Pearl Jam as a band have had a very, very tumultuous career. I mean, just look at all the line-up changes. They’ve shuffled an awful lot of talent in and out, and in and out again. Fortunately, this means the band has had the benefit of the intuitive creative vision of many exceptional artists. You can perhaps find no better evidence of than Pearl Jam’s 2003 collection of B-sides and rarities, aptly titled Lost Dogs
. This dual-disc compilation contains everything from studio album outtakes, to fan club single tracks, and even a hidden tribute to the late Alice In Chains
front man, Layne Staley. The album also features more than enough previously unreleased material to keep even the most avid fan happy. Now, as Lost Dogs
is a rather hard beast to judge. Therefore, I’ve chosen to review it in a rather straightforward manner: an assessment of each individual disc. Now, that means things might get a tad wordy (see: long), so if you want to back out now, no one will blame you. Oh, you’re still here? Fantastic. Well, let’s see what we’ve got here.
Okay, I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, so what does that make this? Well, let’s just say that what you read above was a preamble to the actual introduction. So, let’s hypothesize that this is the actual intro. Oh, to hell with that: let’s just move on. Lost Dogs
is something of an interesting beast. The first disc of the album is more towards the hard-rocking, grunge styling of early Pearl Jam. However, the second disc is primarily acoustic (or at least clean instrumentally-speaking). This makes for an extremely diverse listening experience. In the past, I’ve found that many collections such as Lost Dogs
generally prove why its contents remained limitedly or unreleased altogether. You won’t find an exception to that rule here: Lost Dogs
features plenty of tracks that you’ll wish Pearl Jam had kept locked up tight in a vault somewhere. Still, sans a few rather laughably pathetic tracks, Lost Dogs
is a polished collection. Every example of Pearl Jam’s music is can be found here: straight-up grunge, fathomlessly deep ballads, and even quirky charity event songs, or songs composed by members of the band who are not usually active in that department. Lost Dogs
is a very broad spectrum of Pearl Jam’s multi-layered artistically palette. If pressed to choose, this humble reviewer would state that disc two is superior to disc one in overall quality. However, I must also admit that some of my favorite tracks from Lost Dogs
are found on disc one. It’s a rather complicated emotion, if you catch my drift.
Disc One: Lost
Disc one begins with the rocking “All Night." This songs has a rather rushed feel to it; that means to say that Pearl Jam just seem to get straight to the point. While the lyrics and melody leave much to be desired, the guitar work does not. The ripping solos from six-string slinger Mike McCready are as fluid and dexterous as ever. “Sad" has a familiar feel to it. With steady instrumentation and great vocals, it’s a rather tranquil song, that compliments its predecessors sloppiness quite well. “Sad" is one of the better tracks to be found on disc one; and the whole compilation for that matter. “Down" has an country-rock-esque feel to it. It’s a fairly simple song; nothing groundbreaking here. It’s a solid track that fits in perfectly at the slot that it’s placed in. Now, we’ve come to the first of those songs that should’ve stayed lost. “Hitchhiker" is just terrible. It doesn’t capture any of Pearl Jam’s good qualities. Instead, it seems like a pathetic attempt at them to sound like a pop band. Just try to forget that “Hitchhiker" ever existed, and you’ll be much happier.
Unfortunately, disc one keeps up its tirade of mediocrity with “Don’t Gimme No Lip." Sure, the song has plenty of that grungy attitude, but seriously, it just isn’t that good. It’s a passable enough track, that in the right setting, can be enjoyed; but is still easily forgettable. Ah, now we’re getting to the meat of the first disc. “Alone" is the best song thus far, and quite possibly is the strongest song on the album. Fantastic guitar riffs, with stellar lyrics and some of Eddie Vedder’s greatest vocal work, mesh perfectly in a package of raw, unfettered power. The result is “Alone," and it’s one hell of a concoction. “Alone" is by far one of Lost Dogs
’ stand-out tracks. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of Pearl Jam’s greatest songwriting triumphs. “In The Moonlight" is another impressive song. Everything about this song seems to sync together with great results. It’s a slow, laidback song which is a perfect change of pace for disc one to have hit. “Education" is another strong song. With the great lyrics about questioning education (big surprise there, eh?), and superb musicianship, “Education" is a song that is fairly reminiscent of Pearl Jam’s “Do The Evolution" (Yield
). I draw this comparison based solely on the lyrics of “Education," as otherwise, the songs are polar opposites.
“Black, Red, Yellow" is another curious song. The wordplay is especially interesting, and it fits the vocal styling and music well. However, it just seems a tad too incoherent. “Black, Red, Yellow" is just an odd song that stumbled into an interesting position on disc one’s track list. “U" is a very catchy song. This would be due to the music only, as the lyrics feature Eddie Vedder rhyming “you" with itself and several other things, with a few words thrown in for flavor, over and over. “Leaving Here" is another catchy song instrumentally. The singing is rather alien to Pearl Jam (especially considering the surprisingly prominent back vocals). “Leaving Here" is a must listen, if only to hear how versatile Pearl Jam can be. “Gremmie Out Of Control" is a fun song, with a very Beach Boys
feel to it. You see, a “gremmie" is a term denoting an inexperienced surfer. The song serves mostly as comedic relief, so isn’t really relevant to the overall feel of Lost Dogs
. “Whale Song" is a very emotive song, written and vocally recorded by former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons. The song evokes many anti-whale hunting feelings, and accentuates how gentle these giant mammals can be. “Whale Song" is one of Pearl Jam’s deepest, most meaningful songs, and a must-listen from Lost Dogs
“Undone" is another fantastic offering from disc one. The excellent (emphasis on excellent) lyrics overlaying the wonderful, melodic music, make “Undone" one of the best songs Pearl Jam have ever churned out. Why in hell this was ever a B-side is beyond me. “Hold On" starts off amazingly strong with one of the greatest riffs I’ve ever heard from a grunge band. However, the song declines in quality slightly by the chorus, yet still remains to be an excellent track. ‘Yellow Ledbetter" isn’t really a “lost dog" per say. It was actually a radio hit in 1994, yet was never officially released on an album. Interesting to note, this amazing song inexplicably cuts off one the final note. “Yellow Ledbetter" is a fantastic song, and is essential listening for any Pearl Jam fan.
Well, there you have it: disc one. On the whole, the first half of Lost Dogs
is very impressive. Excluding the “what the hell" B-sides, the first CD is a very meaty, well-placed album. If you want to experience how eclectic Pearl Jam can be, then this is the disc you’ll be most interested in.
Disc Two: Dogs
The second disc of Lost Dogs
begins on a rather soft, acoustic note with “Fatal." Not the best track, thus far, “Fatal" features well-constructed lyrics and decent enough musicianship to make it yet another solid offering. A most worthy way to begin the second leg of Lost Dogs
. “Other Side" is simply a breathtaking song. Keeping the acoustic work going, it’s just a wickedly sweet song. Everything about it is as near-perfect as a song can be. I highly recommend giving this one a listen. ‘Hard To Imagine" is a rather mellow, dare I say boring, song. After the incredible “Other Side" this track just seems a little too tame. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it just was poorly placed on the track list. “Footsteps" keeps the softer clean/acoustic sound going, and even throws in some harmonic for texture. Fantastic lyrics form perfect synergy with the vocals singing them and the music complimenting them. “Footsteps" is another song that I highly recommend.
“Wash" is a Ten
outtake that is completely dissimilar from the version of it that appeared on Pearl Jam’s Alive
single. This is yet another song that will make you wonder as to why it was fated to be shrouded in obscurity until Lost Dogs
came along. “Dead Man Walking" is another serene acoustic track. Again, the experience is detracted from by a slight sense of boredom, as was the case with “Hard To Imagine." In addition to this, the whole song seems rather messy and inaudible. “Strangest Tribe" has one kickass intro guitar riff. That said, the song breaks the monotonous tone set by its predecessor by being incredibly polished. “Strangest Tribe" showcases another perfect example of the meshing of Pearl Jam’s melodic and lyrical qualities into surprisingly deep packages. “Drifting" picks things up again a little, with some more of that wonderful Harmonica treat, as well as great music and lyrics. The whole song seems to have a much more upbeat feel to its forbearers (a very good thing).
“Let Me Sleep" is a concise little piece of work, featuring Pearl Jam’s knack for using a wide array of instruments and sounds to craft sonic delight. It’s a great little song about a person wanting to sleep a little before Christmas (unsurprisingly, the song was taken from a fan club Christmas single). “Last Kiss" much like “Yellow Ledbetter," is not really a “lost dog." This Wayne Cochran cover was released as a fan club-only single in 1998, and then was re-released as its own single in 1999. “Last Kiss" has become, to date, Pearl Jam’s most commercially successful single. It’s easy to see why: the marvelous lyrics and superb instrumentation are spot-on, and intoxicatingly addictive. “Sweet Lew" is another curiosity that Lost Dogs
dishes up. The song was written and sang by bassist Jeff Ament. It’s an angst-ridden track that expresses Ament’s anger at having met NBA superstar Kareem Abdul Jabbar (his childhood idol), who was totally aloof to him. This is a rather poorly constructed song, that has rage written all over it. However, it serves as a bridge for disc two to become much harder.
“Dirty Frank" is the first remotely heavy song that the second disc of Lost Dogs
has had to offer. Understandably, it’s much edgier than the rest of the second half thus far. However, “Dirty Frank" is quite irksome, and drags on far too long. It’s an easily forgettable track. “Brother" is an instrumental version of a track that can be found on Ten Rough Mixes
, an original recording of Pearl Jam’s Ten
. This instrumental is simply incredible. Everything flows together in an extremely coherent fashion. “Brother" is a very enjoyable listen. “Bee Girl" is a simple acoustic song that was recorded live in 1993. I compare it to Stone Temple Pilots
’ “Sour Girl," only it’s nowhere near as good. This track would be forgettable, if it didn’t contain a very special secret. At 4:20:02, a song called “4/20/02" which is the aforementioned tribute to Layne Staley. The significance of the title is due in part to the discovery of Staley’s body on the 20th of April, 2002. This was fifteen day after the singer had died of a herion overdose. “4/20/02" has a very distressed feel to it, yet its message is clearly underscored. It is a fitting conclusion to Lost Dogs
On the whole, disc two is marginally better than disc one. There really aren’t any incredibly forgettable tracks here, and the whole half seems to be incredibly polished. If you wish to look into the straightforward, emotive side of Pearl Jam, you’ll be best served by this half of Lost Dogs
So, you readers still with me? Yeah, I know that was fascinatingly boring, but hell, it seemed to make the most sense to me. A lot of work on my part, a lot of work on your part…it evens out. Lost Dogs
is an excellent compilation. While it manages to suffer from common pitfalls of its peers, it still races ahead of the pack in terms of sheer quality and endearment. Pick it up if you’re a die-hard Pearl Jam fan. However, if you want to check the band out for the first time, I’d recommend an album such as Ten[
. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go contemplate as to what possessed me to write all this. Oh well, I suppose we all do crazy things for out favorite bands, right?