Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's my blog and I'll Pearl Jam if I want to: Underrated PJ songs for newbs/clueless/haters

Gonna see my friends!
So I got Pearl Jam tickets for late October, and I haven't seen them since PJ20 two years ago last weekend, so it's an occasion. It's always an occasion, but this time, it's a blogging occasion.

I'm taking someone to see them who has never seen them before.

A Pearl-Jam-live virgin, a neophyte, someone who knows half of Ten, "Betterman," and "Last Kiss," but asks, "Wait, what's this song called again?" when I blast recognizable tags and improvs via bootlegs, or "Wait, which album is this on?" when I rock B-sides.

Time for school.


My only criteria for creating this list was to veer from hits and rare material. While all the B-sides should be on this list (go buy Lost Dogs, like, yesterday), I'm focusing on righteously awesome studio album tracks that get overlooked in favor of Jeremy and Daughter. I'm also heavily focusing on later material, since I'm so expletiving sick of hearing people attempt to justify why they stopped listening after Vitalogy: "Too many love songs, not enough rock" (shut your face and YouTube "Comatose," NOW) and "Vedder's voice can't be what it used to be" ("Unthought Known," much?).

If you know someone like the person I've described above, please share this list with them.

It will be ok. It will all be ok. "Stay with meeeee.....let's just breeaaathe..."

By order of album, chronologically, and do click the links and actually listen, dearies:

"Oceans" (Ten)--This one is near and dear to diehards, but casual listeners skip it to get to "Porch." LAME. Described by Vedder during Unplugged as "a little love song I wrote about my surfboard," "Oceans" is melodic and full of the momentum of waves building and breaking. And oh the vocals. *fans self* Skip this track and the music gods will smite you. (PS, that link is the official vid. Control yourselves, ladies...)

"Rats" (Vs.)--One of the angriest, rantiest, Vedderest songs of their catalog, "Rats" is Pearl Jam's commentary on, in my opinion, everything wrong with the rich and privileged of the world. It's a fine allegory, and fiery song. Vedder growls (really? He growls? Naaaaw.) all the attributes of rats, but you know he's talking about richies. Until: "They don't scurry when something bigger comes their way, they'll pack themselves together and run as one..." Suddenly, that lyric flips the script and makes the band the rats, uniting against the "something bigger" coming their way. AHHH. My band is smart.

"Last Exit" (Vitalogy)--One of my fave of all their album openers. A fave live. Vocals can be blistering or subdued in a way that makes you afraid he's going to explode, then he never does. Plus, "Under your tongue I'm like a tab, I will give you what you're not supposed to have" is a killer lyric.

"Smile" (No Code)--A rock song, a trademark harmonica, a bit of music lore surrounding the lyrics (lifted from a note to Vedder from Dennis Flemion of The Frogs)...but I include this song because I sang it to Jax every time I left the NICU, every day, for 87 days: "I miss you alreadyyyyyyyy...I miss you always..." So, "Smile," because it's an unlikely lullaby.

All of Yield.--All of it. The whole album. If Pearl Jam had never done Alive, Even Flow, Jeremy, Porch, Spin the Black Circle, Not For You, Corduroy, or Hail Hail, they'd STILL be in the running for best hard rock song of the 90s (or ever) with Do the Evolution. And they'd win. Also, the secret song at the end of Yield is better than most music being written today. Start to finish, Yield is where it's at. The defense rests.

"Breakerfall" (Binaural)--Another great album opener, musically and lyrically: "There's a girl on a ledge, she's got nowhere to turn, cause all the love that she had was just wood that she burned..." Hard and fast, like everything people claim to love about Pearl Jam, all while pretending like there are no albums after Vitalogy. Huh.

"Of the Girl" (Binaural)--Why do I think of this song as a cowboy song? Something about that riff makes think of riding a horse out of town to escape something... Anyway. In the same way Johnny Cash had that train thing going, this song--amid the plethora of songs PJ has about escape, leaving, driving away--is the one that embodies running to me. Or maybe trying to run and not being able to. It's a borderline frantic rhythm, but then it breaks, or there's a key change, or something (I get distracted by EV crooning), "How he makes his getaway..." And the end is just straight blues from McCready. Love love love.

"Help Help" (Riot Act)--Because of minimalist guitar and sparse drumming until the song builds to a lyrical crescendo with "The man they call my enemy, I see his eyes, he looks just like me, a mirror...the more you read we've been deceived, and every day it becomes clearer..." as guitars whine in the background. YES. How can you not like this song?

"Severed Hand" (Pearl Jam)--To anyone who says this band doesn't rock hard anymore. You tell me how long it takes you to master Mikey's guitar in this song. Your car can't go that fast. Stop hating.

"Come Back" (Pearl Jam)--Oh my heart. A 50s-sounding lament that doesn't involve a car accident and a dead girl (sorry, "Last Kiss" fans). A begging Vedder. Stick a fork in me, wouldya? (Also, PLAYED AT WRIGLEY. I might get to hear this one for the first time!)

"Got Some" (Backspacer)--It's all about that Cameron beat.

"Unthought Known" (Backspacer)--The only song I'll mention twice in this post. I can't listen to this song without welling up at around 1:20. Just beautiful.

And should you feel the need, after all of this education, to say Pearl Jam doesn't make incredible songs anymore, you need to "Mind Your Manners."




7 comments:

  1. 1/2 Full is the most underrated song IMO. I really do like that you included Of The Girl and Help Help. They are also on my list.

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  2. parachutes always gets overlooked :(

    btw yeild had probably been my fav album since 1998 :)

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  3. Parachutes is omitted for purely personal reasons. Hold On is a B-side and therefore didn't meet my selection criteria (bc all b-sides are amazing, but non-PJfam look at you like, wtf is a b-side? Is that an app? How do I get it? Save your app $$ and buy vinyl, you toddlers!!)

    Also, I'm already mad at myself for leaving out Satan's Bed and Red Mosquito. Two devil songs, two ungodly great riffs.

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  4. Great list!

    Mine would be as follows:

    Ten: Oceans and Release
    Vs: Dissident and RATS
    Vitalogy: Spin the Black Circle and Satan's Bed
    No Code: Smile and Present Tense
    agreed on Yield...a great album as a whole!
    Binaural: Nothing as it Seems and Rival
    Riot Act: I Am Mine
    Pearl Jam: Come Back, Army Reserve, and Unemployable
    Backspacer: Unthought Known and Supersonic

    Thanks for doing your list! Enjoy the show!

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  5. Cool list! No one mentioned "In My Tree," so I'll throw that one into the mix. Thanks for a good read!

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  6. Really good read!!! Which by the way helped me reach this logical conclusion: too much love for Vitalogy and Yield led the fans neglect what followed: No Code and Binaural. I had the tape of Yield on autoplay from 1998 until 2002. I kind of "missed" Binaural. It's not really a problem, though, because this way you can listen to more "new" materials all at once (Binaural + Riot Act -> lengthy, serious, heavy listen). And because of inexplicably big love for the latter, I missed the release of Avocado. In which, Parachutes is my favourite bitter, say, song of the "new pj generation". Its reeling music and lyrics makes me listen to it again and again. Eventually, the 2006 album was the last one to miss, which I discovered in depth along with Backspacer. Since 2008 when Facebook inserted our everyday life, it's impossible not to instantly learn about anything they may do. There's really no such thing as n "underrated" PJ song when you are deep in their music, no matter how soon or late you dig in any album. I'm a REALLY late admirer of one song you mentioned: Breakerfall. I didn't understand the meaning of this madeup word by Ed, until actual circumstances of life make you see its meaning crystal clear. Love to you all!

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