.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/abbb10cc46a2eeed132cb9de9134442f622e8d62.jpg Vitalogy

Pearl Jam

Vitalogy

Epic/Legacy
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
March 29, 2011

You'd think an instantly popular young band would fear a backlash when it came time to make its second album. Pearl Jam seemed to welcome one. With 1993's Vs., they pitted themselves against the grunge masses they helped create, crafting a dozen punked-out songs that left behind the Jumbotron ambition of their debut, Ten. Eddie Vedder, a dedicated surfer, jettisoned everything Zen in favor of a primal take on human disconnection. "Animal," "Blood" and "Leash" obliquely reference rape and drug addiction; "Rats" creams a surprisingly funky beat with pummeling guitar while comparing the title critters to people — favorably. On this newly remastered version (which tosses in three nonessential bonus tracks, including a sweet, stripped-down version of "Hold On"), the songs sound steelier than ever. But despite his rage, Vedder was also more willing than his peers to dip into folky beauty. Kurt Cobain never wrote a tune like the acoustic heartbreaker "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," which, for all its gloominess about life's long ebb, loyally marks an unforgettable moment in an anonymous existence.

Pearl Jam in Posters: A Gallery of Illustrated Tour Art

On 1994's Vitalogy (also remastered; both albums are available together in a deluxe package that adds in an especially muscular live show from '94), Vedder vented more frustrations — with fans, heroin's reach, even popular music itself. Look past the oddities — the wheezing-accordion weird-out "Bugs" - and the loathsome "Not for You," a fuck-you to album and ticket buyers, and you'll find classics like the frenzied adrenaline shot "Spin the Black Circle" and the effervescent ballad "Better Man." Vitalogy highlights a key element of Vedder's anger: It's always directed outward, not in. That can make him hard to love. But his anguish fueled an intensity Pearl Jam haven't matched since.

Vs. Reissue: Four-and-a-half Stars

Video: The Vs./Vitalogy Box Set Trailer

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com