Review Summary: Control Myself, CHAPTER 4: “Sometimes I Live, Sometimes I Cringe…”
Without a doubt, Vitalogy
was a straining process for all of Pearl Jam. With Stone Gossard relinquishing all but a smidgen of power to their enigmatic frontman, tensions were growing ever stronger- not least due to the complete failure that was the anti-trust suit dictating whether in fact Ticketmaster was or wasn’t a monopoly (legally it was declared as following all required legislations). With fans passion waning in the eyes of cancelled D.I.Y. shows in the middle of country paddocks, it was in some ways a wise move to release No Code
. By separating the hardcore from the casual, No Code
was an album destined to bomb and be appreciated by cults among the masses. Unfortunately, it also leads to it being quite possibly Pearl Jam’s most inaccessible and inconsistent release to date.
Tell-tale signs litter the record- the immediacy of the album openers of past such as “Once” and “Go” are now unclear, with the fairly uninspired “Sometimes” opening the record, unwinding with a thin riff and little in the way of force. Similarly the inflection of World Music and Eastern Philosophy to Vedder’s lyricism goes amiss, as far too often the likes of “Smile” and “Hail, Hail” fail to impress even with the new found development for experimentation signposted on Vitalogy
. So wrote with tracks that require deep concentration and effort, the likes of “Red Mosquito” and “Who You Are” that actually do impress feel stymied by the overall feel of difficult tracks such as the prosaic turn of “I’m Open” and Gossard’s needless vocal contribution to “Mankind”.
That’s not to say that No Code
is in fact a terrible album; any serious Pearl Jam fan understands the intent and context of the album without having to take such difficulties on face value. But the general uninspired need to experiment and remain grounded injures any will to repeatedly listen to this album. Gone are the anthems in the vein of “Alive”, gone are the punk thrashing moments of “Blood” and nowhere to be found is the beauty of “Better Man” or “Daughter”. In its place is an album of tracks that never reach true catharsis as much as they dawdle there only to leave you without an insatiable chaotic payoff. Serious and repeated listens can offer an album of well-meaning quality and rewards, however the unfortunate lack of inspiration leads it to be regarded as quite possibly Pearl Jam’s poorest release.
NEXT: “It’s Evolution, Baby…”