Studies have shown a music listener is most impressionable at the age of 13. I can’t exactly remember the research and science behind it – but that was the very specific age that came through in the model. What that means is, whatever you were listening to at that time, you’ll have an irrational love for the rest of your life. While I may not have been 13 when this came out, I can say with certainty I listened to today’s featured album, and nearly exclusively alt rock, at that age.
Pearl Jam exemplifies the Seattle grunge movement. Some may argue Nirvana was the poster child for the era, but Pearl Jam certainly was essential in their own right. The band formed after Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready were trying to work on a demo tape. They asked the former drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers to join, but he declined the invitation—but thought his basketball buddy might be interested. That guy ended up being the iconic Eddie Vedder. He heard the short demo, Eddie wrote three songs he thought would coincide well with the existing vibe, sent them back to the band and a week later, he was in. The rest is history.
Pearl Jam has sold nearly 25 million albums since their debut, with today’s album Vs. coming in at over 6 million sold. It came out in October of 1993, as a follow up to the over-the-top successful, Ten. The band had decided to record the album in an oceanfront city in California, as they thought the tranquil environment would lead to less stress. Vedder hated the location, and noted it was impossible to make a hard sounding rock record in that environment. They recorded one track at a time, making sure it was just perfect before moving on to the next. A very interesting strategy that, based on numbers, clearly worked well for the band. While the pressure to make another smash hit album was intense, the band got through it, in spite of all the obstacles.
Vedder wrote the album tackling personal and political concerns at the time. He has always been a firm believer in writing songs that reflect the mood and times you’re in. Some of the more detailed topics of Vs. include: child abuse, gun culture, police racism, the media, and the life of a woman who has never left her small town. He’s stated he writes songs people can empathize with, and he hopes those that can relate, their lives feel a little better after hearing his words.
Simply put, this album is a rock staple. I’ve never been Pearl Jam’s biggest fan, but there is a lot to like about this record. It may not be the signature album like Ten was, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s very alt rock, guitar heavy, but there are a couple nice ballads on it too. For me, it almost plays start to finish like a live concert. It has amazing flow to it. Vedder is a little “screamy” at times here, but I can mostly chalk that up to the passion in which he sings his songs. Any fan of alt rock, punk rock and rock ballads will certainly find something here to enjoy.
Even if you were a full on adult and not as impressionable as me when you first heard this album, it’s still well worth a Lincoln. Eddie Vedder thanks you.