Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Backspacer Officially #1

This really won't surprise anyone in the Pearl Jam-verse who's been reading, well, anything on-line.  But the New York Times reports 189,000 copies sold last week, knocking Jay-Z down to the #2 slot.

All That's Sacred, Episode #20

Episode #20 is now available.

Episode #20 finds me tired, rambling, and trying to recover from my Pearl Jam week last week. And what a great week it was too! I got to meet a ton of other Pearl Jam fans and listeners to the podcast at the pre-parties and shows in both Seattle and Portland. It was a blast meeting everyone and I had a fantastic time hanging out and seeing our favorite band. Today I recount a few of my observations from these shows and spin a few tracks from past LA and Austin shows to prepare the lucky ones for these upcoming gigs – plus I threw in a This Day in PJ History tune and Six Degrees of PJ tune for good measure. We also explore new territory as suggested independently (yet simultaneously) from listeners James, Sebastian, and Andrew in a new segment where we play a song’s first live performance – or its “maiden voyage” as Ed likes to say. All of this adds up to this being the 2nd longest episode of All That’s Sacred, clocking in at 1 hour 2 minutes and 34 seconds!

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jamcast Update

Hey, gang, what's up?  We missed you while our server crashed?  You didn't need the number one Pearl Jam fan site to celebrate the release of Backspacer and Pearl Jam's shows in Seattle, did you?

I hope you didn't wait for me to tell you to check out

Given to Cast, September 22nd

Show Notes:

Music from the Seattle Night I show

Amoungst The Waves

Johnny Guitar

Unthought Known

Just Breathe

The End


All That's Sacred #19

The last two nights in Seattle have been incredible -- and lucky me, I still have Portland to look forward to! I pre-recorded episode #19 on Sunday to stay on schedule featuring songs from past Portland, Vancouver, and Utah shows to get everyone ready for these upcoming gigs. In the coming weeks, we are going to feature songs from past LA, San Diego, Austin, and Philly shows so please start sending me your suggestions for that.

Austin City Limits Confirmed!

 November 21st!

Thanks to Red Mosquito poster, bsbeamer , for catching this on Yahoo!News.

Pearl Jam's Greatest Album (Ten)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Go check 'em out.  Harrass him.  It's good fun.

The packaging has been damned. The glossy late-80's carry-over production has been bashed. The songwriting's tendency toward anthems has been mocked. Regardless, Pearl Jam's debut album remains its finest LP and the greatest album of the last two musical generations. Tenshines, taking a basic band philosophy, simple instrumentation and fundamental rock and roll song styles and transforming it all into something intense and magical. Last week I ranked the rest of my top 5 Pearl Jam albums and consider all of them masterful classics, but no collection of songs the band has produced has reached the heights of this record. Knowing that these guys had been in previous bands but had never seen any success even approaching the vicinity of what the record would result in makes listening to Ten akin to watching someone catch lightning in a bottle, not once, twice or even three times, but instead 11 times over. With a huge sound, heavy intensity and something indefinable that has carried the band from its infancy to its now mellowing middle age, Ten built the foundation upon which Pearl Jam was based, but managed to help form the house's walls, ceiling and roof, decorate and furnish its rooms and even be the smoke puffing out of its warm fireplace. Emotional, raw, powerful, majestic, anthemic, soaring, spiritual, cathartic, therapeutic and loud, Ten is Pearl Jam's most passionate and greatest album.

The discussion continues here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Backspacer Day!

If you're one of those people who can't figure out who you're going vote for until you walk into the voting booth, perhaps you need some help deciding how to get your hands on Pearl Jam's new album.  If so, TwoFeetThick and the Seattle Post Intelligencer have posted buyers' guides to help you out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Target Commercial

Still pretty busy, but I found time to watch this!

The discussion continues here.

Pearl Jam's Second Greatest Album (Vs.)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Go check 'em out.  Harrass him.  It's good fun.

When I listen to Pearl Jam's sophomore effort, 1993's Vs., I hear the sound of a band, in particular that band's lead singer, coming to terms with the force of something unexpected and somewhat terrifying, an album of pure, unfiltered reaction. Vs. was Pearl Jam's statement to the world following the massive success of Tenand the entire rise of the Seattle "grunge" movement in the early 1990's. Fans, the media, other artists, etc. have slapped labels on Pearl Jam repeatedly over the years, from the aforementioned "grunge" to "classicist/classic rock" to "arena rock" to "post-punk" to "hard rock." The band owned up to all these labels and more on their second album, a combustible attack of energy more worthy of its title than any other LP in the PJ catalogue. Pearl Jam has rocked hard on at least parts of all of its records, but Vs. easily stacks up as the hardest rocking and most aggressive release of the band's career.

The discussion continues here.

Pearl Jam on

It appears to be going on all weekend.

It's hard to believe that nearly two decades have past since Mookie Blaylock rose from the ashes of Mother Love Bone, quickly (and wisely) changing its name to Pearl Jam shortly thereafter. But since those first shows in 1990, the band has maintained a death-like grip on both its principles and its ability to bring the rock. With a new album due out on Sunday, Paste heads into the weekend with the Pearl Jam Takeover—where its all Pearl Jam, all day long. We review the new album, Backspacer, and talk to its producer, Brendan O'Brien. You can watch the Cameron Crowe-directed video for "The Fixer," take our super-impossible Pearl Jam quiz, read Stone Gossard's answers to our Twitter followers' questions and vote for your favorite Pearl Jam album in our poll. We have tour news, a guide to flannel, some news about Backspacer's cover illustrator, a list of our favorite 25 Pearl Jam tracks, an illustrated guide to help you sing like Eddie Vedder, and much more. So put on a flannel, grab a coffee and slack off like it's 1991.

Pearl Jam Talks Business on NPR

 Thanks @timmagaw for turning us onto this clip of All Things Considered, featuring Pearl Jam.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BACKSPACER! Did You Get Yours?

... I got mine.  Always pays to purchase from the  Yeah, it glows in the dark.

Sorry for the lack of updates today.  Sadly, my paying job kept me away from the computer all day.  If that didn't happen to you, you might have caught this article by TwoFeetThick about Ed's interview with Brad Wheeler of the Toronto Globe and Mail.  It's a great read whether you got your CD or not!

And You Thought the 2009 Boots Weren't Coming

I never doubted. 

Here they are!



Chicago I

Chicago II

San Francisco

The discussion continues here.

Backspacer T-Shirt

Our first look at the exclusive Target t-shirt!

Pearl Jam and Target have partnered with eco-friendly clothing designer, Loomstate, to create a limited-edition Pearl Jam Backspacer t-shirt to be sold in select Target stores beginning Sunday, September 20th.

All proceeds benefit Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. The limited-edition shirts were made in the USA and are 100 % organic cotton. The front of the t-shirt features Backspacer artwork from renowned cartoonist Tom Tomorrow.

In addition to the t-shirt partnership, Pearl Jam will donate $1 per paid ticket from their two hometown shows to Feeding America affiliate, Food Lifeline. Target will match this donation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All That's Sacred, Episode #18

Episode #18 is now available.

Backspacer’s official release is just days away and followed by a couple dates in Seattle at the Key Arena. To make sure everyone is fully prepared, episode #18 features a number of tracks from past gigs in the Emerald City. If you’re planning on going to these shows, be sure to check out the “Backspacer Bash” and Midnight Sale at the West Seattle Easy Street Records Saturday night as well as the Wishlist Pre-Parties before the shows Monday and Tuesday night. I plan attending all in some capacity so hopefully I’ll get to see some of you there!

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Tonight: Stone Gossard in Seattle

... and in case you missed it, TwoFeetThick posted an interview Stone did with 103.7FM.

Pearl Jam's 3rd Greatest Album (No Code)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Go check 'em out.  Harrass him.  It's good fun.

Emotions probably run higher about this album than anything else in the band's library. 13 years after its release, No Code remains Pearl Jam's most polarizing LP. Its sheer variety and wild arrangement are likely the reasons why many fans list it at number one, while plenty of others (like the commentator above) believe it to be the band's worse. Some (Yield advocates) cannot handle the inconsistency of the album's moods and themes, others (Ten and Vs. fanatics) are annoyed by its inaccessibility and what it did to the band's career, while many (Vitalogy folks) think the band would have been better off continuing in the dark direction of their previous record. But this is what they chose to do instead. No Code is the unsung hero of the Pearl Jam catalogue. Daring, adventurous, and honest to its core, the album is the finest example of the band writing, recording and performing without regard for the results. In other words, on this album, PJ was doing whatever the hell it wanted. After the astronomical sales of the first two albums and Vitalogy going five times platinum, No Codewas the great destroyer that tore down the entire concept of Pearl Jam up to the point of its release, only going platinum and alienating many listeners with its eclectic take on eastern, world and experimental music, along with garage, punk and classic rock, dashed with a bit of spoken word, folk and country. Sounds like a mess, huh? That mess is part of the allure of the album, an uncompromising, underrated masterpiece in the history of Pearl Jam's recordings, destined to forever fly under the radar for many and to be the quintessential cult classic for both devoted and pretentious Ten Clubbers.

The discussion continues here.

Tom Tomorrow: The Mel Duncan Interview

Mel Duncan recently sat down with Dan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow) for the Examiner to talk about his new-found Backspacer fame.

Is it good to have important friends or important to have good friends? In Dan Perkins' case, both.

Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow, his pseudonym) lost a good chunk of his income when Village Voice Media, home to a dozen papers that published his weekly political comic strip, "This Modern World," decided to stop running all syndicated cartoons.

Instead of wielding a sword, Perkins chose a pen by calling friends living in the cities with weekly alt papers affected by the cutbacks. Of of the cities was Seattle, and one of those friends was Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

Now, in a year that Perkins no doubt figured would be the usual: writing comics, working on a book, maybe upsetting a few conservatives along the way, this relatively obscure political satirist finds himself not only commenting on the news, but becoming news himself.

Between drawing the cover and liner notes for Pearl Jam's ninth studio album Backspacer, a subsequent Spin Magazine cover, and a brand new children's book (his first foray into the genre), Perkins talks with Examiner about the trials and rewards of being an indie cartoonist, his ultimate Pearl Jam mixtape, and unexpectedly finding his art in places he'd never imagine.

Read the interview here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spin To Feature Pearl Jam Cover

OK, I have to admit, I can't tell if this article from is promsing two Pearl Jam covers or three.     I think three.  The one below is apparently "too-hot-for-newstands," and subscriber only version is animated.  I guess that leaves a non-animated, newstand-friendly cover yet to be seen.

Autumn 2009 is Pearl Jam season: As the Seattle alt-rockers plow through their U.S. tour and release their ninth studio album, Backspacer, on September 20, they'll also make an appearance on the cover of our October issue, on newsstands September 22.

And, for die-hard fans, there's a special, limited edition version of our October issue featuring a 12-page portfolio of classic photographs from Pearl Jam sessions and live concerts, as well as rare behind-the-scenes moments. It also sports a too-hot-for-newsstands cover depicting Eddie Vedder flipping the middle finger. Rock!

SPIN's October issue is also arriving with two additional covers: Newsstand customers get an amazing photo of the band, taken by Rankin, while subscriber copies have an illustration of Pearl Jam on the cover, commissioned exclusively from Tom Tomorrow, the artist who crafted Backspacer's cover art! Every October issue also includes a special pull-out poster of the Tom Tomorrow illustration.

You can buy the special, limited edition version at

... and the discussion continues here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Off The Record - Yakima, WA - GO NOW!


RT @pearljam: Free limited edition orange vinyl. First one gets it. Find it at this location:

Am I right?  Off The Record in Yakima, Washington?

RT @ pearljam: more giveaways in other cities coming soon.

Pearl Jam's 5th Greatest Album (Vitalogy)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Go check 'em out.  Harrass him.  It's good fun.

From number six to number five, we jump from 2006 to 1994, from Pearl Jam's most recent release (until next week), their self-titled "Avocado" record, to their third studio album, the bizarre, unsettling and black grunge-era highlight Vitalogy. The word "experimental" has been used in reference to our number eight ranked-album, Riot Act, along with LPs still to come later in the countdown, but Vitalogy ranks as the first and strangest of all of Pearl Jam's journeys into the weird. The album was released a mere 13 months after Vs., the band's sophomore effort, but the music reflects changes that reach well beyond a year's time. Eddie Vedder's first full album as the band's musical director created an instant impact. The punk-influenced songs became punkier, there were fewer ballads and the album's entire tone was a definite and direct result of Vedder's own troubled and paranoid state of mind. Additionally, this period marks the only time in the band's history that a member has been fired and another hired in the midst of recording an album. The group has never struggled like it did throughout 1994 and '95, and Vitalogy is the recorded document of that struggle. And while Kurt Cobain took his own life after the band had written most of the material for the album, his suicide is still very present in the dark madness of most of the songs. Vitalogy is not only the music of Pearl Jam in 1994, but also the very sound of the band's exhausted, frightened collective mind at the height of its fame.

The discussion continues here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pearl Jam's 6th Greatest Album (Pearl Jam)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Go check 'em out.  Harrass him.  It's good fun.

The album was self-titled because it needed to be. No other recording the band had made up to this point had simultaneously been such a conglomeration of the various styles of Pearl Jam, while being a fully collaborative effort between every member of the band, all the while introducing the band to a new generation and re-introducing the band to its own fan base after the tired, soft darkness of its previous two albums. Pearl Jam did exactly what it needed to do. Some claimed it was too easy and therefore a reach for commercialism, while others labeled it a return to form, vintage PJ. Others thought the songwriting to be dull and bland, and some of us believed it to be some of the group's finest. For the album to receive such a wide array of praise and criticism, I figure the band must be doing something right. In the wake of "Avocado," I am anxiously awaiting the future, if only to see where this endlessly imaginative band will take us next.

The discussion continues here.

Given To Cast, 9/12/2009

The September 12th episode of Given To Cast is up.

Show Notes:

The Week in Review

Song of the Week - "Just Breathe"

Rare Song - "I must not have bad thoughts" w/ Tim Robbins

Contest Winner announcement

Extra Songs: "Who You Are', "Thumbing My Way", "Rise", The boys are back in town" (For the Cowboys fans)

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Ten VMA Performances: #4 Pearl Jam and Neil Young ranked MTV Video Music Awards performances this morning.  Pearl Jam and Neil Young made number 4!

1993 was the year of Pearl Jam at the Video Music Awards as their clip for "Jeremy" garnered a number of awards, including Best Video of the Year. So it was natural for the band to perform at the show; maybe not so natural for the band, though. They had already decided not to make any videos for their upcoming album, and decided to publicly debut a new song, "Animal" for their performance. Luckily for MTV, the band also provided Neil Young who joined them for a raucous performance of Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." But don't forget the performance of "Animal," unfortunately not included in the YouTube clip below. It's intense and powerful, and also notable for Eddie Vedder managing not to move for three solid minutes, which is impressive. But while he was certainly uncomfortable with the whole thing, Vedder still delivered a great vocal performance on both songs.

But it's "Free World" that steals the show, and rightfully so. I've come to believe that it's such a great song and such amazing rock anthem that it's probably impossible to have a bad performance of it; additionally, when you have people like Pearl Jam and Neil Young performing it, then you're probably going to have something special. That was the case in 1993 as everybody on stage delivers one hell of a performance. Although Pearl Jam were the stars of the awards portion of the evening, "Free World' belonged to Young on this night as he infuses it with plenty of passion and gives a lesson in guitar playing. The whole group destroying the microphone stand and the guitar amps made for a fitting end to a spirited performance that remains one of the best not only from the Video Music Awards, but one of the better ones I can remember from Pearl Jam.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Well, is pretty much the authority.

Pearl Jam - Backspacer leaked, due out September 22nd.

The discussion continues here.

[NOTE: A reminder to our posters.  It is against forum rules to ask for or offer downloads or links to Backspacer.]

Paste Magazine to Interview Stone

... and you can submit questions via twitter: @pastemagazine

RT @pastemagazine Send us your questions for @PearlJam guitarist Stone Gossard & we'll give you his answers on 9/18.

Backspacer: The TSIS Review

To jump right to the end, Pearl Jam knocked this one out of the park.  It’s obviously way too early to tell how these songs will age (S/T did not age well), and what will strike a long term chord once the novelty wears off, but for the first time in a LONG time (if I exclude the art tracks in Vitalogy this would go all the way back to Ten for me) Pearl Jam has released a record where every song is pretty good to great.  They flow together beautifully, and the band almost never misses a note. Even the songs that I don’t love do what they’re supposed to do—it’s just that what they’re supposed to do doesn’t necessarily appeal to me.  It’s definitely a record by a band with a long history—almost every song harkens back in part to something that’s come before, but in a way that sounds familiar and comfortable rather than repetitive.  They’re also trying enough that’s new that the record feels very fresh without really deviating much beyond the conventional 2-3 guitars, drum, bass format (BoB does do a really nice job dressing up a bunch of these songs though).  The whole album has a bit of an 80s/New Wave feel to it which helps give it that feeling of newness.


I’d recommend listening to Release and In Hiding before listening to Backspacer, since both of these songs help frame what the record is trying to accomplish. More on this in a moment.


With Backspacer I think we can officially divide Pearl Jam’s career into two arcs, with Backspacer closing the second chapter.  We’re all familiar with the first chapter.  Ten, Vs, and Vitalogy are angry, forceful records, with betrayal as the theme uniting all three.  They are rebellions against a lost inheritance, a lost promise, the corruption of love, trust, and even purity.  No Code and Yield are the redemption components of that cycle.   We close this chapter with Yield, but it doesn’t end the story.  As we’ve seen in the records that follows, Yield’s catharsis and closure doesn’t hold.  It’s not even clear that it held on during the record itself.  With the exception of Given To Fly and Wishlist these are songs about running and hiding, ducking confrontation. Hell, it’s even in the title of the record, and I never noticed this until I started listening to Backspacer. Yield provides an illusion of resolution, and thinking back on this it should have been apparent as soon as we heard Binaural, which begins the second chapter of this story.


Thanks to Red Mosquito, I finally got introduced to Nick Cave, and my favorite song on his most recent record features the following verse


“Oh rampant discrimination, mass poverty, third world debt, infectious disease

Global inequality and deepening socio-economic divisions

Well, it does in your brain

And we call upon the author to explain”


Pearl Jam was always defined by confrontation, and the solution we found in Yield was never going to hold.  Binaural is a closed, claustrophobic, almost haunted record.  It’s trying to fight an enemy it cannot name or even see, but just about every song is trying to confront something—war, death, society, and above all else loss—without ever quite managing to get a handle on it.  It’s a frightened record, in part because it resets the journey that seemed to have worked itself out in Yield.  Riot Act personifies this terror in the figure of George W. Bush, and his weight oppresses that entire record, adding a burden almost impossible to bear.  The band finds its footing on S/T and tries to fight back, and the conviction is there, but in retrospect (like Yield) it is the illusion of conviction, or conviction without conclusion.  The willingness to fight is there, but it’s a fight that they don’t necessarily expect to win, and so the burdens are there, and the grandiose statement that is supposed to end the album ends up falling flat.


Backspacer finishes this journey.  Bush is all over this record, present in the form of a conspicuous absence.  Eddie said in numerous interviews that writing after Bush felt different, and we see the results here.  This is a profoundly free and unburdened record, the first in what is just about a twenty year career. It’s fun (FUN?!), loose, and utterly comfortable in its own skin.  It’s a victory lap.  In 1991 Pearl Jam closes out Ten with Eddie begging for release.  It is one of the most powerful moments in their catalogue, and incredibly cathartic, but for the listener, not for the singer.  It’s a desperate wish, one that he spent 20 years waiting to be answered.  There was an attempt to finally let go on Yield, but I think In Hiding really encapsulates the failure of that attempt.  Even on top of the lyrics (which are about the need to escape—which is not a permanent solution since sooner or later you have to come back—you have to emerge) the feel of the song itself reveals the lie.  He’s trying to convince himself that everything is fine, and the song musically is meant to be simple (compared to the much busier anthems of earlier records), but the simplicity in the end doesn’t quite work.  There is still too much weight bearing down on the skeleton of this song, and he’s still suffering underneath it.


You can hear it almost from the start of Backspacer that this time is different.  The world has changed, and Eddie has grown, enough that he (and the rest of the band) have finally set down their burdens.  It may be that the weight of Bush is gone (I suspect his legacy will return in future records), it might be the presence of permanent joy in his life (children), or it could be something entirely different, but the person (and the band) performing on this record is just so much freer than they’ve ever been.  The songs are not overlong and get right to the point.  They don’t fear conclusions (although there are still too many god damned fade outs). They’re not afraid to have fun.  While everyone does a great job (Matt and Jeff really shine throughout, especially) the real hero of this record is Eddie, and I think we have Into the Wild to thank for quite a bit of this.  Eddie’s voice will never regain the power that it had 15 years ago, but here he’s fully embraced his talent for melody, and just about every song has such a wonderful sense of movement about it.  He propels the record along with craft since he can no longer get by on power.  Plus he finally commits himself to what each song truly needs, and is alternately soaring, naked, aggressive, or playful as the song requires. This is excellent work performed by an incredibly limber craftsmen.


Okay—onto the songs themselves:


Gonna See My Friend:  The way this song just explodes calls to mind Brain of J or Breakerfall, but the vocal melody here is just killer (much better than those two songs, although Brain of J has a better riff), and there’s a looseness to it (not in the playing, which is tight, but the overall feel of the song) that makes it playful and celebratory in the way that those songs (which are apocalyptic and judgmental) are not.  They figured out how to have Eddie use his screaming go-for-broke voice  in a song that makes you smile.  This is the kind of song that David Grohl has been trying and failing to write since he formed the Foo Fighters.  I love the ending.  Even though the obvious comparisons are to Brain of J and Breakerfall because they’re openers, you can hear a lot of Habit in this song (although this is a much better song), if habit was a celebration.

Got Some:  I love how propulsive this one is right off the bat, and Matt and Jeff really shine here.  A few people have commented that the song sounds a little robotic.  I think I’d say thin, but I know what you mean.  The slower parts of the song sound like they’re waiting to be filled in, but the song really picks up steam once it gets past the ‘got some if you need it’ parts.  The backing vocals were a nice touch—understated but they make the song richer. What’s interesting here is how this manages to sound dirty and clean at the same time.  Excellent outro. The beginning and the end are the best parts of the song. Overall I think this is probably the weakest of the opening 1-2-3 punch (the other two songs sound fuller) but keep that comment in context.  All three tracks are very good.  I wonder if supersonic would have worked better here instead of Got Some (and move Got Some to later in the record), or just have Johnny guitar serve as the third song. 


Eddie’s little growl/moan/whatever it is at the beginning is pretty unnecessary. Not sure why it’s there.


The Fixer:  I’ve already talked about this at length so I won’t say that much here, except to say that this, along with Amongst the Waves, one of the most important tracks on this record (that doesn’t mean it’s the best, which it isn’t). But it is very very good.  Infectious, upbeat, deceptively simple (this will be one of those songs filled with little discoveries), I think even people who were not crazy about it will like it more in the context of the record.  The lyrics get a lot of undeserved grief because of one clunky line, but they’re well written (complexity does not equal quality) and the help capture what’s at stake with this record—starting over, letting go, and in the process recapturing what was lost (what Yield was missing). ‘Fight to get it back again’ may be the most important lyric on Backspacer. 


Johnny Guitar:  I feared another Love Boat Captain with this one, and  every time I listen to this I’m kinda shocked by just how good this one is.  This is quite possibly the best thing Matt’s written for the band, Matt and Eddie channeling Bruce Springsteen and Mark Knopfler.  I’m not sure they could have written a song this playful and fun (these words keep coming up, but they’re the ones that make sense) before Backspacer.  What’s remarkable about this song is that it’s a song about being profoundly disappointed, but instead of wallowing in it they celebrate all of our absurd fantasies.  Ten years ago they tried to write light and fun and gave us U and Leatherman.  Here we got Fixer and Johnny Guitar.   What a difference.

On an album full of great vocal melodies this one might be the best.

Just Breathe:  If the best vocal melody isn’t in Johnny Guitar it’s in the verses of Just Breathe  Eddie just floats along so gracefully here.  Vocally there are a few places where he’s just a touch too nasely for me, but otherwise this is an excellent vocal performance. He sounds old, but he’s not weighed down by it.  He sounds delicate, but confident, lived in, but dignified.


This could have been a song that the band could have overdone, but everyone combines to make this lush instead of crowded.  I hope that R.E.M. covers this someday, because this takes me back to Out of Time


Lyrically this one seems pretty strong.  One of my concerns with a few post Vitalogy.   Eddie lyrics is that I didn’t quite buy the wisdom he was offering—at times it could come across as trite and clich├ęd.  He’s starting to figure out how to pull it off.


We’ve got a few songs on here dealing with death (Just Breathe, Supersonic, and The End) but they’re all animated by a sense of just how blessed the singer is, how hard it is to let go of a life as full of miracles as his has been.  So this song is reflective, and content despite it all.  It’s not really a goodbye as much as it is a chance to make sure everything that needs to be said gets said so there won’t be any regrets later 5 years ago this would have been Thumbing My Way, and it wouldn’t work.  Imagine a lyric like ‘practice all my sins, never gonna let me win’ on Riot Act.  Actually we don’t have to.  It’s in All or None, but the delivery and the context completely transform the meaning.


I was apprehensive about the chorus of this song, and it is still a little overwrought (certainly the part of the song I like the least) but it works, especially since this song is ultimately a thank you to the people in his life he cares the most about.  He’s entitled, and the over the topness of the beginning is softened by how well it segues back into the verses..


Amongst the Waves:  A very good song that is middle of the pack for Backspacer, which speaks to the depth of this record. The simple riff at the beginning puts me in mind of In Hiding (although I like this one a lot more—better lyrics and a much better melody) but thematically it’s much closer to Given To Fly.  In theory Pearl Jam should be able to write a song like this in their sleep, but for whatever reason they usually shy away from doing it. They tend to poison their mid tempo anthems so that they stay grounded (Compare Light Years to its earlier incarnation as Puzzles and Games). It’s such a relief to see them follow through on one for a change.  This isn’t the best riff they’ve ever written, but the band really embraces the song and the whole thing is carried by an almost formless energy.  I’ve listened to Amongst the Waves a few times now and I’m not sure I could hum the music but I know I really like what I’m hearing. 


I think I could have gone for a slightly more involved outro—the best pearl jam anthems take you high and then hold you at the peak for a while. This song has that peak, but it doesn’t leave me there.  Mike’s solo in the middle is pretty good, but I’m not sure how well it fits here.  It sounds like it should be part of a darker song than this one. 


I’m really looking forward to getting the lyrics to this one—some nice lines in what I’ve heard so far.


As an aside, in a lot of these songs the verses are catchier than the chorus (like here, for instance). Usually it’s the opposite.


Unthought Known:  This may be the best song on an excellent record.  It starts out simple but has that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ style build with more and more getting added as the song progresses leading to an incredible build.  The very best songs (like the best experiences) will have that moment when your step quickens, your heart starts to beat faster, you can’t help but smile, and you’re just carried away on the energy of the moment.  Unthought Known pulls that off.  This is a classic Pearl Jam anthem in the best sense of the word, the kind that just leaves you with a feeling of release, the confidence that everything is going to be okay.  Eddie and the rest of the band just let this song carry them away and this one SOARS before gently returning to earth.  There are a few places where Backspacer channels the promise of Given to Fly, but it never fulfills it more than here.


There’s already been some question as to what the “Dream the dreams of other men and you’ll be no one’s rival” lyric means.  On the face of it this can cut a few ways, and my first time hearing it I took it as a call for people to assert themselves, to dream.  If you limit yourself to what others think of you you’ll never realize the potential within you. You’ll be no one’s rival because there will be nothing within you for others to be jealous of or threatened by.  But others have argued that it should be taken as a call for empathy—imagine others as they see and understand themselves and you’ll be able to bridge the barriers that separate us.  The lyric right before it “see the waves on distant shores awaiting your arrival” makes me lean towards the first interpretation, but they both work.  The last lyric in the song “so whatcha giving?” works for both though.  Empathy and human potential are equally worthy gifts.


The last lyric doesn’t help I’m leaning towards the second since it is more in line with the general tenor of their music, but they both work.


Supersonic:  This is the low point of the record for me, but having said that it’s still a decent song, and it answers the burning question in every Pearl Jam fan’s mind—what would have happened if Eddie had sang mankind.  Now we know


The resemblance to Mankind is unfortunate, since I’m not a fan of that song and it starts the song out with a strike, but it’s a pretty good riff and the song is catchy.  It’s maybe a little too slick and bright for me—too much pop punk here, but it is a fun little rave up and there are certainly parts that I find myself singing along to (Cut the crease, put the shit in the hole). 


The problem is that this may be a little too light, given how weighty (which is not the same thing as burdened) the record really is from Just Breathe straight through to The End. The transition into Speed of Sound doesn’t quite work for me either. Since it’s such a short record it takes some time to build that sense of expectation and importance back up.  I can’t help but feel like this is exactly what a b-side should be—fun, energetic, worth listening to on occasion, but not really belonging on the record.  But to be fair to Supersonic, it’s well crafted.  It just happens to be a well crafted example of a song style I don’t really go for.


The bridge is a great, bluesy mini jam that reminds me a bit of the Marker Bridge, something cool, and probably worth constructing a song around, but it doesn’t really get with the song that surrounds it.


Speed of Sound:  I can’t get my mind around this one.  I had gotten pretty used to the demo (which I liked but didn’t love) and this sounds so different the whole song feels sort of alien.  The music adds to that as well.  The song has an alt-country Off He Goes feel to it, but there’s so much busy stuff surrounding it that I find myself removed from what would other be an extremely intimate song (especially the lyrics).    This song has ADD.


Thematically this one picks up where Just Breathe left off, taking stock of life and pondering mortality, trying to figure out how to just stop and enjoy what’s happening while everything is passing by so fast.  The music gives the song a more frantic (as opposed to reflective) urgency then the demo had, but again it’s so cluttered I’m not quite sure what mood it’s trying to develop.


This would be second up from the bottom for me. The only song on Backspacer I like less is Supersonic, but I still like this one. I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do with this one.   If you’re still reading this far you know I don’t usually have trouble talking about Pearl Jam (I may get it wrong, but I have something to say) and I’m just stymied here.  I look forward to the day when this one clicks.


Force of Nature:  I was really looking forward to this one, and while it did not disappoint it was not what I was expecting either. I figured this would be Amongst the Waves II, and was surprised with how muscular it ended up being.  It’s got a really cool deep crunch to it.  This song is bad ass, and you don’t find many bands outside of Pearl Jam who can write heavy songs like this without sacrificing lyrical depth.  I’m only starting to unpack this one but I am expecting this to be the lyrical highpoint not only of this record, but possibly going all the way back to Binaural (or further).   And kudos to eddie for writing an entire song about storms without ever using the word waves.


More than any song on the record this one recalls early (Ten/Vs) era Pearl Jam, for its power and its stubborn defiance, but it’s tempered by years of experience and maturity.  Right now Unthought Known is my favorite thing on this record, but ask me in a month it could very easily be this one.


My favorite Mike part on the record is probably his  playing during the outro


The End:  This one lived up to its expectations, and this is their best closer since Immortality (sorry Parting Ways)  Eddie has never sounded more vulnerable, and the juxtaposition between the immediacy of his vocals, the simplicity of the strumming, and the cinematic quality of the background orchestration is pretty stunning.   


There’s more texture in Eddie’s performance here than in almost anything else he’s done.  He so fully inhabits this it almost feels like spying.  Almost every line has some striking inflection or moment.  The way he has that deep break when he sings “slide” was my favorite until the hushed end of the song, especially the gasp underneath the final lyric.  WoW


Lyrically this is the dark side of the Just Breathe/Speed of Sound/The End thematic trilogy.  The music is peaceful but the performance and the lyric are desperate, begging and clinging.  It’s nice to hear a song like this about NOT letting go for once.  “I just want to hold on and know I’m worth your love”—what a great lyric.  The highpoint of the song


But as great as this song is the most striking part of it might be the sudden stop.   It’s frustrating because the song is so good but it’s how this one HAD to end, and there are worse ways a record can end than leaving you wanting more.



Early rankings (I’m not going to give songs 5s and I’m trying, as much as possible, to control for the new album excitement.  I want to give Got Some and Amongst the Waves 4s but that might be the newness talking)


Gonna See My Friend: 4/5

Got Some: 3.5/5

The Fixer: 4/5

Johnny Guitar: 4/5

Just Breathe: 4/5

Amongst the Waves: 3.5/5

Unthought Known: 4.5/5

Supersonic: 3

Speed of Sound: 3

Force of Nature: 4.5/5

The End: 4.5/5


I tend to overvalue PJ records when they first come out since they’re so new, but I don’t know if I ever liked an album of theirs as much on the first listen.  I can’t call this a masterpiece or rank it next to other albums in a meaningful way just yet, but this is an excellent record that closes a dark decade on a soaring, uplifting note—an album the band could not have written ten years ago, if ever, and one that was well worth the wait.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pearl Jam's 7th Greatest Album (Binaural)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.  Of course, as he moves up the rankings, he has more and more to say about each album.  I guess he's getting more excited with the build up.  I'll cut back to excerpts rather than repost the full article.


While Riot Act is Pearl Jam's most hated and likely most controversial album to date, Binaural is the band's most underrated and forgotten, the lost little gem that fell between the cracks. It rarely reaches fans' Top 5 lists, and is likely the least played album live since its 2000 tour. But like every other Pearl Jam album, something special lurks beneath its surface. While it is ranked second-to-last here, it easily sits atop of my list of most improved PJ albums, growing on me with each listen, always revealing something new, daring and complex...especially if I am wearing my headphones.


The discussion continues here.

Pearl Jam To Be Honored by the Surfrider Foundation


Click here for more information.  Tickets will run you $200 for general admission and $250 for VIP.

Thanks to Red Mosquito poster, Nightbird, for catching this.

The discussion continues here.

Backspacer To Be Released As an iTunes LP

Backspacer is slated to be released via iTunes as an iTunes LP.  It's a new format touted as, "The visual experience of the record album returns with iTunes LP.  Get a gorgeous, immersive digital version of select albums -- right in your iTunes library.  So while you listen to your favorite songs by your favorite artist, you can also dive into beautifully animated lyrics and liner notes, performance videos, and artist and band photos, and more."

If you squint really hard at the ad below, you can see that your choices are Explore Songs, Tracklist, Photos, Videos, Credits, and More.  Do you plop down $10 more bucks to see what kind of content iTunes is offering?  If you're a hardcore fan, experience tells me that you won't be getting anything new, but we won't know unless someone tries it out!

Thanks to Red Mosquito poster, sildogg, for the catch.

The discussion continues here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TSIS Catches Up With TFT

Sorry for the slam of posts in the evenings, but the day job is invading on my blogging.  Something about not doing free blogging on unapproved sites on work computers during work hours.

That being said, there are a few things that have been going on at TwoFeetThick since I've been busy that you need to check out.

Backspacer Press Round Up: Thanks, Kathy, for the nifty bullet list.

-2 interview excerpts from Canadian website

-Reviews from: Mojo, Q, Uncut, Kerrang!, Spin, Spiegel

-Video link: Ed and Matt talk to Germany’s 3 Sat

Teraz Rock Interview (with Mike and Matt)

MTV Interviews Mike about the Beatles (What?  You didn't know that today was Beatles Day?)

Pearl Jam's 8th Greatest Album (Riot Act)

I didn't rank them.  I'm just passing the word on from Charles Peelle's Examiner posts.


8. Riot Act, 2002 - Pearl Jam's darkest album emerged in the Autumn of 2002 as the strongest musical statement produced since George W. Bush took office nearly two years prior, and certainly the boldest protest against Bush since the events of September 11, 2001. The other troubling theme that formed the album's foundation was death, specifically due to the tragedy at the 2000 Roskilde Festival in Denmark, in which nine audience members were trampled to death during Pearl Jam's performance. Due to the heavy subjects at hand, the music resounds in a similarly heavy fashion, nearly every song carrying ponderous emotional and spiritual weight, both musically and lyrically. Even the album's artwork is dark, nearly every single page largely carrying the color black. The result is a downtrodden, mournful and anti-pop recording, a document of the time and clairvoyant vision of the political future.

The music on Riot Act has been described as having "folk, art rock and experimental" (wikipedia, influences, but the music Pearl Jam has always and forever based its sound around is the broad realm of Classic Rock, i.e. nearly every rock derivative under the sun. Riot Act features no more folk, art rock, or experimental flourishes than Vitalogy, and carries just as much of the less discussed punk and hard rock influences as any other Pearl Jam album. While the forms utilized on this album cannot aptly be described as fitting within the "progressive rock" realm, the songwriting is always a personal progression for PJ with each album.

There is a variety of music on Riot Act, but each of the 15 songs is underscored by a somber, pained tone. It seems as though whenever the music brightened up, Eddie Vedder felt the need to bring it back down with black lyrics or highly restrained singing and whenever the lyrics and singing climbed to anything resembling an uplifting or hopeful state, the band automatically brought the musical themes crashing back down to a murky, dank hole.

While the Bush administration takes the lead role in tracks such as "Green Disease," "1/2 Full" and obviously "Bushleaguer," the centerpiece of the album is the sense of loss, resignation, and the rare, cautious hope found in "Thumbing My Way," "I Am Mine," "Can't Keep," "All Or None" and "Love Boat Captain." These songs, in my opinion, form the backbone of the album due to their lyrics being more direct and potent than any of the rest of the album’s tracks, as well as their compositions carrying the greatest weight. They deliver the classic Pearl Jam sound while somehow simultaneously lifting the band to new places and introducing new angles into our vision of what PJ truly is. “Can’t Keep” opens the album as a release of lost souls ("I don't live forever, you can't keep me here"), while "Thumbing My Way" ("I turned my back, now there's no turning back") and "All Or None" ("I'm starting to believe that this hopeless situation is what I'm trying to achieve") feature a lonely, lost traveler bearing the weight of the heart-broken world. “I Am Mine" and “Love Boat Captain” are the most optimistic songs on the album, directly addressing the Roskilde tragedy through a brighter lens, the former a declaration from Eddie to himself, his band and the fan base that, "there's no need to hide...we're safe tonight," the latter a sincere devotion to the power of the human spirit over the horrible disease of death: "Once you hold the hand of love, it's all surmountable." (Side note: "Love Boat Captain" is even more special for a couple of reasons - A) The introduction of Boom Gaspar, and B) the obvious, beautiful influence of John Lennon)

"You Are," one of Pearl Jam's most unique songs, is a Matt Cameron composition featuring lyrics by Cameron and Vedder and trippy processed guitars envisioned and played by Cameron. The lyrics, like "Love Boat Captain," tackle the concept of love and its healing and empowering abilities in lines such as, "Love is a tower of strength to me." Another Cameron song, "Cropduster," mirrors the effective choppy chord progression and drum loops of a Cameron Lost Dog, "In the Moonlight," but improves the style due to a more fully developed sound and song and Vedder's insightful lyrics regarding the arrogance of mankind in the 21st century. "Save You" is a full group collaboration that rocks the house every time. While the band plays a sped up version live, the studio outing is powerful in its own right. Vedder's lyrics tackle the subject of watching a loved one disintegrate, likely due to the use of drugs. There is nothing quite like the indignantly angry Eddie Vedder, determined to set right some things in the world that have just gone off the correct path.

Most of the rest of the album is scattershot and features some of Pearl Jam's weakest recordings to date, specifically in the form of "Ghost," "Get Right," and "Help Help." Let us just say that as a composer, Riot Act was not bassist Jeff Ament's finest moment. These three songs are not bad, per se; they just fail to live up to the rest of the brilliance of the rest of the album's tracks. The true realization of Pearl Jam's genius arrives when considering that these three songs still feature moments of awe, i.e. the chorus of "Ghost," the outro and guitar work in "Get Right" and the middle eight and outro of "Help Help." However, while b-sides "Down" and "Undone" certainly would not have fit the tone of the album with their shimmering, up-tempo pop/rock qualities, they easily stand as superior songs to the bottom rung of the L.P.

The only track left to mention is "Arc," Eddie Vedder's wordless, moaning chant. It features nine "arcs" for each of the nine victims of the Roskilde tragedy. A beautiful tribute from Vedder, the track often goes overlooked and under appreciated, even by the most devoted of Pearl Jam fans. Due to its significance, meaning and Vedder's incredible, layered vocals, it stands as a masterful achievement in Pearl Jam's career.

While Riot Act is dead last in my Pearl Jam album rankings, it still has a special spot of its own in my heart. After all, it was Riot Act that carried me through college, teaching me how ballsy this group is and demonstrating the band's depth. Vedder's lyrics proved to be unfortunately accurate in predicting the future, as most of them pre-dated the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq by at least a half a year, some of them longer. The Riot Act tour was when I got to see my first PJ show, and still ranks as one of my all-time favorite years of the band, both personally and professionally. By year's end, I had bought a huge stack of the tour's bootlegs, including the daring and lengthy State College, Mansfield and Madison Square Garden shows. While the band's instruments and Mr. Vedder's voice may have sounded tired and distressed on Riot Act, everyone was wide awake to play the songs live, instilling every track with new life and an inviting, vital force.


The discussion continues here.

Get Thee to iTunes (Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan)

The Ten Club has released international websites for pre-ordering Backspacer from iTunes.






50 Things To Hear This Fall

Sorry for the bump, Donny.

Backspacer is one of Time Magazine's 50 Things to See, Hear, and Do this Fall

Their days as a phenomenon are long past, but Pearl Jam have settled comfortably into their role as rock's almost-mature pros. The songs here are built on hooks, covered with guitar fuzz, and then trimmed back a bit so the melody abides. Nothing revolutionary, butBackspacer provides an adrenaline jolt that shouldn't be underestimated either. —Josh Tyrangiel

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charles Peelle Begins His Album Countdown (Lost Dogs)

After following Charles Peelle's outrageously rich and interactive ranking of over 160 Pearl Jam songs, we were intrigued.  Clearly, a deeply-rooted Pearl Jam fan, Charles has earned our attention for his ranking of Pearl Jam's studio albums.  Though he declines to rank it, he starts with Lost Dogs.


Before we dive into the actual countdown and ranking of Pearl Jam's eight studio albums, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate a day to the non-album of PJ's career, the obese b-sides compilation, 2003's Lost Dogs. I did not incorporate it into the album ranking because it is not a proper album and certainly does not fit the description of L.P.s above.


Lost Dogs, 2003

After (at that point) seven studio albums, those of us who were new to Pearl Jam obsession and did not have a collection of all the Holiday singles and unreleased material were astonished to discover how much unreleased material the band had to present for their b-sides and rarities compilation. But what was even more remarkable was the overall quality of these songs. Lost Dogs is the conceptual equivalent of Vedder favorite The Who's 1974 compilation Odds & Sods, but is a far superior release. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from claimed that the double album, "does define their spirit, which is why, against all odds, it's the best album Pearl Jam has yet released." While I almost resentfully disagree with that assertion, it is nonetheless a huge compliment to the band that their b-sides would be called such.

Out of Lost Dogs' 31 songs, at least half would have been album highlights had they been released on the L.P.s that came out of their sessions. The cream of the crop are among Pearl Jam's finest songs ever, including "Sad," "Wash," "Footsteps," "Hard to Imagine," "Down" and "Yellow Ledbetter." Ironically (and frustratingly), the song that had the most success out of this collection was "Last Kiss," one of the most boring songs of the band's entire catalogue. It was actually PJ's highest-charting single, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999.

Lost Dogs features little to no flow, as the songs were written and recorded during varying eras. The one section of the album that does seem to meld together beautifully is the first half to two-thirds of disc two, a magnificent view into the meditative nature of the band that could hold up against nearly any portion of any Pearl Jam album. Its tone is dark and somber, featuring songs about death, approaching death, filth, winter, etc. Due to Vedder's soaring vocals during parts such as, "Things were different" from "Hard to Imagine" and screams during the coda of "Wash," the songs somehow manage to not kill the listener's spirit. The songwriting of the band is on full display here and also take some of the edge off of the music, reminding us how brilliant these guys really are.

There are plenty of weird and silly outtakes as well, such as the surf rocker, "Gremmie Out of Control," the cock rock of "Don't Gimme No Lip" and the grisly tale of a bus driver-turned serial killer, "Dirty Frank." But these strange detours serve as reminders of the band's tendency to travel out of its comfort zone and always challenge itself to try new things, even if those things are not popular, catchy or accessible. Overall, Lost Dogs is a wonderful example of what the band did outside of the themes and concepts of its albums over the years, a journey through every facet of Pearl Jam's personality. Its simple pop-fueled rock, punk attitude, Who-inspired instrumental breaks, funny and strange experiments, "grunge"-styled anthems, mournful ballads and sheer classics are all here and all worthwhile.


The discussion continues here.