Pearl Jam as a band have had a very, very tumultuous career. I mean, just look at all the line-up changes. Theyve 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 Jams 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, Ive 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, youre still here? Fantastic. Well, lets see what weve got here.
Okay, Ive gotten the introduction out of the way, so what does that make this? Well, lets just say that what you read above was a preamble to the actual introduction. So, lets hypothesize that this is the actual intro. Oh, to hell with that: lets 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, Ive found that many collections such as Lost Dogs
generally prove why its contents remained limitedly or unreleased altogether. You wont find an exception to that rule here: Lost Dogs
features plenty of tracks that youll 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 Jams 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 Jams 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. Its 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, its 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. Its a fairly simple song; nothing groundbreaking here. Its a solid track that fits in perfectly at the slot that its placed in. Now, weve come to the first of those songs that shouldve stayed lost. Hitchhiker is just terrible. It doesnt capture any of Pearl Jams 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 youll be much happier.
Unfortunately, disc one keeps up its tirade of mediocrity with Dont Gimme No Lip. Sure, the song has plenty of that grungy attitude, but seriously, it just isnt that good. Its a passable enough track, that in the right setting, can be enjoyed; but is still easily forgettable. Ah, now were 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 Vedders greatest vocal work, mesh perfectly in a package of raw, unfettered power. The result is Alone, and its one hell of a concoction. Alone is by far one of Lost Dogs
stand-out tracks. Id even go so far as to say that its one of Pearl Jams greatest songwriting triumphs. In The Moonlight is another impressive song. Everything about this song seems to sync together with great results. Its 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 Jams 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 ones 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 isnt 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 Jams 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 Ive 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 isnt 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 youll 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, its 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. Theres 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 Jams 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 Jams 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 Jams knack for using a wide array of instruments and sounds to craft sonic delight. Its 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 Jams most commercially successful single. Its 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. Its an angst-ridden track that expresses Aments 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, its much edgier than the rest of the second half thus far. However, Dirty Frank is quite irksome, and drags on far too long. Its 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 Jams 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 its nowhere near as good. This track would be forgettable, if it didnt 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 Staleys 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 arent 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, youll 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 youre a die-hard Pearl Jam fan. However, if you want to check the band out for the first time, Id recommend an album such as Ten[
. Now, if youll 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?