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 Post subject: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Fri December 28, 2012 4:11 pm 
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old thread archived here

Share the story of the first time you heard this album

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Fri December 28, 2012 4:31 pm 
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I've written extensively about Avocado and I think I'll repost my first reaction after I finally got a full leaked copy. But what I remember about Avocado even more than the music was the experience of sharing it with RM. i've been a die hard fan since my first listen of Ten 15 years ago and it was easy to find pearl jam fans in the 90s. But I've never really had a collection of die hards I could live and breathe the records with until I found RM, and Avocado was the first time I got to share my first time, the anticipation and the discovery, with people who cared as much as I did. Even before the album came out we had threads for each song that were running 10-25 pages long (keeping this place clean was a fuck ton of work). It was the most immersive experience I've ever had with a record and I loved just about every second of it. And there will never be another 'first time' like that.

Anyway, here was my long 'first listen' review

I just went for a walk because I wanted to be alone with the new songs and really take them in. About halfway through the walk I let out the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding in and broke into a huge smile. Pearl Jam has been a frustrating band for me for the past 12 years. The first three albums were for a long time my three favorite records of all time. Vitalogy and Ten are still 1+3. For me Pearl Jam embodied everything great about music and since their first record they have been one of the most important constants in my life. Then they seemed to lose their way. The last four records never were truly ‘Pearl Jam’ records, at least not for me. They had their moments of greatness, and Yield especially was a strong, near great, record. But there was always something missing. They were very good rock records but they weren’t Pearl Jam. This whole time the elements were present, and the live shows were as good as ever, but something didn’t click. They never reached the potential that was so obviously there.

About 1:00, Friday March 7th, I realized that Pearl Jam had returned, and I’m not sure I realized until now how much I’ve missed them. This record is a masterpiece, and while it’s been 3 and a half years since Riot Act, I’ve waited almost 12 years for this record. It was worth it.

It’s early to be ranking this compared to the other albums. I still have not heard finished versions of the 4 songs from the previous s leak, and the quality of the new leak is sub-par. But I’m predicting that this will be my third favorite record of theirs, topped only by Vitalogy and Ten. It’s amazing. However, this record sounds nothing like Ten or really Vitalogy either. I make that comparison only in terms of how much I like it. It takes what’s best from their career, distills, and updates it. Eddie can’t sing like he used to (for some of you that’s a good thing) but the feeling and the passion is back. These songs are epic in the best sense of the word. For the first time in a long time (with a few notable exceptions) these songs sound like they matter—that it is important you listen to them.

I’m not going to comment on the previously leaked songs. I’ve done so elsewhere, and I still have not heard finished versions. I may stick that in later. I also won’t comment much on lyrics since I haven’t had time to puzzle them out yet. I’ll also make a number of comparisons to other songs. Take them with a grain of salt. Nothing here is a clone, but I’ve always found its helpful to have something to picture if you haven’t heard the music yet. A general note about Boom. He’s in most of these songs but used VERY well. He adds texture when appropriate and disappears when he is not needed. Mike is one of the stars of this record and Eddie’s vocals are very strong on these new tracks. I think it’s Matt’s best work with PJ as well.

Marker in the Sand: starts with a catchy riff and a rolling groove. It’s good. But where this song really triumphs is in the chorus. It’s still new to me but I think this may be the best chorus they’ve ever written. Fucking incredible. The problem is that it doesn’t flow well with the verses. These are two separate songs and I’m not sure how well they connect. But that chorus. Wow. From what I can tell this seems to be another anti-war song, wondering how God can condone something like war. It reminds me in content (not sound) of the ‘how does god choose’ verse from Tom Waits’ The Day After Tomorrow. The bridge is completely superfluous and disposable, unfortunately, but it doesn’t take away from the song. I don’t want to oversell it, but that chorus. It’s why God invented music. Some of the finest stuff they’ve ever put down.

Big Wave: This song is total Soundgarden. Think my wave meets kickstand. It would fit right in on Superunknown. Fun big rock riff. It seems to lack some substance but I haven’t listened that closely yet—there might be something more going on here which would really help elevate the song. This could have been a b-side, albeit a great b-side. It’s the only real rocker on the back half of the album. Eddie sounds great and this should be a ton of fun live. Nice work from Mike here (he shines on this album). This song reminds me a bit of what get right wanted to be but couldn’t pull off.

Gone: I was not a big fan of the demo or the live version but they did a masterful job turning this into an album track. The melody is on an acoustic guitar with some nice atmospheric coloring that never gets too busy (frequently a problem on songs Eddie writes that don’t need 3 guitars but they have to find something for everyone to do). But like Marker In The Sand it come alive on the chorus, which positively soars in a way nothing has since Yield. It reminds me a bit of In Hiding, but better (bear in mind I am not a huge In Hiding fan). This song captures the feel of Ten (without the RAWK that turns a lot of people off) better than anything else on the record. Like with Marker In The Sand, you get the feeling that you are listening to something important that really taps into the part of your soul that wants to be believe that we can transcend everything in this world that ties us down and holds us back. Mike (I assume) has a nice little guitar riff to close the song out too

Army Reserve: This reminds me a bit, especially in the verses, of Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye. I’m guessing that once the lyrics are deciphered this will be the most emotionally affecting song on the album. It seems to be about the emotional connection between a young girl and her father, who was called up to go fight. She is what’s getting him through the experience—the fact that she believes in him and his desire to get back to her. One line that really jumps out me “she tells herself and anyone else ‘father’s risking his life for our freedom’” Like Marker in the Sand its ultimately a positive song—poignant without the anger in WWS and the depression that marks Riot Act. It’s a celebration of the human spirit in the face of adversity, and Eddie is smart enough here to not overdo the Bush bashing. It’s there in the context and the song works better for it

Wasted Reprise: This worked better than I thought it would. The organ sounds a bit like Tom Waits’ Innocent When You Dream. Definitely more poignant than Life Wasted. It really highlights how that song could have gone in two different directions

Come Back: If Parachutes is their tribute to the Beatles this is their tribute to Elvis. It is a total white blues classic rock torch song, and is nice for what it is. The music isn’t that interesting but Eddie is at the top of his game here. I’ll really need to hear the lyrics before I can really get into the song. Where the song really shines is in the last minute or two, where Eddie pleads ‘come back, I’ll be here’. This part feels totally inspired by the ‘we belong together’ tag from black, although without the ragged desperation of the early years. It’s beautiful. This should play really well live

Inside Job: There is a two minute instrumental before the song really kicks into gear, dominated by a piano and acoustic guitar. It works really well—it may be my favorite part of the song. Like a lot of these songs, it gives you the sense that what you’re listening to is important, a feeling that has been missing from the last few records. The song itself runs a bit long. Right now it feels like they could have cut 30-45 seconds and had a stronger song, but there is more going on here than in Off He Goes, so it’s not too much of a problem. I think Mike’s lyrics are better than Stone or Jeff’s (and certainly Mike) but not quite up to Eddie’s level. About 3 and a half minutes in it really picks up. As far as closers go it’s very good. Not release/indifference/immortality good, but very good nonetheless. It ends on a nice, empowering note

There is a nice little outro piece of music that sounds like one of those little instrumental tracks from Touring Band. I always forget the names.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 1:19 pm 
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Happy Birthday, S/T. That initial run of songs is almost as good as it gets

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 1:47 pm 
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10 years ago I was boarding from a Dell computer. Remember "streaming" PJ doing their concert at Letterman like it was yesterday.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 1:59 pm 
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that was a quality show

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 2:08 pm 
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stip wrote:
I don’t want to oversell it, but that chorus. It’s why God invented music.


:bammer:

My response to the record wasn't quite so full-throttle, but it wasn't that far off. My favorite parts of the record were tracks 1-7 and Army Reserve, which have kind of remained the highlights (with the one-two of Severed Hand and Marker remaining the comparatively weakest of the bunch). S/T was also the best promotional job PJ ever did on a record; they absolutely got me to feel like the record was a Big Deal.

The flaws of the record amplified over time, but I still consider it a troubled but solid record that maybe is unfairly hampered by being the first significant stumbling block in the band's discography.


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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 3:42 pm 
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This came right at the tail-end of my dedicated PJ fandom. In fact, it probably came just after it had ended.

Listening to this was the final nail in the coffin. It was a long time before I cared about PJ again.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 3:51 pm 
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I dont remember when I first heard this album but I remember thinking it was way better than the other late period albums, I still think it is. There was a time I said it was my number 3 after Ten and Vs. I think I have grown to appreciate Vitalogy and No Code more than I did at the time, but this album is like a beam of light after the dull periods that came before.

I said it too, like Stip did, that this album used Matt Cameron the best, or rather, this is the album where Matt Cameron-era Pearl Jam sounds best. Like they had a specific sound with Dave A, and they had some strengths with Jack Irons, and then this one is a different sound that is able to use Cameron and still sound very good. Life Wasted, World Wide Suicide, Comatose is one of the best 3 song runs in the catalog, and I just think the album has tons of great tracks.

Definitely the best one of the last 5 albums. Life Wasted is so refreshing after what came before it. If Pearl Jam is going to be based over repetitive power chord riffs this is the best they ever did it.

But yeah I actually don't remember my first time listening to the album


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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 3:52 pm 
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LoathedVermin72 wrote:
This came right at the tail-end of my dedicated PJ fandom. In fact, it probably came just after it had ended.

Listening to this was the final nail in the coffin. It was a long time before I cared about PJ again.

Have you listened to it since? Especially the "unbrickwalled" version?

Of the last 3 albums, this one has definitely aged the best for me so far.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 3:57 pm 
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digster wrote:
stip wrote:
I don’t want to oversell it, but that chorus. It’s why God invented music.


:bammer:

My response to the record wasn't quite so full-throttle, but it wasn't that far off. My favorite parts of the record were tracks 1-7 and Army Reserve, which have kind of remained the highlights (with the one-two of Severed Hand and Marker remaining the comparatively weakest of the bunch). S/T was also the best promotional job PJ ever did on a record; they absolutely got me to feel like the record was a Big Deal.

The flaws of the record amplified over time, but I still consider it a troubled but solid record that maybe is unfairly hampered by being the first significant stumbling block in the band's discography.

Couldn't have put it better myself.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:14 pm 
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E.H. Ruddock wrote:
LoathedVermin72 wrote:
This came right at the tail-end of my dedicated PJ fandom. In fact, it probably came just after it had ended.

Listening to this was the final nail in the coffin. It was a long time before I cared about PJ again.

Have you listened to it since? Especially the "unbrickwalled" version?

Of the last 3 albums, this one has definitely aged the best for me so far.

Oh yeah. I like it now. I never disliked it; it was just such a huge, uninteresting step down from their previous stuff that it made me lose all interest in the band. But it's clearly a thousand times better than BS or LB.

I have not heard the unbrickwalled version, though.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:19 pm 
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I remember being really excited after the leak, the press hype, and a couple of very early reviews of the whole album. Parachutes was intoxicating.

It turned out those early reviews were by people who thought Pearl Jam could do no wrong. They painted songs like Gone and Inside Job as masterpieces. Even though I thought the album was decent (still think that), I was definitely let down by it. I remember re-reading those early reviews and thinking "what the f*ck were they listening to that I'm missing here?"


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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:46 pm 
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EJ wrote:
I remember being really excited after the leak, the press hype, and a couple of very early reviews of the whole album. Parachutes was intoxicating.

It turned out those early reviews were by people who thought Pearl Jam could do no wrong. They painted songs like Gone and Inside Job as masterpieces. Even though I thought the album was decent (still think that), I was definitely let down by it. I remember re-reading those early reviews and thinking "what the f*ck were they listening to that I'm missing here?"



People (around here, anyway) really understate the comparatively lackluster reception that Binaural and Riot Act received. Pearl Jam was considered to be on a downward trajectory of writing overly moody, joyless (even by their standards), obtuse but not interesting enough to justify the obtuseness, and depressing songs that seemed to turn their back on everything people loved about the band.

For all their faults, songs like Inside Job and Gone were a return to open, hopeful, anthematic songs full of dramatic and cathartic sweep. S/T gave you that in spades across the album. Over time some of those songs proved to lack the layers needed to keep them fresh for the long haul, and the album's production (or engineering or mixing or mastering or whatever) hasn't done a number of excellent songs many favors, but this really was a return to form. S/T was a relief, at least in the moment.

Similar to the Backspacer/L-bolt reviews, it's not a question of pearl jam doing no wrong. It's pearl jam playing to the traditional strengths (bracketing how well they achieve this) that brought them to the dance, which a subset of fans (certainly a large majority around here) have rejected in terms of wishing for albums that would take their cues from evacuation and sleight of hand. Maybe these really are great songs, but they don't seem to be what the pearl jam community (if you go off of the people attending the shows, which is who they write for) seem to want.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:48 pm 
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ugh

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:49 pm 
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LoathedVermin72 wrote:
ugh

do you disagree, or are you just not happy that this was the case?

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 4:56 pm 
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stip wrote:
People (around here, anyway) really understate the comparatively lackluster reception that Binaural and Riot Act received. Pearl Jam was considered to be on a downward trajectory of writing overly moody, joyless (even by their standards), obtuse but not interesting enough to justify the obtuseness, and depressing songs that seemed to turn their back on everything people loved about the band.


Having been around for the release of all three albums, I think that's not necessarily wrong, but it is a tad dramatic. PJ was seen generally as having thrown away their popularity by making weird, out-there albums. The only thing this speaks to is the superficiality of many of the reviews PJ was getting at the time, since by any knowledgeable barometer of popular music, Binaural and Riot Act are not THAT weird, or THAT out there. The issue for people wasn't that they were making terrible records, but that they were making strange ones.

But yes, I agree to the extent that S/T was promoted and framed as PJ's 'return to rock.' This was going to be the follow-up to Vs. everyone had been hoping for (supposedly). I honestly think, depending on how the band promoted and framed this record, how they wanted it to be viewed in this catalog, that they were hoping and thinking it would be a mega-hit, in terms of renown if not necessarily sales. The fact that it wasn't, that it became just another PJ record in the way that almost all the albums in their career have been...I've always found that interesting.


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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 5:20 pm 
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I wonder if any of the songs on S/T really had the legs to be the kind of mega hit that could anchor that kind of resurgence.


They tried less hard with Backspacer and Lightning Bolt and both of those albums seem to have produced much more enduring songs.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 5:46 pm 
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In the larger context of "music fans who were casual PJ fans", stip is absolutely right about people's reaction to Binaural and Riot Act. A perfect example of this is the piece that Steven Hyden wrote a few years back. The following relevant section is what most people "out there" think about Pearl Jam. Whether you agree or not is a different story.

Quote:
Binaural (2000) I once had a conversation with this guy about Pearl Jam in which he claimed that the band’s best era was 1998 to 2002. This is the sort of argument a person makes after digesting so much of a particular artist’s work that it has driven him to the brink of insanity. It’s like saying, “You know, Raging Bull and Goodfellas are solid, but they pale in comparison to Scorsese’s output from 1997 to 2002.”3 The early ’00s were clearly a bad time for Pearl Jam — Mike McCready4 struggled with drug addiction, there was the Roskilde tragedy,5 and the band was perceived by many casual observers as passé. Pearl Jam should’ve taken an extended break after Yield, but instead it plowed forward with the most dispiriting and deeply confused record of its career.

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 5:47 pm 
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Always remember: RM is a very insular community of highly-attuned weirdos, assholes and nice people (me).

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 Post subject: Re: You Never Forget Your First Time: Pearl Jam
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 6:48 pm 
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Yeah he's right, Binaural and Riot Act are what you appreciate when you hear the good songs so much you are tired of them and desperate for something, anything, that's different.


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