Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pearl Jam - Fading star or Rock Royalty?

When Pearl Jam exploded on the scene 15 years ago with 'Ten' the ultimate in the new grunge wave (until 'Nevermind' appeared 3 months later), they were hailed as the new rock mesiahs, saviours of rock and roll from the over-produced, hyper-synthesised Duran Duran's of the world. All flanelette and attitude, this was raw, emotive, and powerful rock. Motley Crue with integrity. Buttloads of the stuff. No film clips, no extraneoous rubbish, just rock. Two acclaimed follow-ups, Vs. and Vitalogy maintained the rage, and immortality beckoned.
Then something strange happened. As the last bars of 'Betterman' faded off into the distance, people forgot Pearl Jam. 5 albums have been released since, each with lower sales than the last, people began to ask, 'have Pearl Jam lost their balls?'
In my mind, the answer is an unequivocal 'NO'. 8 albums in, and they may have produced their weakest record yet, self titled, back-to-our-roots rock 'n' roll. And it's still bloody good. World Wide Suicide is perhaps just too political to be a hit these days. It just doesn't appear on commercial radio, and this is Pearl Jam. People will listen to a new Pearl Jam song, surely? Surely not. If any band had such a record of sustained excellence, they'd be thrilled. But Pearl Jam are pilloried.
The problem is not that Pearl Jam have lost it, the problem is that people who loved Ten are now in their late twenties and early thirties and want more of what reminds them of being 16. Without the angst, because they're quite comfortable now, thank you very much.

Along came Yield in 1999. And it is amazing. By far Pearl Jam's finest hour. Yet hardly anyone owns it. Why? It can't be for lack of songs. Given to Fly, No Way, Brain of J, Do the Evolution and Wishlist are all nothing short of brilliant, many have received substantial air time. Yet no-one wants a bar of it. There's something wrong, and it isn't with Pearl Jam.
So if you're at the record store and see 'Binaural' on special. Pick it up, take it home, and listen to it without prejudice. Imagine it's a debut record from some bunch of unknowns from Seattle. And then see whether Pearl Jam have still got it.


At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:55 PM, Blogger unamuno said...

I totally agree with you.
I freeked out when I first heard TEN when I was eighteen I think.
And still am freeking(??) out listening to Marker in the Sand.

The point is, as much as they respect you as fans, you should respect them as original artists.


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