Review Summary: With Vs., Pearl Jam gets what took so many grunge bands a while to master: explosive and FOCUSED energy.
After Ten, Pearl Jam’s hugely successful debut album, expectations for Vs. were massive. Vs. sold nearly 1 million albums in its first week released, but many fans of Ten were actually disappointed. Many were looking for the echoey, polished sound that is present in Ten, when Vs. is much harder and raw. I love Ten, but in my opinion, Vs. is even better. Pearl Jam proved that they weren’t going to cash in on Ten remakes, but that they were going to make music that they wanted. Vs. has an explosive and focused energy that in my opinion shows that they were better than their contemporaries Nirvana and Soundgarden, whose sound had yet to mature.
Eddie Vedder- vocals
Mike McCready- guitar
Stone Gossard- guitar
Jeff Ament- bass
Dave Abruzzese- drums
“Go” starts the album fast, with a charging bass line and sudden explosions of McCready’s and Gossard’s shredding riffs. Add a screaming guitar solo and Eddie ripping his vocal chords apart, and already you have a feeling of what Vs. is all about. The song crashes into silence, and seconds later, when you think you’ll get a break, “Animal” thunders in with a pounding, monstrous riff. “Animal” demands that you bang your head and play your imaginary guitar. The only song that can come close to the shear power and emotion of this song is the classic “Even Flow” from Ten. Perfectly placed in the album, “Daughter” is a great song that lets you calm down a bit. Eddie takes it easy on the vocals this time, and one of the guitar boys plays a nice and quick acoustic that gives the song a smooth and encouraging feeling. “Glorified G” is all about big, intense guitar riffs and catchy lyrics: “Got a gun, fact I got two, that’s ok man cause I love God!”
“Dissident” is another one of my favorite songs, featuring more lyrics that make you sing along whether you know what you’re saying or not. “W.M.A.” is driven by an irresistible bass line and crazy drums. Every member of Pearl Jam is exceptionally skilled and gets his chance to shine, making this album even better. “Blood” simply blasts your ear drums from the get go. You can seriously hear Eddie’s poor larynx about to give out by the end of the song. When the song isn’t buffeting your brain, you hear a sweet Hendrix-like guitar. Play the beginning of Voodoo Child and hear the similarities. It is definitely the most pumped up song on the album. “Rearviewmirror” is another great rocker that has a nice and perhaps sad feeling to it.
At first I hated “Rats”, and it’s lyrics are less than inspired, but thanks to the aptness of the McCready/Gossard guitar duo, I learned to love it. After a sweet solo halfway through, the song explodes into a simple and huge riff that makes the song great. Now comes perhaps my favorite acoustic song of all time, which we will call “Elderly Woman” for sake of me not wanting to type the rest of the ridiculous title. It really is a simple song instrumentally, what makes the song great is Eddie’s sonorous, heart-felt vocals: “Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away”. The song livens up my day no matter what my mood is. Next is “Leash”, which is just plain awesome. The guitars and bass are top-notch while Eddie and others scream “Drop the leash, drop the leash”, “F*** the leash!, F*** the leash!” This song is obviously about the young and spirited, and screwing whoever is holding them back (probably the government, from what I know of Pearl Jam). Last is “Indifference”, which is nothing like the other songs. An organ shimmers in the back ground while Eddie sings lyrics about giving up hope, which is really depressing compared to the huge energy of the rest of the album.
Vs. is in my humble opinion one of the very best albums of the 90’s. I know I sound like a fanboy (maybe I AM a fanboy), but this album is absolutely overwhelming.
Highlights: Animal, Dissident, Elderly Woman.