Tag Archives: Eddie Vedder

Pearl Jam Twenty: A Review

As Pearl Jam Twenty peels back the old footage and interviews, one thing is clear from the band’s early days: Eddie Vedder is an intense and volatile personality who is constantly at odds with his own band, his vision of what rock and roll should be, and his own audience. . Lead guitarist Mike McCready explains that Vedder wanted Pearl Jam to be like Fugazi and other underground punk bands, “and while we like those bands, we didn’t want to be them.”

Vedder’s war with his image as something of a spokesman for Generation X is nothing new to those who grew up listening to the band’s first two albums – Vs and Ten. The decision to scale back and do things on their own terms is a storied affair. Whatever you think of Vedder’ disposition to stardom (and there are instances in the movie where you could make the case that he was a complete dick), Pearl Jam Twenty proves that in the end, despite all the odds, somehow Pearl Jam persevered. And just like their hero, Neil Young they managed to garner respect because they said “no” to anything that they felt could possibly strangle them.

As a rock and roll documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty ranks up there with some of the best. Crowe’s use of archival footage from early live shows proves what a great live band Pearl Jam was even in the early days. While Pearl Jam Twenty is mostly chronological in its storytelling, some aspects of the band are distilled into montages. The history of drummers is given a quick (and amusing) overview. Similarly, Pearl Jam’s politics are anchored by a 2003 performance of “Bu$hleaguer” where the band actually got booed.

Because Crowe is accomplished as both a director and music journalist, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions. In turn, the usually shy band members open up. Guitarist Stone Gossard admits to feeling bitterness towards Vedder in the early years, as he lost control of his own band to the singer. McCready talks candidly about his addictions. As for Vedder himself, the 2011 version is humble and careful with his words. As evident from recent live performances, the intensity is still there – but now it seems reserved for the shows.

For all of the anger and intensity associated with the band, there are some hilarious moments in Pearl Jam Twenty. At one point, Crowe asks Gossard if he has any Pearl Jam memorabilia. Gossard sheepishly admits that he doesn’t really have anything, because bassist Jeff Ament is the band’s resident collector. Gossard points to some DVDs and CDs – which he has in case he forgets how to play a song – and then pulls out an extremely dirty PJ mug which looks like it hasn’t been washed in years. The band’s drunken performance for the premiere of 1992’s Singles (which Crowe directed and Gossard and Vedder appeared in) is wildly entertaining. The drunkenness is evident in Vedder’s eyes as he grumbles, “everybody loves us!” He then proceeds to tear down a curtain on the side of the stage as the band tears through a sloppy version of “State of Love and Trust”.

Pearl Jam Twenty makes a great case for how Pearl Jam has turned into one of rock’s greatest bands. That much is evident if you’ve ever seen one of their shows or listened to their albums (even the post Vitalogy ones are great). However, Crowe seems to hammer that it into the ground a little too much by incorporating clips from Don’t Look Back, and The Kids Are Alright. At one point, even Vedder shows off pictures of himself with Joe Strummer, and Pete Townshend. As a fan of rock and roll, there’s no doubt that Vedder still thinks of himself as a kid who got lucky enough to meet his heroes. But underneath, both Crowe and Vedder still seem to want to tell everyone who left the band in the mid-90s: “these guys love us, so should you.”

As a portrait of a band, Pearl Jam Twenty is a rare feat. This is the story of 4 guys, whose wild different personalities conflicted with each other, and still managed to have their integrity. Varying set lists rewards the fans that stuck around – Gossard refers to this as “a gift” – and the belief that rock and roll can be salvation. Twenty years on, Pearl Jam finally get to be the band they always wanted to be.

 

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“Revolution 9” vs. “Stupid Mop”

 

I once fell asleep to The Beatles “Revoution 9” on repeat and had some pretty fucked up dreams. Nothing seemed to make any sense. People who were talking to me suddenly disappeared into violent colors. At some point, I woke up in a Russian prison – only to realize later I was actually asleep. Needless to say, I don’t recommend falling asleep to this song.

Ever since it was put to wax, “Revolution 9” has been a polarizing piece of work. Many have argued that it belongs on John and Yoko’s infamous Two Virgins album and doesn’t belong on any Beatles album. There’s some certain truth to that. It’s hard to even call it a song – its mash of tape loops, screaming and feedback is starting and disturbing.

I’m certainly no huge fan of “Revolution 9”, but is certainly adds to the myth of The White Album. At that point, each Beatle was so focused on their own individual songs. Many of them are brilliant, others are quite good. Others barely even resemble songs – they’re more like ditties. Each Beatles’ songs on that album are a representation of their mind-set circa 1968. Paul was hammering out songs like nobody’s business, and John was struggling to bring his new-found creativity with Yoko into the fold. George, it seemed desperately wanted to be taken seriously by the other Beatles.

“Revolution 9” represents John at his most caustic – to his bandmates and audience. He had already put on Two Virgins, and only hard-core fans would attempt to listen to that. Putting “Revolution  9” on The White Album was his way of saying that he was done with The Beatles. Even though it would be another year before he was actually out, “Revolution 9” was the sonic equivalent of a middle finger. It practically screams “I’m done”.  It’s a declaration of the now, versus The Beatles of the past.

Pearl Jam have a heavily “Revolution 9” influenced track off of 1994’s Vitalogy called “Stupid Mop”. Like its predecessor, “Stupid Mop” is full of strange noises and feedback. If Lennon wanted to say he was out and showcase his creative side, Pearl Jam (and specifically Eddie Vedder here) use “Stupid Mop” as a way to confront their fans, many of whom they felt were strangling the band. Like Lennon, Vedder was struggling with being seen as a spokesman and trying to maintain what he saw as artistic credibility. “Stupid Mop” is even more alarming than “Revolution 9”. Even if you disagree about the artistic merits of “Revolution 9”, that was clearly in Lennon’s thought process at the time. “Stupid Mop” offers virtually no artistic merit. In “Not For You” off Vitalogy, Vedder directly confronts the casual fans: “This is not you. Fuck you.” 

Ultimately both artists would eventually come to terms with their fans and their own creativity. Lennon would make two more albums with The Beatles, before eventually going solo. Pearl Jam decided to cut down their accessibility, do less promotion and continue to make several more albums.

Maybe that’s why both “Revolution 9” and “Stupid Mop” are both so jarring. They’re not pieces of music – but rather a chance for both artists to exorcise their demons.

 

 

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What’s Your Favorite Album Of The Year So Far?

Since it’s now June and we are officially about half-way through 2011, I’d thought I’d take a look at some of the albums that have been released so far.  For me, so far the best album is a tie between Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues and My Morning Jacket’s Circuital.  What do you think?  Any good ones I missed?  (And I’m not counting Gaga just for the record.)

 

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What The Clash Mean to Me

I recently read the feature on The Clash in the new issue of Rolling Stone.  While it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about the band, it certainly reminded me of why I love them so much.

In 2003, when I saw Pearl Jam in Pittsburgh while in college, I decided to wear one of my Clash t-shirts.  For a long time, my concert credo was not to wear the shirt of the band you were seeing, unless you purchased one at the show.  One fan saw my shirt.  “Pearl Jam doesn’t like The Clash!” He yelled at me.  I brushed him off, because I knew he was wrong.  Later on during the show, when Pearl Jam busted out a cover of The Clash’s “Know Your Rights”, I seemed to be one of the few that recognized the song and cheered loudly when Eddie Vedder shouted its famous line: “This is a public service announcement with guitar!”

I discovered The Clash sometime in high school.  I had been exposed to a few songs – “London Calling”, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” through mix tapes my sister made for me.  But on my 18th birthday, I received a copy of their live album From Here to Eternity from my older brother.  From the beginning of the opening song – “Complete Control” – I knew right away that this would be a band that I could identify with.  Here a band cutting down their own record company in song – they weren’t going to bullied by anybody.  The backing vocals which point out that “CON” is spelled out in the middle of “control” were captivating.  Strummer was clearly drawing a line.  You could either go with them, or be left behind.  I quickly knew which side I was on.

I’ve often joked that I credit The Clash with moving me towards a leftist way of thinking.  And while it’s certainly true that songs such as “Clampdown”, “London Calling” and “Career Opportunities” are Marxist theories put to thrashing music, The Clash opened a lot more doors than a political awakening.

The Clash incorporated world-music into their repertoire, which eventually lead me to seek out some of these sounds.  The only reggae artist that I knew before listening to The Clash was Bob Marley, but soon I was scooping up albums by Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals.

When Joe Strummer died in December of 2002, it was the first time I felt a void when a star died.  If The Clash were the “CNN of rock”, then Strummer was its Walter Cronkite – providing positive insight into a world that seemed to veer out of control.  While other bands have attempted to take The Clash’s place of political rock for a new generation – particularly Rage Against the Machine – none of them succeeded on the same level.  The Clash made have been “the only band that mattered” but they were also one of the few bands that were really were for the people.

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Top 20 Concerts Part 2

I should note that some of these artists I have seen multiple times, so I will only list my favorite concert from each particular artist.  Otherwise the top 10 could easily include multiple repeats.

Pearl Jam (May 2006 – Camden, New Jersey)

I’ve seen Pearl Jam a total of three times over the past few years, and I have yet to see a bad show by them.  Pearl Jam treat their shows like every single one is a special event.  Eddie Vedder is the Pete Townshend of lead singers – jumping across the stage and doing guitar acrobatics that lesser men would like downright silly even to attempt.   The last time I saw them in DC in 2008, they only made it about a minute into “Evacuation” before the band stumbled.  In the old days, Vedder might have walked off screaming.  Instead the band laughed it off, and went on to the next show like nothing happened.

I realize that I probably might get shit on for including Pearl Jam on this list by some people I know.  I still think that the lady at the concession lying when she said that drinks were no longer being served at the “artists’ request”.

 

The New Pornographers (October 2007 – 930 Club, Washington DC)

Twin Cinema is easily one of the best rock-pop records of the 2000s.   On record The New Pornographers have a lot of energy, but live they are well-oiled machine.   Neko Case and Carl Newman remain the band’s not-so secret weapon united in harmony, but it’s amazing to see them pull it off so effortlessly on songs like “All The Things That Go Make Heaven and Earth”, and “Use It”.  And when the coda for “The Bleeding Heart Show” kicks in, you wish it would go on forever.

 

Kings of Leon (October 2005 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

In 2005, Kings of Leon were down right sleazy.  Not like the pretty boys and rock- pop cons you know today.  If the whiskey soaked songs, and dank of Sonar weren’t enough, the show included girls dancing on poles between sets and a magic show.  You could feel the sweat flying from the Followills foreheads as they blazed through countrified-punk versions of “The Bucket” and “Slow Night So Slow”.  Appropriately enough, they closed with the aptly titled, “Trani”.

The concert was awesome, but things turned sour later on, including being stuck in a traffic jam with the gas-tank on empty, and a fall down a flight of stairs.  (Both incidents turned out to be ok, but the gas tank was a close-call.)

 

The Black Crowes (August 2007 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

Another show at Sonar. This is not really a criticism, but The Black Crowes are the best Rolling Stones cover band with original songs.  It was an old-fashioned rock and roll show at its best.  I distinctly remember it being the hottest night of the year – it was so fucking hot, and the compressed venue of Sonar only made it worse.  But somehow, it only seemed fitting to see the Crowes that way.

The Pixies (December 2009 – Constitution Hall, Washington DC)

I ended up going to this show at the last minute.  I got a phone-call in the afternoon from a friend telling me that an extra ticket was available.  So off I drove to DC during rush-hour to go see The Pixies.  I was almost late because I got lost to my friends house on the way – even though I had driven there at least 5 times prior.

This show was part of The Pixies “Doolittle Tour”. Prior to this show, I had never seen a whole album show, and was curious about how it come off.  The songs off of Doolittle are short and concise, so even the duds (there are really only about 3 off of an otherwise great album) are over before you know it.  The big songs – “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” got the most response, but it was on “There Goes My Gun” and “Vamos” The Pixies really came alive.  The former proved that even in his mid 40s, Frank Black can still scream like a motherfucker, and the latter included an extended feedback solo that peeled the paint off of the otherwise stale Constitution Hall.

 

 

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Preview of R.E.M.’s “Collapse Into Now”

I’m getting pretty excited about R.E.M.’s upcoming album Collapse  Into Now. 2008’s Accelerate was a return to form, after about 10 years of three abysmal albums (1998’s Up, 2001’s Reveal, and 2004’s virtually unlistenable Around The Sun).  While I loved Accelerate when it came out, its break-neck speed which was refreshing at the time has proved to be its achilles heel.  R.E.M. is at their best when their songs are moody and reflective even in their rockers.  Accelerate in its urgency left little room for the listener to enter into the songs.

But the songs off of Collapse Into Now that have been leaked or officially find R.E.M. entering a territory both familiar and new.  “It Happened Today” sounds like something off of Out Of Time – except better than almost all of the songs combined with the exception of “Losing My Religion”.  Peter Buck’s ringing guitar chords sing through while Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and guest vocalist Eddie Vedder spend almost two minutes in a wordless harmonizing chant that never ceases to be boring.  “Mine Smell Like Honey” sounds like an Accelerate out-take, with its blasting guitars.  Yet it’s more accessible in its melody, and a reminder than the interchange between Mike Mills and Michael Stipe is a force to be reckoned with.  The psychedelic “Discoverer” might be the weakest of the three tracks I’ve heard, but it’s still very good. Stipe’s chant of “Discoverer!” in the chorus might of course be a live-highlight.

If these three tracks are any indication, Collapse Into Now might be a latter-day R.E.M. classic, as opposed to just a very good R.E.M. album like Accelerate.

“It Happened Today”

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Fall Mix

I made a Fall mix for my girlfriend (she’s just starting blogging so check out her site) and here’s what I came up.

Old Habits Die Hard – Mick Jagger & Dave Stewart

Nobody Told Me – John Lennon

Born in Time – Bob Dylan

Lost in the Supermarket – The Clash

Pretty (Ugly Before) – Elliot Smith

Into the Fire – Bruce Springsteen

Easy Plateau – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away – The Beatles

The Unforgetable Fire – U2

Vito’s Ordination Song – Sufjan Stevens

Strange Boat – The Waterboys

Society- Eddie Vedder

Sprawl II – Arcade Fire

Heaven – Talking Heads

Perfect Circle – R.E.M.

Cold Desert – Kings of Leon

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