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Pearl Jam 20: A Milestone

When The Alternative Became The Mainstream. Pearl Jam throw themselves a party for two decades of survival.

Completing twenty years marks another milestone for Pearl Jam, along the way to almost nowhere in particular. They’ve been more productive than any of their contemporaries, besides having outlasted them all.

And we’ve all been fans; of Vedder’s rapturous vocals, Mike McCready’s guitar expressions and their well entrenched ethics, that kept them away from music videos and Hollywood. That’s why this is a celebration in general, for everyone who believed.

Here’s Mike McCready talking about what it really means for them.


And if that gets you curious or nostalgic enough, here is:


1. Light Years

Sublime and powerful, ‘Light Years‘ is a watermark in Eddie Vedder’s career as a singer-songwriter. From the album Binaural, it redefines the sensuality of alternative rock, more theosophical than the sexual kind.

It was tinkered with a lot, because Eddie Vedder thought it was too similar to ‘Given To Fly’ originally. What finally came out of those deliberations ended up becoming one of the most deeply-felt rock ballads ever made. 

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2. Animal

Stone Gossard’s music is pure as the driven snow on this one, while Eddie Vedder adds his own animalistic fervour to it, with ideas to match the music. In short, it’s bloody brilliant.

There is that little strain of punk in this song, before it slipped away with time and successive albums. It doesn’t sound like they had a target audience for this song, nor does it sound like they really knew what they were doing. Which sort of validates that rumor surrounding Mike McCready’s phenomenal solo; how his headphones had actually fallen off midway during the recording and he could hear nothing of what he was playing. Wasn’t that Beethoven’s trick too? 

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3. Black

Love and longing need more subtlety than most other emotions, because of how powerful they really are and how misconstrued they can be. Listening to this song, you realize how that subtlety lies in dealing with things as they are, for life often provides the best metaphors.

Even if Eddie Vedder’s voice couldn’t travel the entire range of pitches, his words would drive home the sorrow. Not to mention the rest of the band; Stone Gossard, who again composed this gem, and Mike McCready, whose guitaring is ever ready to give your trip the right ambience. 

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4. I Am Mine

Riot Act, as an album, was a pleasant surprise. Right when people were starting to think that Pearl Jam might’ve had enough, they came out with an album that shot down cynicism and made lifelong fans of us.

I am Mine” was an existential ballad written in the aftermath of the Roksilde tragedy, where nine Danish fans of the band were killed in a stampede. Again, the song captures your thinking in a way few artists and songs can. It all starts with a delectable opening riff and never really ends. 

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5. Dirty Frank

From the album ‘Ten’, this song is a one-of-a-kind Pearl Jam composition. The funky guitar hook, played to Eddie Vedder’s narrative of Dirty Frank’s dirty deeds, makes this song so much fun. There is a lot of spunk too, with a rhythm section you’d associate with Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But it’s all so hip and uncaring; ideal for the day you decide to go to office in beach shorts.  

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