Monday, April 24, 2006

The Artists Formerly Known as Mookie Blaylock

Having already blogged about Counting Crows just days ago, I threaten to truly become musically irrelevant if I turn around so soon and write about Pearl Jam. But listen, it's not all Other Music staff picks in my household, no sir. So why not let you in on that reality? I'm not proud.

The fact is, I own nothing by Pearl Jam after Yield, and even that was just a flailing in the direction of raw youth, which youth was, at that very moment, boarding a train (or a supersonic jet). (Though I must say, "In Hiding," off that record, is one of my favorite songs by them.) Vitalogy -- and I imagine this is true of many of you -- was the last thing I bought with even a glimmer of hopefulness. (And of course, I could've taped the best two singles from that one off the radio and not been much worse off.)

These musings are inspired by the fact that the band's forthcoming album is being trumpeted as a "return to form," though I'm not eager to hear it.

Still, stumbling past the band's performance on Saturday Night Live two weeks ago, I was reminded of the goofy teenage enthusiasm I had for them. (I remember once -- honestly -- somberly recounting a portentous dream that involved Eddie Vedder to a high school confidant.) Vedder's voice is still powerful -- if sometimes melodramatic -- in my opinion, so it's a shame that the other band members seem so dull in their increasingly chugging, all-the-raggedy-of-punk-with-none-of-the-fun compositions. By all accounts, they're still something to see live. (I wouldn't know about any of that, since the one time I scored tickets -- for a show in Austin in 1994 -- they were in the midst of their war with Ticketmaster and ended up canceling the show for some ethical reason that remains lost on me. When they rescheduled, the date conflicted with tickets I had to see R.E.M. for the first time. No contest.)

Really, I only want to say two things, the first a critical judgment and the second just another in a long line of oh-dear-god-I'm-getting-old revelations:

1. Pearl Jam's best songs are still pretty good. Ten kind of sucked in retrospect, aside from maybe "Porch" and "Release," which makes it funny that much of Vs. still sounds enjoyable, since none of us initially listened to that record with anything but thoughts about how it stacked up to Ten. And I imagine there are decent songs studded throughout the past few albums, but I'll be damned if I'll be sent trawling for them. I found two covers they did online recently -- of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and The Who's "Baba O'Riley" -- and they proved, to me anyway, that Pearl Jam has the chops and the voice to be a great interpretive band. Unfortunately, they're just not particularly good at writing their own stuff.

2. It's 2006. Ten came out in 1991. That means that, for a high school senior today, Ten is the equivalent of what Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was for me and my graduating class. Meaning: Cool on some level (maybe), but ancient. If you'll excuse me, I have to go check the mail for my AARP application.



Blogger Dezmond said...

Much of the same feelings for me as well. I will have it known, that from day 1, I thought VS. was a better album than TEN. Remember those discussions way back when? Well, it seems that you have finally learned what I knew all along. =)

I saw PJ once, in Austin. It was some point during college (obviously). As notable for the opening act (The Ramones on what really was their farewell tour) as for PJ themselves. I remember it being blistering hot (it was a day show for some reason) and people passing out from heat and being crushed by fans all pushing forward. I was near the front, and I have to say, that was the most genuinely scary concert experience I have ever had. I don't know if any of you have feared for your life in a crushing crowd...scary. I remember Eddie Vedder pleading with fans to stop pushing, etc. (This is even more scary considering the incident in Europe years later at a Pearl Jam show when several youths were crushed to death in similar circumstances).

I don't blame PJ for the experience, it was mainly just the circumstances, I think. (Nature of the crowd + hot Texas day). What I remember of the actual show, they were quite good. But I was able to get out of the crowd after a huge struggle and went to the back of the crowd so I could actually breathe. It is strange to be literally stuck together with people, all who are just on the verge of panic.

That's my PJ concert story.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that SNL repeat too. And, similarly, I was transfixed by Vedder but embarrassed by the band.

I think that Rumours might hold up, does hold up, in a way
that Pearl Jam might not. Even though it smells like Chardonnay and pot--or whatever they might have been medicating themselves with in Southern California when they were all breaking up with each other. There's a folk rock vibe that's sort of timeless.

I think I've embarrassed myself! If you get an extra AARP application, could you send it my way?

12:34 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Oh, yes, Rumours is timeless and great. Way better than any entire Pearl Jam record. I should've clarified that. It's just always scary to think about time that way -- like, right now, early 80s music is as far away from today's teenagers as the Beatles were to us at the same stage. But at the same time, it's not that I feel THAT old (jokes aside). It's just odd how compressed the whole history of rock music is.

Only someone about to join AARP would ramble this way, see?

1:24 PM  

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