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Friday, June 02, 2006

Pearl Jammin'

I saw Pearl Jam perform on David Letterman the other night – an odd coincidence, as the band had entered into more of my conversations over the preceding week than it had for the previous year or so. They were apparently plugged a new album, which Rolling Stone deems the band's "best in ten years."

Anyway, I find it interesting that this article revives the same theme I was pushing in the rash of Pearl Jam-related conversations I appeared to be having in recent days, after it notes that the new CD "is also as big and brash in fuzz and backbone as Led Zeppelin's Presence." – namely, that they are a rock band more than "alternative," "punk," "grunge," or any other tossed-about label As uber-reviewer David Fricke notes:
However you define grunge music, Pearl Jam didn't play it. They were, from jump street, a classic rock band, building their bawl with iron-guitar bones and an arena-vocal lust that came right from Zeppelin, early-Seventies Who and mid-Eighties U2 (with distortion instead of the Edge's glass-guitar harmonics).

I raise this point due to some blank stares I received last week after posting that Pearl Jam v. Nirvana was a classic example of the Apollonian v. Dionysian distinction Nietzsche observed in Birth of a Tragedy.

Before going much further, please allow me to honor a point that my friend, The Magi, made with respect to Nietzsche's point:

His ultimate point is that Greek tragedy, and in the 19th century, Wagner's operas were so great because they combine the Apollonian and the Dionysian. So that thing in Slate is kinda cute and funny, but really misses the point …

Duly noted. So, assuming that neither Pearl Jam nor Nirvana successfully combined the two, I harken to the aforementioned blank staring …

Not to belabor (too late!), but this old Spin Magazine article touches on my
point a bit, particularly this excerpt. Note the bold faced parts:

Pearl Jam have always presented an easy target for snipers. Gossard and Ament helped draw up the blueprints for grunge, first with the Stooges-like Green River, then with the more glam Mother Love Bone, but revisionists have dubbed them opportunists, not pioneers, overlooking the fact that the Seattle sound was always equal parts Black Flag and Bad Company. That Pearl Jam expressed more musical solidarity with the latter than the former outraged those who resented the connection. When Pearl Jam's AOR-friendly grunge followed Nirvana's purer version to the top of the charts, they were cast as villains by the indie-rock underground. When they outsold, outdrew, and then outlasted their contemporaries, the resentment grew further. And when they wondered aloud if being on top was so great after all, things got worse even still.

If Eddie Vedder has a blind spot, it's this: He believes in heroes. You'd think that the deception he suffered as a kid – he was led to believe by his mother that his stepfather, for whom he felt little, was his real dad – would have curtailed such leaps of faith, but mention any number of musicians to Vedder and you can plainly see that his emotional investment in them borders on the devotional.
. . .
he takes extraordinary pleasure in recounting, song-by-song, moment-by-moment, the solo set he'd seen Pete Townshend perform a few weeks before, and I just don't have the heart to challenge him on Townshend's dubious past 20 years.
. . .
Vedder loves his boomers – Young, Dylan, Townshend – the ones who extended olive branches to an adolescent San Diego boy struggling to find an identity. He's indebted to them, and he's a man who repays his debts. A vital difference between Nirvana and Pearl Jam was that Nirvana, offspring of the Sex Pistols, never trusted a hippie. Pearl Jam, offspring of the Who, couldn't wait to jam with them.

And perhaps the best question to ask yourself is, "Would Kurt Cobain, having survived, ever have done this?

As Hoppah suggests: "Kurt would have sat in the bleachers and puked on some kid before the 3rd inning."

And there it is, more brightly than anything else.

Anyway, I conclude by linking this solid version of "Porch" from Pearl Jam's Webcast from Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theater, which they apparently performed after the show. The McCready guitar solo illustrates the "rock!" point as well as anything typed above. You Tub-al perusal should reveal other songs from that set. Enjoy!


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