Pearl Jam
No Code



by shindip USER (32 Reviews)
July 11th, 2009 | 11 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Despite seeming sprawled and unfocused, deeper insight into the album reveal it to be Pearl Jam's most interesting, intelligent work so far.

Pearl Jam
No Code
Epic Records, 1996

Pearl Jam is:
Eddie Vedder: Vocals
Mike McCready:Guitar
Stone Gossard: Guitar
Jeff Ament: Bass
Jack Irons: Drums

The album cover of 'No Code' shows a kaleidoscope of seemingly random images. There is the picture of a palestinian woman, the statue of liberty surrounded by wavy seas, as well as various pictures of what appear to be teeth, noses, and feet. While these images seem random and almost unnecessary, they serve a purpose. When one deconstructs the album package, it is revealed to be a poster covered with these images. Then it is revealed that the multiple, random images serve a purpose:

No Code's musical content is similar to the album cover in many ways. After one brief listen, it may not appear to make proper sense, and perhaps seem to be spread all over the place. After multiple listens, it soon becomes clear that each song has it's own special niche on the album. The images on the cover of No Code show a great deal of variety, as does the music within.

With their fourth album, it seems as if Pearl Jam have decided to take a much different direction. While Vitalogy had used many experimental elements and unique sound structures, it still had maintained a certain hard rock sound. With No Code, Pearl Jam have tried yet another musical direction, and possibly find their own, personal sound. This album has a very diverse range of music ranging from acoustic ballads to garage rock to worldbeat. No Code manages to take Pearl Jam to where no other band has gone before, exploring new musical directions, and pushing the boundaries between various genres and styles.

The songwriting of Eddie Vedder appears to have undergone dramatic changes from the previous three albums. Much of the anger displayed on previous albums has been erased here, to be replaced with a mixture of inspirational lyrics and songs dealing with real life experiences. Aside from the poorly written 'Mankind', it would appear that the songwriting abilities of the band have increased by twofold. 'Hail Hail' portrays a rather bitter, yet pleasing approach towards someone seeing others fall in love. 'Red Mosquito' depicts a feverish dream that Eddie Vedder underwent on the Vitalogy tour. 'Around The Bend' is meant to be a lullaby for Jack Iron's son. The songwriting here manages to be intelligent, profound, and quite impressive.

Ballads are greatly explored with this album. Album opener 'Sometimes', while short, shows gorgeous guitar interplay between Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. 'Off He Goes' follows suit, with clean electric guitar and pretty acoustic interweaving and conjoining along with the simple beat. The worldbeat influences are showcased on 'In My Tree', a strange electric ballad dealing with loneliness and a need to separate from society. The slow build up of 'Present Tense' and the soft, whispered vocals of 'Around The Bend' are reminiscent of older Pearl Jam tunes. Eddie Vedder's 'ballad' voice appears to have improved immensely, with often whispered vocal work quickly gaining in pitch and volume, then exploding with the final build up of the song.

Stone Gossard and Mike McCready seem to have established a natural balance between each other's guitar techniques. 'Sometimes' and 'Off He Goes' only show part of their experimentation with guitar interplay. Set against a backdrop of tribal drums and inspirational vocal work, the two axemen show their interesting use of effects and interplay on the mysterious 'Who You Are'. These effects are used once more on 'Red Mosquito', where Mike manages to make his guitar bark like a seal (seriously) amidst Stone's frantic acoustic picking. The more hard rock songs found here display some great riffs. 'Hail Hail', 'Habit', 'Lukin', and 'Mankind' all have catchy, distorted riffs that hold a balance between grungy and garage rock influences. The slow, chugging riff of 'Smile' is certainly an album highlight, especially when played alongside some fast, bluesy harmonica.

Similarly to Vitalogy, the experimentation found here drags the album down a notch. 'Mankind', despite it's catchy, raunchy feel, is the only song to feature Stone Gossard on vocals. This manages to crash and burn due to Stone's weak voice and poor songwriting. 'I'm Open' reeks of atmosphere and emotion, but manages to come off as strange and repetitive. The short, furious 'Lukin' can be considered filler, but enjoyable filler that provides an interesting insight on Eddie Vedder's most furious vocal performance yet.

In conclusion, No Code is a sprawling, diverse album, but an excellent one as well. The ballads and hard rock songs are as prominent as ever, and, despite some unnecessary experimentation, the songs manage to pull together into what can be described a Pearl Jam's most focused, cohesive work yet.

Recommended Tracks:

-Off He Goes:
My personal favourite Pearl Jam song, this gorgeous ballad stands out as the best song on the album. The guitar work, although fairly simple, is quite beautiful. Vedder's vocal is soft, yet awe inspiring. The songwriting is also exquisite and deals with the interesting topic of moving away from friends.
-Who You Are:
Catchy and profound, the interesting tribal beat and strange guitar manage to make this strange song sound very inspirational, and quite pleasing.
The slow, distorted riff and harmonica morph this hard rocker into a strange blues-garage-grunge hybrid. The overall effect of every instrument working together is quite enjoyable and provides an easy listen.
-Present Tense:
With a slow build up, this ballad shows Eddie at his finest, the whispered vocals growing and building up into near shouts and screams before descending back into whispering once more.
-Red Mosquito:
The shifts between soft and loud, coupled with some baffling guitar effects make this one of the most powerful songs on the album.

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user ratings (806)
other reviews of this album
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  • Arcade STAFF (2)
    Control Myself, CHAPTER 4: “Sometimes I Live, Sometimes I Cringe…”...

    YoYoMancuso (2.5)
    No Code is a transitional record and nothing more, but still an enjoyable album by a fanta...

    onlythebrave (3.5)
    Pearl Jam's fourth album, in which they experiment with worldbeat and consciously reject t...

    TPM731 (2.5)
    Like a car with a near-dead battery, No Code sputters and slowly moves ahead, but never pr...

  • Underachiever (4)
    No Code is a very good album from a very good band that sadly ended Pearl Jam's massive ch...

    joh soxe (4.5)

    Oddsen (3.5)

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 11th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Another great PJ review. I prefer to have the reasons for the recommendations in the review itself though.

July 11th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

^i just felt like doing those ;)

July 11th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, the recommended tracks bits in your other reviews were better, but other than that this is another excellent review. I don't agree though, imo the songwriting isn't as strong as previous albums and the balance is wrong.

July 11th 2009


Really good review. This album doesn't float my boat as much as Ten or Vs do, but then again nothing else they've done beats those two albums in my opinion.

July 15th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

I also love this album, "Off he Goes" and "Who you Are" are also personal favorites. But I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is PJ's most inteligent or interesting work.Perhaps their most experimental. Certainly not unfocused and with incredible ballads, as you stated

July 26th 2012


Album Rating: 2.5

fantastic review man

February 14th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is a pretty good record, just not as memorable as the band's first two.

June 13th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Giving this a second go atm, liking it more than the first time.

June 13th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The one thing that stops me from 4.5ng it is the lack of memorable guitar solos. But I definitely take this over Vitalogy.

June 14th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Red Mosquito is imo the best song on here. I finally understood this after hearing the album for the 3rd time, underrated hard.

June 14th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

this is definitely the most interesting PJ album, prob my favourite to listen to as a whole.

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