ Roll institution – a venerable gang of grungesters, exuding a workmanlike reliability and everyman charm. Basically, they’ve turned out to be the grunge Bruce Springsteen.

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This realization got me thinking – I had been wrong about Springsteen. I had maintained a loathing for THE BOSS for years before finally seeing him play live and experiencing an instant conversion. I was wrong about THE BOSS. So wrong. Could it be that I’ve been wrong about THE PJAMS as well? I’ve decided that I owed it to myself to find out.

I’ve taken it upon myself to listen to each Pearl Jam studio album – in order – with an open mind and an open heart, and to give my honest assessment about the merits of each. I’m hoping that by the end of this experience, I’ll have a better idea if I’ve judged the band’s work unfairly. I fear that this will culminate in me attending the next Toronto appearance by the band, but I have to take the chance.

We will begin tomorrow, with Pearl Jam’s best-selling and most-famous album, “Ten”. As I’ve decided not to cover any EPs, B-sides or rarities, and this post should have SOME music in it, below you’ll find my favourite (the only good?) Pearl Jam non-album track.

 

Reevaluating PEARL JAM – PART 2: TEN
Reevaluating PEARL JAM Part 3: Vs
Reevaluating PEARL JAM Part 4: Vitalogy
Reevaluating PEARL JAM Part 5: No Code
Reevaluating PEARL JAM Part 6: Yield
Reevaluating PEARL JAM Part 7: Binaural

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