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Pearl Jam's 'Vitalogy' helped band escape grunge stereotypes, experiment with hardcore, country, more


Music Times believes that it's never too late to go back and try something old. Throwback Thursdays will go back and pull out an album that's at least 10 years old, so that you can find something new, or revisit something you've forgotten about.

Week of 12/12/2013

WHO: Pearl Jam

WHAT: Vitalogy

WHEN: 1994

Grunge had more than set into the national conscience by 1994, and yet was far from running its course. The era's biggest bands had slowly become tired of the stereotypes with which society defined its scene with, and began experimenting accordingly. Nirvana's In Utero lamented the band's rise post-Nevermind, and Alice in Chains unplugged for a pair of acoustic EP's. Pearl Jam was Seattle's most straightforward rock group, but it explored outside the rock 'n' roll fence for third album Vitalogy

"Spin The Black Circle" rattles with hardcore influence, "Aye Davanita" sways with psychedelic influence, and "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" is a full out, rock 'n' sampling experiment. Some of these tracks (especially the lattermost) probably offset fans of Ten and Vs, as they were meant to. The band took breaks from submitting its fans to the "torture" of new styles however, punctuating the album with singles that exemplify the rock that made it famous in the first place. "Better Man" and "Corduroy" are still must-haves on any "greatest hits" compilation. 

The mishmash approach to the album ultimately results in Vitalogy's best song. Pearl Jam wasn't unfamiliar in the least with the blues-based form of "Immortality," but the transitions from the acoustic riff of Stone Gossard to the slow, electric solo of Mike McCready, all behind lyrics far more abstract that those on previous albums, reflect a band well-versed across a number of genres, or at least comfortable enough to bring them together seamlessly. 

It may not live up to Ten, but Vitalogy is the best case for why Pearl Jam is the only one of Seattle's major grunge players to make it to 2013 without a split. 

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