Pearl Jam – Vitaology

I rarely talk about Pearl Jam, which is odd as I really rather like them and have done since they released their debut album. A lot of their releases came out when I was buying CD’s rather than vinyl, but any album that contains the track ‘Spin The Black Circle’ deserves to be owned on that format I think.

So this is how Pearl Jam get in my head, played on repeat while I am doing something else or left in the car CD player for weeks on end so it always comes on while I am driving. I had ‘No Code’ in for a couple of months and when I listened to it a few years later was surprised I knew all the songs, having forgotten about the car marathon.

One of the problems I initially had with Pearl Jam was that everything I heard that wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, which is silly really but there you are, I compared everything they did to it and if it wasn’t vaguely similar I was displeased. Now this is clearly stupid, several albums of songs that all sound the same would be pretty crappy but that’s how it was. It was this subconscious listening that I later did that shook me out of that idiocy and it’s a good job it did otherwise I would have completely missed so many great songs.

Just in case you are wholly unaware of who Pearl Jam are, here is a very synopsised synopsis:

Pearl Jam where formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), and Jeff Ament (bass guitar). Since 1998, the band has also included drummer Matt Cameron (also of Soundgarden). Boom Gaspar (keyboards) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band.

Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands in the grunge movement of the early 1990s, its members often shunned popular music industry practices such as making music videos or giving interviews. The band also sued Ticketmaster, claiming it had monopolised the concert-ticket market. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”

I’m not a big fan of favourite songs from an album, unless it’s one of those albums that really only has one good song on it, and I do like the whole of Viataology, but if somebody held a gun to my head and asked my to pick one song, well, I’d suggest they need some serious medical help, but I would also pick ‘Corduroy’.

As a band I like their ethos, which I take at face value, in that they really do not seem to take advantage of their fan base, or, they really take advantage but don’t appear to. I hope the former. In its first week of exclusively vinyl release (back in 1994), Vitalogy sold 35,000 copies and was the first vinyl album to chart due to exclusively vinyl sales in nearly a decade. 

I do remember disliking this album on first listen as I was still in ‘Jeremy’ mode I think but, like so many of their albums, it has grown on me over time and now it has several favourites on it, but it doesn’t stand up as a complete work. ‘Pry, To’ is filler. ‘Bugs’ is just terrible and “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”  should never have been conceived let alone given birth to. Take these away and you have a great, but shorter, album.