Pearl Jam = Crap

Just kidding, but I did sort of drop that idea in Kurt. You see, it had been a while since I really listened to any PJ discs and as far as my poor memory could recall, they had released a lot of crap since their first three discs.

Jason called me out on my statement in his comments about the Kurt post. I had actually already started thinking about what I wrote, almost as in I couldn’t believe I wrote it, but it’s there. So, that weekend I started ripping all my PJ discs so that I could give them a spin and reeducate my ignorant self.

Over the course of two days, I listened to the catalog I own (no live discs though) and I did so in order of release. I’ll just run thru some thoughts on each and tidy up at the very end.

Ten album cover Ten
Without a doubt their very best. I remember when I finally bought it I played it over and over. Alive, Evenflow, Jeremy and Black are all amazing songs and remain timeless. The rest of the disc is almost as good and I found myself singing along in my exaggerated Eddie Vedder voice with every one.

Ten actually dropped a month before Nirvana’s Nevermind, but didn’t pick up steam until Nirvana started getting airplay (according to the PJ bio on iTunes). I remember Alive was the first single I heard, and I liked it, but at that time I had a rule about buying discs before I heard two songs (the days long before Napster or iTunes). I called it the one-hit-wonder rule and for the most part it worked (man, was I wrong with EMF… damn you Andrew Dice Clay!).

Anyway, the movie Singles came out and PJ had two songs on that soundtrack, which I bought in August of 92 and just popped in to rip and listen to while I type this. Eddie, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard appeared in the film as band members with Matt Dillon in the fictional Citizen Dick (great name though). I dug those PJ tunes too (the entire soundtrack is great), but it was Evenflow that put me over the top on picking up Ten in September, just over a year after its release.

To date, it remains as the only disc I have had stolen. This was my (first) senior year of college and it was taken from my apartment the night my roommates and I threw a party. I found it was missing the next day and I immediately went out and got another copy. High praise for a very poor college kid.

Vs. album cover Vs.
You might say this is a self-titled disc because the title Vs. does not appear anywhere on the packaging. If I remember correctly, either band members had a disagreement on the title or the label did, so it became known as Vs. Something like that. I’m not going to bother researching it. Leave a comment if you know!

Anyway, this is my second favorite disc. Go is absolutely one of my favorite songs ever. Animal, Daughter, Elderly Woman and on it goes. I found myself singing along with every song on this one too.

I was a bit more on the ball with this one and bought it 3 days after release. This is when the band started getting uppity because they didn’t want to release singles or videos to support it, plus I remember being pissed about the stupid mostly cardboard case. It’s not like I’ll ever need to recycle the damn things. I demand conformity in my collection and if it’s not a plastic jewelbox, it throws everything off. Not as bad as…

Vitalogy album cover Vitalogy
Now this one was a study in arrogance if you ask me. Not only is it not the same size as a regular jewelbox, it had the disc sliding into a cardboard sleeve that easily scratches the sh!t out of it, but at least it didn’t use plastic…

What? There’s music on it you say? Oh yeah, well this was their third and I also happen to consider it their third best, and up until very recently, last one of any note (I forgot about Yield being great). Not for You, Better Man, Corduroy, Spin the Black Circle and on. Everything except that last creepy ass song that I had to freakin delete after ripping it. WTF! This one stands as the last disc to which I can sing along to every song because after this one they released…

No Code album cover No Code
Oh my gawd, what a piece of sh!t. I’m not alone here kids. This is the disc that stains my memory the most. I remember being so excited for the new disc and when I heard it, I almost cried. Well, maybe not, but I was sooooo disappointed. I ripped it anyway, and I don’t know… it’s not as bad as I remembered. The first handful of songs is okay, which is good since these are usually the group of songs on an album from which the singles are chosen. I guess I don’t mind this one as much as I used to, but it is still their worst.

Yield album cover Yield
This disc made up for the failure that was No Code, except that, I forgot about it as I wrote Kurt. I was thinking mostly of No Code, Binaural and Riot Act. I can’t sing along with all these songs, but Do the Evolution, Wishlist, Given to Fly, No Way and Brain of J. are the standouts here. At least Do the Evolution elicits the memory of one of the last quality music videos (from an anti-video band no less…) I have seen, but I haven’t watched MTV for easily over ten years, except for Real World, Newlyweds and Pimp My Ride… natch!

Binaural album cover Binaural
I wanted to lump this one in with No Code, but after listening to it a couple times, I like it more than I remembered. I guess I don’t remember being disappointed with it when it dropped, but it didn’t stick with me either. I like Light Years, Breakerfall, Evacuation, Nothing as it Seems, Insignificance, and Grievance, so… about half the album. Most of those fall into the start of the disc again, so they were meant to be the best and the rest is filler. I guess that’s the thing; you look at their first three discs and there’s no filler, but three out their last four have lots of filler. I rank this one after Yield, so fifth best, but it is my favorite PJ album cover.

Riot Act album cover Riot Act
I only remembered Bushleaguer going into it and I really enjoy that song. It’s either because of the uniqueness of it or the fact that it is anti-Dubya. I guess Love Boat Captain is good and I am Mine is okay. I really like You Are, but mostly because of the guitars and bass. I thought this disc was going to be a throwback to older PJ, but it’s mostly throwaway. It barely misses No Code for last on my list.

Lost Dogs album cover Lost Dogs
I’ll throw this one in the mix because it is full of gems. I suppose this is their B-sides and rarities set and for some reason I tend to enjoy these kinds of collections.

Other than Yellow Ledbetter and Last Kiss, most of these songs are unknown. Overall, it’s a good collection and I enjoyed listening to it again even though nothing is standing out to me as I look it over now. For the record, I hate, hate, hate Last Kiss. In fact, it was probably the beating of this song into the ground twenty times over by radio that made me drop that PJ crap statement. Okay… No Code and Riot Act helped a lot too, but the shame of it is I liked Last Kiss when I first heard their version of it, but that thought was destroyed by radio.

World Wide Suicide single cover World Wide Suicide (Single)
I know, it’s not an album, but it is a reason for optimism about the self-titled release due soon (May?). The thing is, I don’t even like the A-side that much, but I really like the B-side: Unemployable. I bought the single on iTunes since you get both songs for 99 cents. I keep singing “Spin the Black Circle” when Eddie says “World Wide Suicide,” so maybe that ruins it, but it’s worth a buck. Both songs will be on Pearl Jam when it drops.

The trip down Discography Lane was beneficial for two reasons: I reacquainted myself with my Pearl Jam catalog and then with Grunge in general. After going thru PJ, I ripped Soundgarden (Chris Cornell and Audioslave too), Alice in Chains (Mad Season and Jerry Cantrell too), Smashing Pumpkins (not Zwan!) and Stone Temple Pilots. Not every album in there can be considered grunge, but that’s from where they all started. Superunknown, Jar of Flies, Gish and Purple respectively are some of my favorite albums ever. In addition to those, the comment conversation with Jason had me ripping all my Foo Fighters’ discs too. I may just write my thoughts about all those bands also.

Anyway, I am cautiously optimistic that the new album will be at least as good as Binaural, which I guess at this point, I can live with. We are never going to get another Ten, Vs. or Vitalogy and that is too bad. Another thing to consider is that my taste for new PJ may be going away. It might have something to do with the fact that I hold onto those first three discs so dearly while a younger guy like Jason believes Yield and Binaural to be their best. It is music, so taste is all relative (unless everyone hates it). Don’t even get me started on these ratings on iTunes… has anything ever been rated lower than four stars?

Mike McCready is speaking out about Crohn’s Disease, Colitis and IBD on the radio, so as long as none of that makes it into Pearl Jam, then we may be okay. Then again, I guess that might back up my post title after all…