This week Pearl Jam reissued their second and third albums, Vs. and Vitalogy. I’ve listened to both online, and neither is as interesting or exciting as last year’s reissue of Ten, their debut album. Ten was recorded and produced in a manner that did not fit with how the band’s sound evolved. While remixing and rereleasing it was probably self-indulgent, the result was surprisingly great. In fact, I now only have the remixed songs from Ten on my hard drive, the originals banished to the CD box in the basement.
The recording quality of the next two albums was fine from the beginning. The updated versions, which have only been cleaned up a bit rather than run through a total remix process, sound pretty much the same. Thus these are only purchases for real collectors who will spring for the Super DeLuxe version, or for those who long ago lost their original CDs and want to replace them.
The Onion AV Club’s excellent Steven Hyden uses the latest reissues as a chance to reexamine PJ circa 93-94, the moment the band chose their path and turned into the band they wanted to be instead of the band others wanted them to be. I’ve always been and always will be a fan, but I admit there are times I wonder how things would have turned out if they had made even a few small compromises. They probably wouldn’t be a band anymore, we may have lost someone along the way, but perhaps they would have had one more classic album in them.
It was only after Pearl Jam became massively successful that it had the chance to spend years on the road and gel into a unit. Then it figured out what it was: A band with a Fugazi mind trapped in an Aerosmith body.