Review Summary: No Code is a very good album from a very good band that sadly ended Pearl Jam's massive chart riding popularity.
Pearl Jam is:
Eddie Vedder: Vocals
Jack Irons: Drums
Stone Gossard: Lead Guitar
Mike McCready: Lead Guitar
Jeff Ament: Bass
In the year 1996, grunge had fallen. Gone was Kurt Cobain, leader of the grunge movement. Grunge superstars Soundgarden and Alice In Chains were beginning to fall apart and collapse. Seattle was no longer the central focus of the music industry. Eddie Vedder and his crew that consisted of Pearl Jam realized that the genre that they had once dominated was disintegrating, and decided to take action. They wanted to create an album that would not hold as much grandeur as their previous works (Ten, Vs, Vitalogy). They created.... No Code.
1996 was a big year for me, when I first realized how great music was. Pearl Jam, at the time was one of my favourite bands, and upon hearing of the release of a new album by these musical geniuses, I rushed to my local music shop in a hurry, money in hand. A friend of mine had already bought the CD and had claimed that it was terrible. Not believing this to be true, I slipped the CD into my car CD player and started to listen...
...And was surprised at how much I enjoyed the album. It was new and different, with deep, thought provoking lyrics and some wonderful vocals from Vedder.
For almost the rest of the year I remember listening to No Code over and over, enjoying it immensely. Despite some fairly negative reviews about the album, I was still hooked and believed it to be the greatest CD ever made...
And that is my personal experiences with this album. Now, let's get into the review....
For those expecting an explosive, hard rocking song opening the album, prepare to be surprised. Sometimes is a quiet, acoustic song, with some nice, reserved bass and drums and Vedder's raspy, almost whispered growl. A good track, and a strong opener.
Hail Hail (3:42)
Loud, heavily distorted guitars open this song, along with a cowbell driven drum beat. Very loud and hard rocking, this is one of my favourite songs on the album. I believe it deals with people in a troubled relationship, and has some good lyrics. Vedder almost drawls out the words which adds to the distorted, grungy feel of the song.
Who You Are (3:48)
A catchy, unique song, this track seems to be based on percussion as well as a very catchy chorus where Eddie and other band members join in singing. Also contains one of my favourite lyrics: 'Can't defend a ***ed up man' brilliant. I think this song started off as being an experiment, but eventually became a single and one of Pearl Jam's biggest hits. One of the album highlights, and definitely worth a listen.
In My Tree (3:57)
This song seems to carry on where Who You Are left off with some drumming and vocals with guitar and bass eventually joining in. The lyrics deal with loneliness and disembodiment, and are very catchy. It all ends with a catchy jam session. Not the best song here, but is interesting nonetheless.
The opening guitar and harmonica on 'Smile' remind me somewhat of a Neil Young track, with the distortion turned up to counteract the clean harmonica. The chorus is very catchy and almost uplifting. Not really a stand out track, but excellent nonetheless.
Off He Goes (5:55)
In an interview, Eddie Vedder claimed that this song dealt with him being a poor friend due to his touring and having to be on the move with the bands all of the time. The lyrics seem to support this statement, and are delivered in an almost depressing way with some relaxing acoustic guitar from Stone and Mike. 'Off He Goes' is almost ballad like, and is actually quite beautiful. Probably my favourite song here, with 67 plays on my iTunes. Contrasts with the rocking 'Smile', but otherwise seems to be in vein with the rest of the album.
The loudest song on the album, with fast, harsh guitar and some shouting from Eddie. A pretty average tune, although it amps up the excitement with a very good guitar solo.
Red Mosquito (4:02)
Despite not being released as a single, this song apparently did quite well on the charts. I can now see why. The guitar is very catchy, with more distortion and some truly awesome sounds that sound like those made by a sea lion. An epic track, Eddie's vocal performance is very good, and the band all work together to make a Pearl Jam classic.
After a group of very, very good songs we must sadly come to a filler track. Fortunately, it is quite interesting, albeit short. Eddie sings very, very fast in a practically indecipherable howl. Seems like a rather unnecessary song, luckily only clocking in at little over a minute.
Present Tense (5:39)
The first three minutes of this song are rather monotonous and slow, with some quiet guitar and bass complimenting the quiet vocals. At the 2:55 mark, the tempo begins to pick up a little more, eventually building up very well before winding down once more with more some haunting guitar. Skip the first minute of this song, and you will find that it is a very enjoyable one.
Stone Gossard sings here with some rather poor lyrics, which drags down the rest of the song, which is pretty mediocre as it is. Definitely a filler track, and certainly not a good one. Mike McCready's solo at the end of the song barely saves it from total monotony. Definitely the worst song here, and easily skippable.
I Am Open (2:51)
One word that I can use to sum up this track is 'atmospheric'. Everything about it is toned down and reserved, although not the the extent seen of 'Indifference'. I would say that this song is filler, but it seems to be much more experimental, and after the horror show of 'Mankind', 'I Am Open' sounds almost excellent. The verse is delivered through Eddie simply talking as if reading a poem. The chorus is very spacey and ambient, which gives the song an interesting flavour.
Around The Bend (4:34)
The final track on the album, Stone Gossard claimed that it was based off of a lullaby that he would sing to his daughter. The only song here to contain piano, this a pleasant, relaxing track that does not contain the dark undertones of 'Off He Goes' and 'In My Tree'. A good album closer, worth downloading.
In conclusion, No Code is a great album with many strong, excellent songs. The quality of the music shifts as the the album nears its close, but a few weaker tracks do not affect the overall awesomeness of this album. Personally, it is my favourite Pearl Jam album next to Ten, and is one of my most listened to albums ever.
- Singing, lyrics, and instruments all very well incorporated in all songs.
- Has it's own mixture of soft and loud songs.
- A great variety of music.
- 'Off He Goes'
- Least accessible Pearl Jam album.
- Production has some flaws.
Recommended Songs (Download or die)
- Hail Hail
- Who You Are
- Off He Goes
- Present Tense