Monday, 21 June 2010

Countdown: Pearl Jam

Hard Rock Calling @ Hyde Park kicks off on Friday with The Hives and Ben Harper supporting the headliners, Pearl Jam! The most successful band from the grunge-era (and one of the few still standing), Pearl Jam have been rocking for two decades and show no signs of slowing down. With 9 studio albums including 2009's critically acclaimed Backspacer, it's hard to choose just 20 of their best songs, but here we go....

20. The End (Backspacer)

Closing out their last album, 'The End' finds Eddie Vedder in a reflective writing mood. Like most of the tracks on Backspacer it's short and sweet, leaving you wanting more. The sudden finish to the song gets me every time.

19. Last Kiss (Lost Dogs)

Peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, 'Last Kiss' would become Pearl Jam's biggest commercial hit. Still a pub standard today and one of their most loved songs, even if it is a cover.

One of the best examples of Vedder's amazing storytelling. More low-key and acoustic, the song tells the tale of an encounter between a woman and an old boyfriend who moved onto bigger things outside the small town they were born in.

17. Nothingman (Vitalogy)

By Pearl Jam's third album, Vitalogy, Vedder had really perfected how to get the most emotion into his vocals. Case in point, 'Nothingman,' which brings me down (in a good way) every time I listen to it.

16. Even Flow (Ten)

Most of the songs on Ten dealt with pretty serious social issues. 'Even Flow' tackled an issue that is still a problem today, homelessness. "Freezing, rests his head on a pillow made of concrete, again."

15. World Wide Suicide (Pearl Jam)

It was only a matter of time before Pearl Jam weighed in on America's Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. That time would come in 2006 with the first single from their self-titled 8th studio album, 'World Wide Suicide,' began getting a ton of radio play.

14. Save You (Riot Act)

Fast-paced and featuring one of their best guitar riffs, 'Save You' deals with the pain of watching a good friend waste their life.

13. Supersonic (Backspacer)

'Supersonic' is just fun from start to finish. A song that will make you jump and you don't have to feel bad about it because there's no underlying social issue.

12. Alive (Ten)

The song that started it all. Mike McCready's guitar solo is regarded as one of the best of all time and with good reason. Stadium rock at its very best and again, very heavy subject material.

11. Light Years (Binaural)

For a song that revolves around the death of a friend, 'Light Years' is surprisingly uplifting. But maybe it's meant to be. Maybe it's about celebrating life. Whatever it is, it's one of the most beautiful songs Pearl Jam's ever released.

10. Man of the Hour (Big Fish OST)

If you've seen the Tim Burton film Big Fish then you should already love this song. 'Man of the Hour' is a young man saying goodbye to his Dad and one of the most perfectly written songs to come from Vedder. The best song the Jam have released in the 2000s.

9. Jeremy (Ten)

'Jeremy' would be the real breakthrough hit, dominating the MTV VMA's when people actually cared about MTV (because they were playing, you know, music). One of the biggest songs to come out of the grunge era, arguably behind only 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.'

8. Given to Fly (Yield)

Can you say a song is really nice to listen to. Nice is a pretty lame description. This song is amazing, was a critical and commercial success and took away a lot of the pain caused by No Code.

One of the best covers of all time. Victoria Williams even contributed backing vocals and guitar. Probably the most country influenced song Pearl Jam have recorded.

6. Why Go? (Ten)

Why would you want to go home if your parents had you committed to a mental institution for smoking pot? I love this song.

5. Daughter (Vs.) and Better Man (Vitalogy) - TIE

I find it pretty hard to separate these two. Both have become pub standards. Both tell amazing stories; 'Daughter' deals with the abuse of a child with a learning difficulty, while 'Better Man' is about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. Deep stuff.

3. Do the Evolution (Yield)

The funnest song in Pearl Jam's entire catalogue but it's about the pathetic excuses the world makes for everything it ruins (like the environment). The video is outstanding.

2. Black (Ten)

Eddie Vedder's lyrical masterpiece and single greatest vocal performance. Stunning.

I like the argument that this is the follow-up to 'Daughter.' Getting away from the abuse, the shades are raised and the person is free. My favourite Pearl Jam song of all time.


  1. Awesome list Matt! Although I still would like to see Unthought Known and Just Breathe on there. And you did miss Immortality and the greatest live song ever, Yellow Ledbetter...may nee to turn this into a top 25!

  2. I know, there were soooo many songs that could have gone in - Love Boat Captain, Gone, Footsteps, Once, I Am Mine + the ones you've mentioned above. Yellow Ledbetter probably should have been put in there but I can't stop listening to The End so I went with that. AHHH!


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