Pearl Jam
Vitalogy


4.5
superb

Review

by Jordan M. STAFF
March 17th, 2014 | 169 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

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.

However Vitalogy 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..."



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Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
March 17th 2014


6443 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

spin spin!

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2014


41414 Comments


Are you doing a Pearl Jam discog review in the MIDDLE of doing your Manics discog review?
You're a machine dude

dannyboy89
March 17th 2014


13408 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Good review, however this is my least fave PJ.



Had this been an EP with songs like Corduroy, Betterman, Nothingman,

Immortality and Tremor Christ, it would rank higher in their discog for

me, alas that is not the case.

dannyboy89
March 17th 2014


13408 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

No Code isn't all that bad, more people

need to hear Red Mosquito

imo. It's restrained as fuck though, that's

my one gripe with it. Same

goes for most of their works after this.

They're obv not for everyone.

I enjoy 'em though.

NodScene23
March 17th 2014


274 Comments


Arcade, just an accredited Pearl Jam historian.

Sciroccu
March 17th 2014


910 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album, 4 or 5 highlights but as a whole Avocado is better imo.

Sciroccu
March 17th 2014


910 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just think that there are more good songs on Avocado (9 or 10 that I really enjoy, that's a lot) but they are not as fantastic as the classic corduroy, betterman and immortality (Severed hand is close tho). As a whole I find Avocado more consistent, even if a few others (spin, nothingman)songs are enjoyable on Vitalogy.

ExcentrifugalForz
March 17th 2014


2124 Comments


"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"
-funny and true

Not For You is some of Vedder's best vocal work imo

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 17th 2014


14999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

super best pj album sweet

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2014


8181 Comments


The first paragraph of this review is completely unreadable.

"With the success the once grunge born band had now afforded themselves,"

Bands do not afford themselves success. The public may afford a band a level off success. You would be better off using 'accrued' or something similar.

"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."

WTF?! This is just a string of random words.

"and a rather nascent and post-modern acceptance of a Grammy occurring around a similar point, lead Vitalogy into artistically dark and malignant territories."

Nascent? Malignant? The secret to using a thesaurus correctly is to NOT BE OBVIOUS about using your thesaurus. Also, 'led' is the past tense of 'lead'.

greencorn5
March 17th 2014


362 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Didn't even mention Immortality, eh? It's only the best song on the damn album.

Hovse
March 17th 2014


2713 Comments


One of those bands that i cant get into

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 17th 2014


14999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yikes!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hovse
March 17th 2014


2713 Comments


I deleted my rating dont be angry baby

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 17th 2014


14999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ratings would be a silly thing to get angry about agreed

sheelanagig
March 17th 2014


56 Comments


Come on, I just love Bugs!
Really!!!

And I always have to cry hearing the Last Kiss version of Pearl Jam.

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 17th 2014


14999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bugs really is wonderful idk

WatchItExplode
March 17th 2014


6443 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bugs is the best things here agreed

Hovse
March 17th 2014


2713 Comments


Agreed about bug but its not here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bug_(Dinosaur_Jr._album)

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 17th 2014


14999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this is now a dino jr thread



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