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Pop/Rock - Released August 16, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 22, 2020 | Epic - Legacy

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Ah, 1990s Seattle, the birthplace of grunge and dumping ground where indie rock, punk, metal, noise pop and many more cross paths. A golden age where the long-haired were transformed into beautiful losers, electric guitar-wielding poets with checked flannel shirts and tatty second-hand jeans. Only a few flawlessly talented survivors remain from this blessed time. Pearl Jam is the prime example. Gigaton, their March 2020 album is their best work in two decades and garnered some well-deserved critical acclaim. Accustomed to stadium performances, the band could easily have turned on autopilot, but they have nevertheless continued to innovate. The band has not forgotten, however, that a lot of its success is owed to its intense stage performances as well as its first album, the cult and unparalleled, Ten. It is again the famous Ten that we return to here in 2020. While the album itself was reissued in four different versions in 2009, the album allows led to the recording of their legendary MTV Unplugged on the 16th of March 1992. At the time, Pearl Jam had only this album on their repertoire as well as the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s film Singles on which three of the band members played. Around three days after having finished their American tour, the five musicians headed to New York to record an acoustic show that has since become legend. In seven songs, Pearl Jam had viewers on their knees. With a rare intensity, the performance exposed in plain sight Eddie Vedder’s incredible voice. Shy and uncomfortable, he utters some rare hesitant sentences before suddenly transforming into an incredible and unforgettable frontman the moment the first lines of Oceans are sung. The rest belongs to history. Aside from State of Love and Trust, taken from Singles, the rest of the concert allows one to appreciate part of Ten in a new light with the harrowing Black, the more spirited Even Flow and the single Alive. The show lasts around 36 minutes and leaves the listener in a state of bewilderment, floating between intense pleasure and frustration. It took another ten years and the release of another largely acoustic concert, Live at Benaroya Hall, to experience the band’s unplugged expertise from afar. Worse still, MTV Unplugged never saw an official release until 2019 and an ultra-limited vinyl pressing for Record Store Day. One year later, this reissue (and its new mixing realised by Nick DiDia) arrives with relief. A blessing. © Chief Brody/Qobuz
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Rock - Released March 27, 2020 | Republic Records

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Urgency has been Pearl Jam's calling card since their inception, which is why it was a jolt to hear the band sound so settled on 2013's Lightning Bolt. Maybe it's the times, maybe it's the choice to switch producers -- the group swapped their longtime collaborator Brendan O'Brien for Josh Evans, who co-produced the album with the band -- but Gigaton hits with the strength of a full-force gale. Weather is a galvanizing concern on Gigaton, with Pearl Jam structuring their 11th album around the looming climate change crisis. There's little subtlety in this regard: the title refers to the amount of ice lost at the arctic poles, the album's cover depicts a melting glacier, and the lyrics are lousy with apocalyptic imagery, not all of it derived from the climate. Eddie Vedder repeatedly and explicitly wrangles with Donald J. Trump, his righteous anger spilling outside the confines of "Quick Escape" and "Never Destination" and running through the album as a whole, providing a simmer even at its quietest moments. Despite its unconcealed outrage, Gigaton does have its share of shade and texture even before it settles into a number of meditative moments on its second side. The loud, aggressive cuts don't lumber, they pierce: "Who Ever Said" has a whirlwind propulsion reminiscent of classic Who, "Superblood Wolfmoon" is a cloistered bit of mania, and "Take the Long Way" flirts with power pop thanks to its candied chorus. Against this backdrop, the band's sonic departures hit even harder, with the arty soundscape of "Alright" sounding as bracing as the new wave-disco of "Dance of the Clairvoyants." The aural adventure adds a nice counterpoint to protests and pleas offered up by Pearl Jam, and helps Gigaton feel vivid, alive, and just a shade hopeful. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Ten

Alternative & Indie - Released January 14, 1992 | Epic - Legacy

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Pop/Rock - Released October 19, 1993 | Epic - Legacy

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Pop/Rock - Released November 22, 1994 | Epic - Legacy

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Pop/Rock - Released November 16, 2004 | Epic

Joe Strummer once claimed that the Clash had stardom in their hands, then they dropped it on the floor and broke it. Pearl Jam took the opposite tact: they purposely left stardom behind. Nirvana may have ushered in the age of grunge and alternative rock, but Pearl Jam were the biggest band in the land during the first half of the '90s, dominating radio airwaves, MTV, and college dorms alike. Most bands would have embraced such widespread acclaim, but the quintet bristled at this vein, and started to restlessly explore new musical territory, a move that eventually whittled their fan base down to just the hardcore by the beginning of the next decade. That hardcore following was still large, and the band could still have the occasional surprising crossover hit, like the 1999 cover of J. Frank Wilson's teen tragedy classic "Last Kiss" that went to number two on the Billboard charts, but they were no longer the biggest band in the land. Spanning two discs, Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) chronicles that journey and it does an expert job not only of capturing the moment when Pearl Jam were monstrously popular, but proving that they still turned out good music even when they were fading from the spotlight. Unlike most career-spanning, multi-disc retrospectives, Rearviewmirror does not emphasize latter-day albums in order to achieve a sense of balance that's inherently phony. Of the 33 tracks, only 12 date from the post-Vitalogy era, which means that the bulk of the collection concentrates on their early-'90s heyday, and nearly every radio hit and concert staple is here, outside of the Victoria Williams cover "Crazy Mary" and "Tremor Christ." While their presence would have been nice, they're not terribly missed, partially because such non-LP cuts like "State of Love and Trust," "I Got ID," "Last Kiss," and "Man of the Hour" are collected here, but mainly because the compilation plays so well. The songs are divided into the "Up Side" and "Down Side," meaning the first disc has all the rockers and the second disc has all the ballads. At first, this seems like a questionable strategy, since it's usually preferable to have all the hits follow in chronological order, but what makes this work is that the songs on each disc are presented in chronological order, and they sustain their mood quite well (this is partially helped by Brendan O'Brien's new mixes of "Once," "Alive," and "Black," which retain the feeling of the original songs but remove much of the dated glossy sheen in the production). Distilled to their hits and anthems, all of Pearl Jam's best qualities shine through and they sound bigger, better, and frankly more coherent than they do on their full-length albums. And that's why Rearviewmirror is a cut above most '90s hits collections: it not only gives casual fans all the hits, but it captures why the band mattered, while providing a better listen than their proper LPs in the process. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released May 16, 2000 | Epic

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pearl Jam made peace with their hard rock past on their eponymous eighth album, but its 2009 sequel, Backspacer, is where the group really gets back to basics, bringing in old cohort Brendan O'Brien to produce for the first time since 1998's Yield. To a certain extent, the band has reached the point in its career where every move, every cranked amp, every short tough song is heralded as a return to form -- call it the Stones syndrome -- and so it is with Backspacer, whose meaty riffs have no less vigor than those of Pearl Jam; they're just channeled into a brighter, cheerier package. Despite this lighter spirit, Pearl Jam remain the antithesis of lighthearted good-time rock & roll -- they're convinced rock & roll is a calling, not a diversion -- but there's a tonal shift from the clenched anger that's marked their music of the new millennium, a transition from the global toward the personal. Ironically, by looking within the music opens up, as the group isn't fighting against the dying light but embracing how this most classicist of alt-rock bands is an anachronism in 2009. Of course, Pearl Jam were an anachronism even back in 1992, worshiping the Who instead of the Stooges, but this odd out-of-phase devotion to the ideals of post-hippie, pre-punk rock is better suited to bandmembers in their forties than in their twenties; fashion has passed them by several times over, leaving Pearl Jam just to be who they are, comfortable in their weathering skin. Pearl Jam battled their success for so long, intent on whittling their audience down to the devout, that it often felt like a chore to keep pace with the band because no matter the merit of the records, they always felt like heavy lifting, but that's no longer the case: here, as on the self-titled 2006 album, it sounds as if they enjoy being in a band, intoxicated by the noise they make. This means, all things considered, Backspacer is a party record for Pearl Jam -- a party that might consist of nothing but philosophical debates till the wee hours, but a party nonetheless -- and if 18 years is a long, long wait for a band to finally throw a party, it's also true that, prior to Backspacer, Pearl Jam wouldn't or couldn't have made music this unfettered, unapologetically assured, casual, and, yes, fun. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 11, 2002 | Epic

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In some ways, Riot Act is the album that Pearl Jam has been wanting to make since Vitalogy -- a muscular art rock record, one that still hits hard but that is filled with ragged edges and odd detours. Vitalogy found the band sketching out their ideas for their brand of artsy rock, separating bracing hard rock and experimentalism throughout that fascinating album, and since then they bounced between those two extremes: indulging themselves on No Code, over-compensating with the streamlined Yield. Here, they manage to seamlessly blend the two impulses together in a restless, passionate record that delivers musically and emotionally. If it doesn't announce itself as a comeback or a great step forward, it's because the changes are subtle -- it's a process of their post-Vitalogy sound finally gelling, not making an artistic breakthrough. Given the appealing but haphazard nature of their late-'90s work, it's quite satisfying to have a Pearl Jam album play as strongly as Riot Act, and again some credit must be given to drummer Matt Cameron. He enlivened 2000's Binaural, but his forceful drumming gives the weirder songs and ambitions support and urgency. Also, the production is the best in nearly a decade -- a warm, burnished sound filled with details that enhance the basic song instead of overwhelming them (in other words, it's not No Code, nor is it the Spartan Yield). Again, these are subtle shifts in sound, but they are notable and, given several plays, this does indeed seem like the richest record Pearl Jam has made in a long time. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 27, 2020 | Republic Records

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Urgency has been Pearl Jam's calling card since their inception, which is why it was a jolt to hear the band sound so settled on 2013's Lightning Bolt. Maybe it's the times, maybe it's the choice to switch producers -- the group swapped their longtime collaborator Brendan O'Brien for Josh Evans, who co-produced the album with the band -- but Gigaton hits with the strength of a full-force gale. Weather is a galvanizing concern on Gigaton, with Pearl Jam structuring their 11th album around the looming climate change crisis. There's little subtlety in this regard: the title refers to the amount of ice lost at the arctic poles, the album's cover depicts a melting glacier, and the lyrics are lousy with apocalyptic imagery, not all of it derived from the climate. Eddie Vedder repeatedly and explicitly wrangles with Donald J. Trump, his righteous anger spilling outside the confines of "Quick Escape" and "Never Destination" and running through the album as a whole, providing a simmer even at its quietest moments. Despite its unconcealed outrage, Gigaton does have its share of shade and texture even before it settles into a number of meditative moments on its second side. The loud, aggressive cuts don't lumber, they pierce: "Who Ever Said" has a whirlwind propulsion reminiscent of classic Who, "Superblood Wolfmoon" is a cloistered bit of mania, and "Take the Long Way" flirts with power pop thanks to its candied chorus. Against this backdrop, the band's sonic departures hit even harder, with the arty soundscape of "Alright" sounding as bracing as the new wave-disco of "Dance of the Clairvoyants." The aural adventure adds a nice counterpoint to protests and pleas offered up by Pearl Jam, and helps Gigaton feel vivid, alive, and just a shade hopeful. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 2, 2006 | Epic - Legacy

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Nearly 15 years after Ten, Pearl Jam finally returned to the strengths of their debut with 2006's Pearl Jam, a sharply focused set of impassioned hard rock. Gone are the arty detours (some call them affectations) that alternately cluttered and enhanced their albums from 1993's sophomore effort, Vs., all the way to 2002's Riot Act, and what's left behind is nothing but the basics: muscular, mildly meandering rock & roll, enlivened by Eddie Vedder's bracing sincerity. Pearl Jam has never sounded as hard or direct as they do here -- even on Ten there was an elasticity to the music, due in large part to Jeff Ament's winding fretless bass, that kept the record from sounding like a direct hit to the gut, which Pearl Jam certainly does. Nowhere does it sound more forceful than it does in its first half, when the tightly controlled rockers "Life Wasted," "World Wide Suicide," "Comatose," "Severed Hand," and "Marker in the Sand" pile up on top of each other, giving the record a genuine feeling of urgency. That insistent quality and sense of purpose doesn't let up even as they slide into the quite beautiful, lightly psychedelic acoustic pop of "Parachutes," which is when the album begins to open up slightly. If the second half of the record does have a greater variety of tempos than the first, it's still heavy on rockers, ranging from the ironic easy swagger of "Unemployable" to the furious "Big Wave," which helps set the stage for the twin closers of "Come Back" and "Inside Job." The former is a slow-burning cousin to "Black" that finds Pearl Jam seamlessly incorporating soul into their sound, while the latter is a deliberately escalating epic that gracefully closes the album on a hopeful note -- and coming after an album filled with righteous anger and frustration, it is indeed welcome. But Pearl Jam's anger on this eponymous album is not only largely invigorating, it is the opposite of the tortured introspection of their first records. Here, Vedder turns his attention to the world at large, and while he certainly rages against the state of W's union in 2006, he's hardly myopic or strident; he's alternately evocative and specific, giving this album a resonance that has been lacking in most protest rock of the 2000s. But what makes Pearl Jam such an effective record is that it can be easily enjoyed as sheer music without ever digging into Vedder's lyrics. Song for song, this is their best set since Vitalogy, and the band has never sounded so purposeful on record as they do here, nor have they ever delivered a record as consistent as this. And the thing that makes the record work exceptionally well is that Pearl Jam has embraced everything they do well, whether it's their classicist hard rock or heart-on-sleeve humanitarianism. In doing so, they seem kind of old fashioned, reaffirming that they are now thoroughly outside of the mainstream -- spending well over a decade galloping away from any trace of popularity will inevitably make you an outsider -- but on their own terms, Pearl Jam hasn't sounded as alive or engaging as they do here since at least Vitalogy, if not longer. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 14, 2013 | Pearl Jam - Monkeywrench

Perhaps it's destined that a band who considered the Who and Neil Young idols would have no quarrel with middle age; nevertheless, the settled nature of Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt comes as a bit of a jolt. Long ago, Pearl Jam opted out of the rat race, choosing to abandon MTV and album rock radio, ready to take any fans who came their way, and in a way, Lightning Bolt -- their tenth studio album, arriving 22 years after the first -- is a logical extension of that attitude, flirting with insouciance even at its loudest moments. Often, this record seems to ignore the very idea of immediacy; even when the tempos are rushed and the amplifiers are revved up, Pearl Jam never quite seem to be rocking with abandon, choosing to settle into comforting cacophony instead. Then again, nothing on Lightning Bolt -- not the wannabe breakneck rocker "Mind Your Manners," not the tightly coiled title track, not the glam stomp of "Let the Records Play" -- proceeds with any manner of urgency, with even the loudest rockers unveiled at a measured pace that allows plenty of space for solos by Mike McCready. The guitarist has room to roam and the band has a supple, natural interplay that only comes from almost 30 years of collaboration, but here more than ever, all the emotional notes seem to derive from Eddie Vedder, who is not only the chief songwriter/lyricist but a spiritual touchstone. Eying the milestone of 50, Vedder is very comfortable in his skin: he's no longer raging against the dying light or tilting at windmills, he's choosing his battles, knowing when to lie back so he can enjoy the rush of rock pushed out from his familiar, but never lazy, colleagues. This unhurriedness may seem to run counter to the rebellious spirit of rock & roll, but for all their insurrectionist acts, Pearl Jam weren't upstarts: they eagerly accepted the torch of arena rock when it was handed to them. On Lightning Bolt, they've grown into that classic rock mantle, accentuating the big riffs and bigger emotions, crafting songs without a worry as to whether they're hip or not and, most importantly, enjoying the deep-rooted, nervy arena rock that is uniquely their own. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 10, 2003 | Epic

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Pop/Rock - Released August 6, 1996 | Epic

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A strange phenomenon with anthemic hard rock bands is that when they begin to mature and branch out into new musical genres, they nearly always choose to embrace both the music and spirituality of the East and India, and Pearl Jam is no exception. Throughout No Code, Eddie Vedder expounds on his moral and spiritual dilemmas; where on previous albums his rage was virtually all-consuming, it is clear on No Code that he has embraced an unspecified religion as a way to ease his troubles. Fortunately, that has coincided with an expansion of the group's musical palette. From the subtle, winding opener, "Sometimes," and the near-prayer of the single, "Who You Are," the band reaches into new territory, working with droning, mantra-like riffs and vocals, layered exotic percussion, and a newfound subtlety. Of course, they haven't left behind hard rock, but like any Pearl Jam record, the heart of No Code doesn't lie in the harder songs, it lies in the slower numbers and the ballads, which give Vedder the best platform for his soul-searching: "Present Tense," "Off He Goes," "In My Tree," and "Around the Bend" equal the group's earlier masterpieces. While a bit incoherent, No Code is Pearl Jam's richest and most rewarding album to date, as well as their most human. They might be maturing in a fairly conventional method, but they still find new ways to state old truths. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released September 29, 2017 | Republic - Pearl Jam

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Among the many things Eddie Vedder wears on his sleeve is his love of the Chicago Cubs. He was there during the Cubbies' historic World Series win of 2016, singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch of Game 5, an honor for a fan who held the team dear since a child, but earlier in the season, he and Pearl Jam saluted the Cubs with a pair of August concerts at Wrigley Field. Let's Play Two is a concert film documenting that stand and it's accompanied by a live album, which is Pearl Jam's first mass-market live album since Live on Ten Legs. That 2011 release was a compilation of highlights but this focuses on a particular residency, and the difference is a matter of concentration. Here, it's easier to focus on how Pearl Jam seem strong and settled, enjoying their immense power but also sounding quite relaxed in their passion. It's an appealing blend and one that helps highlight the consistency of their catalog, since the newer songs feel like good fits alongside the chestnuts -- old songs that don't seem worn, since it's clear the band and audience gain sustenance from the music. That warm-heartedness -- which may be accentuated due to Vedder playing at the home of his team, surrounded by fans who love the band and the Cubs -- seems deeper than it has on previous live Pearl Jam albums, but maybe that's a reflection of the band's middle age. They're comfortable in their skin and with their catalog and are happy to indulge in an unabashed celebration, which this album most certainly is. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 22, 2020 | Republic Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 17, 1998 | Epic

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Pop/Rock - Released November 20, 1998 | Epic - Legacy

Not long after Ten unexpectedly topped the charts, Pearl Jam became notorious for their intense live performances. Even more notable than the group's unbridled energy was their willingness to stretch out their songs or throw in covers, reminding jaded audiences that rock concerts could be electric and energetic. Their Seattle peers were equally (sometimes more) compelling, but Pearl Jam skillfully made arena rock feel as intimate as a punk club show -- something that no other band of their time could do. Instead of building this reputation throughout the course of the '90s, the quintet let it fade away as they became embroiled in a vicious battle with Ticketmaster that ultimately proved unfruitful. Not only did the court cases tie up several years of touring, they also refused to play any venue with contracts with Ticketmaster once it was finished -- which meant they played off-market venues that were difficult to reach, thereby decreasing their potential audience substantially. Once 1998's Yield didn't move as much as anyone expected, the band released Live on Two Legs a few short months later. It was culled from Yield's supporting tour, and the difference is substantial -- Pearl Jam still sounds good, but they lack the wild energy that distinguished their early years. Professionalism has its good points, however, and it's true that Live on Two Legs is eminently listenable, thanks in no small part to a fine track selection illustrating that the best moments of No Code and Yield rank with Ten, Vs., and Vitalogy. For all the good points -- the tight interaction, the occasional nifty solo, Eddie Vedder's powerful performance -- the album never quite catches fire. Instead, Live on Two Legs is a souvenir, a thank you to fans who have stood by throughout the years, and on those terms, it's successful. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 15, 2000 | Pearl Jam Live P&D

In a move to beat bootleggers to the punch, Pearl Jam decided to release each of their 2000 American concert performances in a series of inexpensive double-CD sets. The August 15th concert recorded in Memphis, TN, begins with their standard opener, "Of the Girl," which builds nicely, aquatinting the audience with their sound before rolling into a rather subdued version of "Last Exit." Donning a wild jacket in honor of a famous former Memphis resident, Eddie Vedder crooned the Elvis ballad "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" with a hushed reverence, much to the delight of the singalong crowd, eventually turning the song into a punk-pop anthem quite remarkably. The band indulged hardcore fans with concert rarities like "In My Tree," "I Got Shit," and "Tremor Christ," but seemed a little rough on songs like the sped-up "Even Flow" and the disjointed "Black" (which nonetheless features some great soloing from guitarist Mike McCready). A three-song semi-acoustic set is nestled into the second half of the show, showcasing the band's ability to break songs down to their bare bones, but is plagued by an annoyingly brash and tinny electric-acoustic guitar sound. The diehards were treated with a real rarity near the end: a stripped-down version of the "Jeremy" B-side "Footsteps," complete with Vedder's Neil Young-inspired harmonica flourishes. The closer is a tear through the Who classic "Baba O Riley" to which the sweaty teenage wasteland sings along passionately. Although the lack of Vedder's stage banter will be missed by many, the entire set is strong for the most part with only a few rough spots scattered here and there. © Zac Johnson /TiVo