To celebrate the release of Pearl Jam’s eleventh studio album, Gigaton, I thought I would rank their previous 10 in order of my personal preference.
I should point out that I believe that there are no poor PJ albums and the following is just my opinion. Please feel free to share your own list, there are no right or wrong answers. Music is personal to each individual, songs and albums mean more to some than others. This is just my list…
10 – Riot Act (2002)
Probably the album that I have listened to the least and I should definitely listen to it more. There are a few good songs on the album such as ‘Love Boat Captain’, ‘I Am Mine’ and ‘Thumbing My Way’. I think this was a difficult album for them, coming off the 9/11 and Roskilde tragedies. There is definitely a different feel to this album than the others and I think there is a mix of anger and hurt that comes through in the songs.
9 – Pearl Jam (2006)
This album starts really powerfully with ‘Life Wasted’ and ‘World Wide Suicide’ and remains uptempo throughout. It was a step up from the more experimental ‘Riot Act’ album. ‘Severed Hand’ is another powerful song and would certainly make a great name for a crime novel…
8 – No Code (1996)
This album has some very strong songs on it, although it has a very different feel to the earlier albums. The eerie opening track ‘Sometimes’ leads you into a false sense of security before the power of ‘Hail, Hail’ arrives with ‘Habit’ having the feeling of early Grunge anger and attitude. The stand out track, however, is ‘Present Tense’ with its haunting guitar introduction and Eddie’s stunning vocals.
7 – Binaural (2000)
The explosive opening of ‘Breakerfall’ with Eddie’s twin vocals introduces a really good album. There are a number of excellent tracks on this album including ‘Light Years’, ‘Grievance’ and the humorous, ukulele led ‘Soon Forgot’. The standout for me is ‘Nothing As It Seems’. The screaming, sustained lead guitar over the acoustic works so well before Eddie comes in and sings the powerful lyrics so passionately.
6 – Yield (1998)
Although this album is two songs too long for me, with the rather silly ‘Push Me, Pull Me’ and the overly-Beatles styled ‘All Those Yesterdays’ at the end of the album. This does not take away from the number of excellent songs before we get there such as ‘Brain of J’, ‘Wishlist’, ‘MFC’ and ‘In Hiding’. This album contains two of my favourite PJ songs in ‘Do The Evolution’ and ‘Given To Fly’.
5 – Vitalogy (1994)
This album was a real change in sound and feel from the first two but it has some of the best PJ songs on it. It may have been higher up in my list had it not been for the number of silly outtake style songs like ‘Bugs’ and ‘Aye Davanita’. The lead single of ‘Spin The Black Circle’ illustrates the more up tempo songs that also included ‘Not For You’ and the excellent ‘Corduroy’. It is the softer songs that I really like on this album such as ‘Immortality’, ‘Nothingman’ and one of their best songs ever written in ‘Better Man’.
4 – Backspacer (2009)
This was the album that got me right back into listening to Pearl Jam a lot. Even after the first listen, I felt this was a real return to form for the band and I think it has the same feel as the early albums. It starts with a real punch with ‘Gonna See My Friend’ and “Got Some’ before the hit single ‘The Fixer’. There is not a bad song on the album and the beautiful ‘Just Breathe’ has that subtle sound that can also be heard on Eddie Vedder’s excellent solo album “Into The Wild’ which is one of my favourite albums of all time.
3 – Lightning Bolt (2013)
I was a little apprehensive when this album came out. I was so impressed with Backspacer and I was worried that the band may change direction again or move away from all the good work from the previous album. From the opening track I knew that this was not the case. A similar feel to Backspacer and the earlier albums, again there is not a bad song on the album. ‘Mind Your Manners’ and ‘My Father’s Son’ and real powerful songs where ‘Sirens’ and ‘Pendulum’ are two of the most beautiful PJ songs ever written. The album also contains the awesome ‘Getaway’, opening the album with a huge punch. I love this song so much, that it was actually it was my ringtone for years.
2 – Vs (1993)
The toughest part of this list was separating the top two. I even considered having a joint number one, but that would be cheating. I remember playing this album to death when it came out and for many years it was my number one PJ album. The opening two tracks of ‘Go’ and ‘Animal’ are just so powerful. This album has great song after great song, with so many intense songs with intense lyrics. The second album is often the most difficult, but they achieved greatness with theirs. ‘Rearviewmirror’, ‘Rats’ and ‘Dissident’ have the same power as the opening two songs. The softer songs of ‘Daughter’, ‘Small Town’ and the beautiful ‘Indifference’ just add to the overall package. This album means so much to me that I have used it as inspiration in the novel I am currently writing that I have titled ‘Five Against One’ which was the original name for the album.
1 – Ten (1991)
This may very well be my favourite album ever. When this came out I was a teenager learning to play guitar and listening to all the classic rock artists of the day. The grunge movement had the same affect on me as The Beatles, Elvis, Punk or Britpop may have had on their generation. I loved Nirvana as well, but for me PJ were a class above. I love every song on this album and can happily listen to it all the way through today despite the hundreds of plays I have already given it. There is little point in naming the songs as they are all brilliant, well with the exception of one which I have to name and mention.
I remember hearing Alive for the first time and I was just blown away. It remains my favourite song of all time and when I started to write my debut novel, I had the title before I had the story. It was always going to be called Alive in a show of appreciation to the song that has stayed with me, and meant so much to me, since that day.
I hope you enjoyed my list and I would love to know what other PJ fans think. Do I need to go back and listen to a particular album many times again and get it higher up the list?
Alive is available on paperback and eBook – click on the Books section of the menu to order. ‘Five Against One’ will be released in the Summer of 2020.