90’s Score 7.6/10
2020 Score 9.2/10
Seriously though, how do you follow up an album as masterful as Pearl Jam’s debut Ten? Ten was jam-packed with hit singles, it is the Pearl Jam we loved then and it’s the PJ we still love now. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Two years later in beautiful 1993, which also saw the release of Nirvana’s In Utero and The Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream (take me back to 1993, please!), Pearl Jam dropped their sophomore VS.
At first glance VS. is light years from what Eddie Vedder and Co established with Ten. There are not as many discernable hits, in fact, the band took a hard stance at this stage of not even releasing singles and going to battle with Ticketmaster, but that’s a story for a whole other article. Then again, as you start to unravel these songs really it fucking is the Pearl Jam we all know and love, only so much more raw and unforgiving. Almost as if by saying “fuck singles” lead the band to creating a whole other plethora of timeless alternative rock. Is it punk? You can most definitely make a case for the lead track “Go” with its break neck drums and Soundgardenesque riffing. Is it experimental? W.MA. most definitely takes you on a six-minute adventure from which you may not come back as the same person. Ok, it’s radio rock? “Daughter,” with its lush acoustics and heartfelt lyrics, could for sure make that argument. Simply put, it is all of these things but more importantly, it’s Pearl Jam showing that they are untouchable…the kings of the alternative 90’s. How can a band take things in so many fucking directions on one album yet still sound exactly like themselves on every track? Magic, I say.
The cover art stands out, one of I’ll say my top five album covers to come out of the ’90s. Speaking of standing out, Pearl Jam doesn’t shy away from making statements on this record either, “Glorified G” making commentary on gun regulation and “Leash,” a magnificent rebellion anthem if I’ve ever heard one. It just straight up gives me shivers to see a band that’s at the penultimate level of success taking a risk and delivering one of the greatest albums of a decade that was so steeped in legendary alternative rock. Final word, as a bonus, the track “Rearviewmirror” absolutely slaps, and holy shit we’ve gone meta! Look at the title of these features!
Written by Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate