L-R:Stone, Mike, Jeff, Eddie, and Matt.
A popular American rock band of the 1990s (and one of the "great four" of Grunge
, along with Nirvana
, Alice in Chains
), Pearl Jam was formed out of the ashes of local Seattle band Mother Love Bone, whose singer Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard began writing songs together, and eventually guitarist Mike McCready joined them. Looking for a singer and a drummer, they recorded a demo tape and gave it to Red Hot Chili Peppers
drummer Jack Irons, who declined the invitation but passed the tape onto his friend, San Diego surfer Eddie Vedder. Vedder was impressed by the tape, recorded his own vocals for a few of the songs and sent it back to Stone, Jeff, and Mike. Within a week, Vedder was hired, and flew up to Seattle to join the band. The rest is rock history; their first album, Ten
, sold over 13 million copies, with the singles "Alive" and "Jeremy" being massively successful. Vs.
, the second, reached #1 on the charts the week it came out, outselling the other nine albums on the top 10 combined. While since then, the band has rebelled against their fame and stardom by moving away from their arena-rock roots (for the most part) on later albums Vitalogy
, No Code
, and Riot Act
, they still tour constantly to give fans an opportunity to see them live, and have made a return to their hard rock origins with their self-titled album, released in 2006.Their following two albums, Backspacer
(2009) and Lightning Bolt
(2013), were domestically distributed through Pearl Jam's own label, Monkeywrench Records.
Since 1998, their lineup has been:
- Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitar, ukulele)
- Mike McCready (guitar)
- Stone Gossard (guitar)
- Jeff Ament (bass guitar)
- Matt Cameron (drums), also a member of Soundgarden
- With Boom Gaspar (keyboards, touring member) since 2003.
- 1991 - Ten
- 1993 - Vs.
- 1994 - Vitalogy
- 1996 - No Code
- 1998 - Yield
- 2000 - Binaural
- 2002 - Riot Act
- 2006 - Pearl Jam
- 2009 - Ten Legacy Edition (2-disk, first disc with original album mixes, second with all songs remixed and bonus songs)
- 2009 - Backspacer
- 2011 - Remasters of Vs. and Vitalogy, each with some bonus songs
- 2013 - Lightning Bolt
They also backed Neil Young
on his 1995 album Mirror Ball
"Tropes arrive like butterflies":
- Apocalypse How: "Do the Evolution" shows a post-modern dystopia eventually ending in nuclear war and the destruction of mankind.
- Ate His Gun: The music video for "Jeremy" ends with the eponymous character shooting himself in front of his classmates.
- Badass Baritone: Eddie.
- Badass Beard: The bandmembers, Eddie in particular, go in and out with this.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: From "Jeremy", "At home drawing pictures/ Of mountain tops/ With him on top/Lemon yellow sun/ Arms raised in a V / And the dead lay in pools of maroon below
- Call Back
The shades go down in her mind.
- Then, later, on "Rearviewmirror:"
Finally the shades are raised.
- "1/2 Full" references "Porch" and "Love Boat Captain" in just two lines: "There ain't gonna be any middle anymore/it's been said before."
- "Love Boat Captain" references "Tremor Christ:" "Is this just another phase of earthquakes making waves?"
- "Lightning Bolt" references "Nothingman" in its chorus: "You've got to know you’ll never let her go/She's a Lightning bolt!"
- Calling the Old Man Out: "Better Man", according to Eddie Vedder, is "dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma" — his stepfather, with whom he didn't share the best of relationships. Inversely seen in "Release", written for his biological father, whom he hardly knew.
- Careful With That Axe: Vedder does it sometimes, especially on "Do the Evolution" and their cover for "Love, Reign o'er Me".
- Changed For The Video: The music video for "Alive" is that of a filmed live performance, not lip-synching to the actual single.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Save You"
- Curse Cut Short: From the B-Side/Lost Dog track "Dirty Frank"
That Dirty Frank was a bad mother—
Shut your mouth!
Hey man, I'm just talkin' about Dirty Frank!
- Does Not Like Guns: "Glorified G".
- Fading into the Next Song: A bit of "Black"'s lo-fi guitar intro can be heard trickling in at the end of "Why Go."
- The first second of "Infallible" is heard at the end of "Lightning Bolt"
- Gory Discretion Shot: Jeremy's suicide at the end of the titular video. The TV edit also removes the shot of him putting the gun in his mouth.
- Gratuitous Panning: The guitar fills during the second verse of "Even Flow" switch between being played exclusively in the left channel and exclusively in the right, and the remixed version of Ten tends to put the rhythm and acoustic guitars on one side and the lead guitar on the other.
- Grief Song: They're amazingly good at them. "Black", "Release", "Man Of The Hour", "Come Back", "Sad", "Light Years", "Just Breathe", "Immortality", "Love Boat Captain", and for an interesting twist, "Other Side" (written from the perspective of someone who's in the afterlife, but still grieves.)
- The Grim Reaper: Present as a pretty, black-haired lady in "Do the Evolution".
- Grow Old with Me: "Just Breathe"
Yes I understand, that every life must end / As we sit alone, I know someday we must go..
Hold me 'til I die / Meet you on the other side..
- I'm a Humanitarian: "Dirty Frank" is about a cannibal.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: "Misheard Pearl Jam" videos are quite common.
- Special mention goes out to "Yellow Ledbetter". When Eddie Vedder was asked about it in an interview, the first thing he said was "Wait... you mean there's lyrics?"
- In the Style of...: A few songs are deliberate attempts to imitate other artists: "Soon Forget" to The Who (Pete Townshend is even thanked on the lyric sheet), "Sirens" to Pink Floyd, and "Dirty Frank" is a style parody of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, particularly "Give It Away" (and it also contains a line which parodies Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft.").
- Isn't It Ironic?: "Better Man" is heard in weddings. You know, a song that goes "She lies and says she's in love with him..."
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Ten's 15th anniversary edition. One of the unreleased rarities on the second disc, "Brother", was released as a single to promote the album...and almost immediately became one of the band's biggest rock radio hits in years.
- Long Runner Lineup: They've had the same crew since 1998, after going through several drummers.
- Long Title: They usually have one word-title songs. They eventually got tired of it and wrote "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town".
- Lyrical Dissonance: All over the place ("Even Flow", "Alive", "Better Man"...). Some get into Misaimed Fandom.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: 6-7 for songs like "Blood" and "Spin the Black Circle"; 2-3 for ballads; 1 for oddities like "Sometimes". Every studio album but Binaural and Riot Act is mostly in 4-5 territory (those are mainly 2-3).
- Miniscule Rocking: "Pry, To", "Lukin", and "Red Dot" are all just over a minute long. Due to some motormouth vocals, "Lukin" actually manages to fit in two verses and a chorus in that time.
- Mondegreen: The chorus of "Glorified G" is easily misheard as "glorified version of a pelican." The band knows about it and occasionally sings it with those lyrics in concert. Also, the liner notes to Vitalogy include a mondegreen for "Better Man" scrawled beneath the real lyrics - "Can't find the butter, man".
- Mood Whiplash: Normally their songs are fairly depressing, but especially "Indifference". It starts off appearing to be a simple "You'll never break me song", but what it is actually is Vedder lamenting why he does the things he does, even though they make little difference in what he wants to change.
- New Sound Album: After Ten and Vs., most albums got really experimental.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The lyrics and video to "Jeremy"
- Non-Appearing Title: Quite a few ("Corduroy", "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town", "The Fixer")
- One Man Song: Johnny Guitar.
- One-Word Title: Most of the songs on Ten (except for "Even Flow" and "Why Go") and several on Vs.; averted with "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town." Most of their album titles too.
- Parental Incest: "Alive"; the bandmembers stated the story is continued in "Once" (the guys snaps up and kills people) and the B-side "Footsteps" (the guy is on the death row).
- Past in the Rear-View Mirror: "Rearviewmirror".
- Precision F-Strike:
- In "Jeremy":
Clearly I remember, pickin' on the boy // Seemed a harmless little fuck
- In "Why Go"
She's been diagnosed // By some stupid fuck // And Mommy agrees
- In "Porch"
What the fuck is this world coming to?
- Eddie also audibly murmurs "Fuck it up" before one of the solos in "Even Flow".
- In "4/20/02":
So sing just like him
- Protest Song: A few in the self-titled album.
- Remaster: The first three albums have been remastered and re-released, each with a number of unreleased songs and demos; Ten was also remixed.
- Re Arrange The Song: After the departure of Dave Abbruzzese (whose drumming was a vital part of the song), "W.M.A." was reworked, adding an acoustic guitar part to play the main riff, removing the emphasis on percussion, and slightly changing the lyrics to reflect harassment of Hispanic immigrants in Arizona.
- Rock Band: The second game has "Alive" and the entirety of Ten and Backspacer as DLC, "Life Wasted" and "Even Flow" are in Guitar Hero 2 (Xbox 360 version) and 3 (all versions) respectively.
- Shout-Out: Originally named Mookie Blaylock, after a basketball player the guys admired. While they had to change their name, the first album, Ten, is Mookie's jersey number.
- "Yellow Ledbetter" to Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing", "Given to Fly" to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". The title of "Yellow Ledbetter" is partially a reference to blues singer Huddy Ledbetter, better known by the Stage Name Lead Belly.
- "Love Boat Captain" includes the line "It's already been sung, it can't be said enough, All You Need Is Love".
- Solo Side Project: Eddie Vedder did the soundtrack for the film Into The Wild while Pearl Jam were still together. He also released a solo Ukulele album.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein / The Unintelligible: Vedder's vocals often are a mix of these.
- Stage Names: Edward Louis Severson III took the Vedder from his mother's birth name. Yet one of the guitarists birth name is Stone Carpenter Gossard.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Stone Gossard sings "Mankind". When Jack Irons was still in the band, he sang lead on the compilation track "The Whale Song", with Eddie Vedder doing backup vocals.
- Take That: The song "Sweet Lew" serves as this to basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabaar.
- While "4/20/02" is mostly a Grief Song, the opening and closing lines are directed toward the various bands that tried to copy Layne Staley's distinctive singing voice.
- "Bu$hleaguer"'s target is obvious.
- Title Track: Amusingly, Lightning Bolt is their first after 11 albums (unless you count rearviewmirror).
- Uncommon Time:
- "Low Light" is largely in 13/4.
- "Push Me, Pull Me" is largely in 13/4.
- "Cropduster" has verses in 7/4 and choruses in 10/4.
- "Blood" has choruses that start in 13/4.
- "Get Right" has verses in 14/4 and choruses in 20/4.
- "Alone" has choruses in 9/4.
- "Satan's Bed" has 5/4 choruses.
- "Last Exit" has 5/4 verses.
- "The Fixer" (and an early version released on "Pearl Jam Twenty" called "Need to Know") is largely in 5/4.
- "You Are" has verses largely in 10/4.
- The band has stated that "Yellow Moon" and "Pendulum" wouldn't have made it onto Lightning Bolt if not for some changes to the time signature.
- As it happens, "Yellow Moon" switches between 11/4 and 12/4, but "Pendulum" just sounds like 4/4.
- War Is Hell: "World Wide Suicide", and, from the point of view of the family left behind, "Army Reserve".