Sound — 10
This is easily the grittiest of Pearl Jam albums. This was largely written and recorded in a period where the band was close to self-destructing, and the desperation comes across in the music and lyrics. That said, the production is excellent and the album does a better job of creating a consistent mood than any other album they've done. Vedder wrote much of the music on the album, and stylistically they really begin the movement away from the Ten sound and the guitar solo to songs that depend more on interweaving rhythm guitars and soundscapes. Songs no longer close like Alive or Go. Instead you have the jams of Immortality, Not For You, and Corduroy. This album has some deliberate filler (Pry, To, Bugs, Aye Davanita, and Stupid Mop) that were either musical experiments or just an FU to the music industry. Worth listening to once, and then programming out (although many fans enjoy Aye Davanita).
Lyrics — 10
Eddie's best album lyrically. With a few exceptions (the 'love' songs Nothingman, Betterman, and Tremor Christ - all lyrically brillaint in their own light) this is something of a concept album, a meditation on the price of fame, the desire to maintain a degree of authenticity in the music, and an exercise in therapy. From the albums' opening with Last Exit (Lives opened and trashed... look ma, watch me crash... no time to question... why'd nothing last). Eddie makes it clear that the band is an attempt to salvage meaning from music, to validate themselves in an industry that chewed up, commodified and spit out all the meaning in the grunge movement and the artists who embodied it. It runs through Spin the Black Circle, Not For You, Whipping, Corduory, Bugs, and Satan's Bed, working out these issues and telling a passionate and intimate story, before the final closing cryptic lines of immortality 'A truant moves on... cannot stay long... some die just to live. A lyrical tour de force that is perfectly in sync with the music. And Eddie's voice may be at its most primal here.
Overall Impression — 10
In my opinion this is the jewel in Pearl Jam's impresive crown. While not as immediately accessible as some of the other albums, there is not a single dud here, and much of their best work (Betterman, Corduroy and Immortality are my favorites)can be found. The pounding last exit, the punk intensity of spin the black cricle, the slow burn of Not For You, the jarring Tremor Christ, the haunting nothingman, the anger of Whipping, the epic Corduroy, the playful Satan's Bed, aching Betterman, and cathartic immortality tell a story no other album (by any band, I think) can match. Not only is this the best of the pearl jam records, this is arguably the best album of the 90's. I would sacrifice much of my cd collection to insure nothing happened to it.