A popular American rock band of the 1990s (and one of the "great four" of Grunge, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden), 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 album, Backspacer (2009), was their first to be domestically distributed through Pearl Jam's own label, Monkeywrench Records.Since 1998, their lineup has been:
Black Sheep Hit: Their cover of "Last Kiss". Also, "Better Man", the band's biggest hit in the United States in terms of pop radio airplay, is much more acoustic and midtempo than most of their other songs.
By the same logic, modern and classic rock stations mostly play from Ten, Vs. and maybe Vitalogy if they're feeling charitable. They will play newer Pearl Jam upon release, but it tends to fade fast.
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 for victory./ The dead lay in pools of maroon blood.
"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?"
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.
Creator Breakdown: Vitalogy is a dark album, with frequent allusions to suicide ("Last Exit", "Immortality"), written in response to the death of Kurt Cobain and the pressures of stardom. A milder example is Binaural, written in the aftermath of Eddie's divorce from his first wife, with him suffering from writer's block and Mike from an addiction to prescription drugs. Riot Act has some for both their backlash against George W. Bush and an incident in the 2000 Roskilde Festival where nine fans were trampled to death during PJ's show.
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".
Isn't It Ironic: "Betterman" 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 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".
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.
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.
Remaster: The first three albums have been remastered and re-released, each with a number of unreleased songs and demos; Ten was also remixed.
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. Also, "Yellow Ledbetter" to Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and "Given to Fly" to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". And "Dirty Frank" is a style parody of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, particularly their song "Give It Away".