Buyer’s Guide

Pearl Jam

Classic Rock - - Contents -

Dis­missed by many as grunge in­ter­lop­ers, they’ve out­writ­ten, out-sold and out­lived most of those de­trac­tors.

Pearl Jam are grunge’s great sur­vivors. Un­like Nir­vana, Soundgar­den, Al­ice In Chains and the other ma­jor bands from the Seat­tle scene’s grad­u­at­ing class of 1991, they’ve never gone away, ei­ther per­ma­nently or tem­po­rar­ily. And while they’ve en­dured their share of trau­mas – not least the deaths of so many friends and con­tem­po­raries – they’ve rid­den them out.

But then re­silience is part of Pearl

Jam’s DNA. They were born in tough cir­cum­stances: gui­tarist Stone Gos­sard and bas­sist Jeff Ament were pre­vi­ously mem­bers of Mother Love Bone, whose ca­reer had barely got out of the traps when singer An­drew Wood fa­tally OD’d.

They turned their grief into hope, chan­nelling it into mul­ti­mil­lion-sell­ing de­but al­bum Ten, only to be dis­par­aged by the gate­keep­ers of cool as grunge fifth colum­nists. Much of the scorn was directed at singer Ed­die Ved­der, the San Diego surf rat seen as an in­ter­loper in the in­su­lar north-west scene. His rich bari­tone and heart-on-sleeve sin­cer­ity sat at the op­po­site end of the spec­trum to Kurt Cobain’s weaponised irony and punk-rock sneer.

The de­ri­sion didn’t dent Pearl Jam’s rise – their se­cond al­bum, 1993’s Vs., sold nearly a mil­lion copies in its first week. But Ved­der in par­tic­u­lar hated their suc­cess. The band pushed back hard against it, re­fus­ing to make videos or be in­ter­viewed.

By late 90s the in­san­ity was start­ing to fade and things had re­verted to some­thing ap­proach­ing nor­mal­ity. Their record sales were a frac­tion of what they once were – 1998’s Yield sold a mil­lion copies com­pared, to Ten’s even­tual 13 mil­lion

– and you sus­pect no one was hap­pier about that than Pearl Jam.

There were still hard times to en­dure, not least the tragedy of nine fans who were crushed to death dur­ing the band’s set at Den­mark’s Roskilde fes­ti­val in 2000. But for the most part their trou­bles were largely be­hind them.

Since the turn of the mil­len­nium, Pearl Jam have ex­isted out­side the main­stream mu­sic in­dus­try. Th­ese days much of the band’s po­tency comes from their de­vo­tional live shows rather than from the com­mer­cial im­pact of their al­bums, repo­si­tion­ing them as a kind of Gen-X Grate­ful Dead (they were one of the first bands to make record­ings of their gigs avail­able to fans as ‘of­fi­cial bootlegs’). But it un­der­lines that Pearl Jam in 2018 are much the same as Pearl Jam in 1991: a band of the peo­ple, for the peo­ple. Dave Everley

Pearl Jam: a band of thepeo­ple, for the peo­ple.

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