I have a buddy who’s somewhat obsessed with Pearl Jam. Hell, he even has a PJ tattoo on his arm, and this from a dude who’s as clean cut as, well, someone who’s clean cut. Anyway, he swears Pearl Jam’s the best band to come out in the last two decades, and looking at their body of work, it’s hard to really argue his point.
But do I like them? Can I like them?
Growing up in the ’90s, I was always more partial to Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden more than Pearl Jam, who Kurt Cobain once described as a band riding the coattails of grunge to fame. Besides I had another friend obsessed with the group at that time and I figured one was enough in our group.
The Seattle band’s first two albums were great, and I listened to each regularly, but it wasn’t until Vitalogy came out that I really heard something different, something quote unquote great about the group. Here was something interesting, something different, to grasp onto.
And yet, for a variety of reasons, I lost track of the group until about two or three years ago, when I downloaded a bunch of albums and started falling in love with the b sides collection Lost Dogs. I’ve since taken to No Code and the recently self released. And saw the band perform live last year at Bonnaroo, though I missed out on the full set for reasons I’d rather not get into. Which is unfortunate, as my clean cut buddy insists they put on the best live show he’s ever seen. And countless others apparently agree, even to the point where Entertainment Magazine was calling the band the next Grateful Dead.
But there’s something in the way between Pearl Jam and a similar devotion for me. Maybe, like Phish, it’s the fan base. Maybe it’s that the band’s seminal moments came during my own seminal moments, a time in my life that I’m surprisingly not nostalgic for.
Either way, I’m giving Pearl Jam a second chance, because, after all, isn’t that what we all want for ourselves? And if I can’t give that chance to others before writing them off, how can I expect to give it to myself?
So, dear readers, where should I go from here? Should I pursue the concert albums? Studio albums? Youtube links? Biographies? The Into the Wild Soundtrack?