It’s a big weekend for me: Sunday evening I’m seeing Pearl Jam for the first time since 2000. I’m pretty excited about it.
I re-added the SiriusXM Pearl Jam channel as a favorite a couple weeks ago and have been listening to it a lot in preparation. I’ve also been spinning their songs on Spotify in between all the other stuff I regularly listen to. I’ve been tracking their current set lists, although with PJ that tells you nothing about what they will play at your show.
With all that going on, seemed like a good day for some PJ content.
First, a playlist featuring my favorite PJ songs. Then I’ll rank their albums.
Favorite Pearl Jam Songs
7 – “State of Love and Trust”
Left off their debut album, it helped to elevate the *Singles* soundtrack to legendary status.
6 – “Given to Fly”
The first song I sought out on the internet.
5 – “Hail, Hail”
I don’t people appreciate how great this song is.
4 – “I Got Id”
A little help from Uncle Neil Young helped elevate this track.
3 – “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”
The greatest lines of Eddie’s career?
I just want to scream, hellooooooo
My God it’s been so long, never dreamed you’d return…
2 – “Release”
An all-time great album closer.
1 – “Corduroy”
Everything came together on this track. You know they agree, because it is their most played song that was not on their first album.
Pearl Jam Albums, Ranked
1 – Vs., 1993
Their most consistent and complete album. Also their best sounding album. It ROCKS. Not quite as many “hits” as *Ten*, but odds are you know nearly every song. The sequencing and pacing are perfect.
2 – Ten, 1991
The monster that started it all. You definitely know every song, and likely every word to every song. The production is a little wonky, but that was somewhat fixed in the 2009 re-release. And then there are the great songs that didn’t make the final pressing. “Yellow Ledbetter,” “Footsteps,” “Wash,” “State of Love and Trust,” “Breath.” Several of the Vs. tracks had roots in the sessions for Ten as well. A lot of bands would sell their souls for one of those songs and they didn’t even make PJ’s first album.
3 – Vitalogy, 1994
For a long time this was my favorite PJ album. Now it’s just a little too weird and abrasive for me. When it is good, it is as good as they ever got (“Corduroy”). But all those odd diversions distract.
4 – Yield, 1998
The band’s poppiest and most accessible album. Some great songs, but you also feel the band losing some of what had made them great as they shed their anger and the constant tension within the band.
5 – No Code, 1996
The moment when PJ lost a huge part of its fan base. Which is weird because aside from a few songs, it is pretty much a straight-ahead, 1996 rock album. Which makes it strange that it wasn’t a bigger mainstream success, as it wasn’t nearly as dark as their first three albums.
6 – Pearl Jam, 2006
Every band that lasts needs a comeback album, and this was Pearl Jam’s. Muscular in a way they hadn’t been since *Vs.*. It was also a shift where Eddie started writing closer to Bruce Springsteen’s style than he had ever done before.
7 – Gigaton, 2020
Their most recent album is filled with fine moments. But there is a lack of something, I’m not sure what, that kept me from ever really loving it. Maybe I should blame Covid.
8 (tie) – Binaural, 2000
Riot Act, 2002
The back-to-back early 2000s albums that very much blend together to me now. Weary, and not in an interesting way. Eddie opened up song writing to the rest of the band, and it felt like they were searching for a way to coexist. On Riot Act they tried to tap into the late ‘90s anti-corporate movement to find a sense of purpose and source of anger, but that didn’t ring as true as their more personal songs on the early albums. Ironically, this was when the band finally had a stable drummer, decided it was ok to have fun touring, and became arguably the best live band in the world. But that sense of freedom and lightness did not translate to these albums.
10 (tie) – Backspacer, 2009
Lightning Bolt, 2013
The 2010-ish albums that blend together to me. Albums that seemed to exist because the band could make them rather than felt compelled to make them. Each one has a couple terrific singles, but the ratio of hits to filler is pretty low. The band also started writing about more adult matters, often of death/divorce, as people their age often do. Even when the songs were nice to listen to, they lacked that *oomph* that made early Pearl Jam so great.