Review Summary: Control Myself, CHAPTER 3: "Shed My Skin At Last..."
Whether you liked it or not, by 1995 everyone had heard at least one Pearl Jam song. From the funky groove of “Even Flow” to the rather overplayed “Daughter”, Pearl Jam were taking up a space in the charts that was once occupied by the likes of R.E.M., U2 and other acronymically titled bands. With the success the once grunge born band had now been afforded, so too came the criticisms and rather offensive rhetoric from all quarters of the music press. Not least was this exacerbated by the then recent death of Kurt Cobain- amongst the likes of 60 Minutes
challenging the bands identity in a sociologically relevant context, many papers had come to target Eddie Vedder as the next victim of self-loathing. Needless to say, Pearl Jam were not impressed, and with boycotts of TicketMaster and a rather post-modern acceptance of a Grammy occurring around a similar point, Vitalogy
was led into artistically dark and emotionally malignant territories.
The most important aspect to establish about Vitalogy
is that this is absolutely nothing like their initial recordings. For the most part, Vs.
had purged the band of most of their rather conventional hard rock writings and with Vitalogy
the band had all but abandoned that. Sure, “Spin the Black Circle” and “Satan’s Bed” reared a few festival-goers to leap around like holistic slabs of excitement, but the focus was no longer on “Porch”-level guitar extravaganzas.
Experimental mightn't be the correct term for it, but by Vitalogy
the band had managed to expand significantly in song writing skill and ability. Tenderness for example is no longer mined in a way that could provoke asinine Bad Company comparisons, with “Nothingman” being a bleak and minimal turn on the bands established softer side. Likewise, the band tear through “Spin the Black Circle” with reckless abandon not found in many other places in the scheme of Pearl Jam. Much like Vs.
, the band stepped up and begun to write with maturity and consideration, leading to the likes of “Last Exit” and “Corduroy”, brilliantly melodic and guitar-centric documents of Vedder’s struggle with fame and the implications that he may follow Cobain’s suicide suit- mammoth “Not for You” is a less accessible but even more enjoyable riff on these themes.
However most remember Vitalogy
for its crowning achievement, the stadium anthem “Better Man”. Regardless of opinion on the readiness of the track, “Better Man” gels in a way few other Pearl Jam (let alone any artists) songs have done before. It starts in with that lullaby like state, where Vedder softly moans out bar after bar of whispering harshness. The song picks up, enters its iconic verse and propels itself into a guitar solo. Structurally, it’s hardly original, nor is it the best song on the album. However Pearl Jam managed one of the best singles as a result, with this being an experiment in simplicity gone right.
does not live up to its predecessors put down solely to its clunky and at times cumbersome deliberation on the ‘experiment’ of it. Were it not for “Last Kiss”, it’s highly likely “Bugs” would be the worst song in Pearl Jam’s history- whoever says they enjoy or feel anything from Vedder’s mumbling and that
blown out accordion is a liar, no exceptions. Other examples less “Bugs” aren’t quite as heinous but still challenge the merit of song writing- certainly, afor-mentioned “Satan’s Bed” probably could have been done without, sliding in rather generically in the scheme of things. “Tremor Christ” and “Whipping” don’t fare much better on album supposedly built on experiment, moving far too generically in structure with only inconsequential occurrences qualifying them the ‘experiment’ label.
However as myth comes to tell, Vitalogy
was unfortunately the last Pearl Jam album to really stir up emotion for quite some time- it would take more than 15 years to rectify this with Backspacer
, beginning a rather awkward journey mixed with cult classics and flat-out horrendous abominations to the Pearl Jam album. But as a far as Vitalogy
and its subsequent occurrences are concerned, the bands third record is now placed on a throne simply for what was to come- an occurrence far less exciting than the news a former Red Hot Chili Pepper was joining the band sounds.
NEXT: "Sometimes I Cringe, Sometimes I Live..."