by Greg Akers
I’ve chosen to implement a completely different strategy for determining my Pearl Jam list than my last one, however. With U2, I listened to every album for a refresher and then made my list after the fact. For Pearl Jam, I have listened to each album, in order, and ranked each song as they played. (To wit: “Once” was number-one on my list until I listened to “Alive,” and then it dropped to two, until I listened to “Why Go,” when it dropped to three, and so on.)
Pearl Jam recently released a new album, Backspacer. I haven’t listened to it yet, and it seemed mildly appropriate to work up a list based on everything that came before it. Consider this a snapshot of my Pearl Jam opinions the day before I buy their next.
A note about eligibility: Pearl Jam has something like an open-source relationship with their fans. They’re prolific and they release scads of material in non-traditional formats such as fan-club extras, soundtracks, tributes, EPs, singles, official bootlegs, etc. In light of this, I created a list that assumed no studio Pearl Jam song was off-limits. That’s not to say I’ve heard everything there is out there. But I made a fairly concerted effort to access as much as is commonly available. Many rarities were collected on the band’s Lost Dogs two-disker, and I highly recommend it to anybody who’s into Pearl Jam enough to still be reading the words I’m typing here.
I ruled ineligible all live versions, because I just ain't got that kind of time on my hands. This is Knowledge Bowl season, yaknow.
Pearl Jam Top 40 Songs:
Like Pilate, I have a statistics:
Ten: 4 songs
Vs.: 1 song
Vitalogy: 2 songs
No Code: 5 songs
Yield: 4 songs
Binaural: 5 songs
Riot Act: 6 songs
Pearl Jam: 4 songs
Lost Dogs/Non-album releases: 9 songs
Since the day, I've always existed with the knowledge that Ten is my favorite PJ album. Apparently, it's not. I will say that Ten performs well over the life of my complete-catalog list (which I have composed with all due diligence, and it is available upon request) — there's only one song I don't really like from it ("Jeremy"), and even that isn't hate so much as boredom with.
I've also always had high regard for Vs., but it just doesn't bear out in a top 40. For what it's worth, I've got "Elderly Woman" at #42 and "Go" at #44.
No Code makes a strong case for best album, with 3 in the top 10 and 5 in the top 20. Riot Act is deep and is the album with the most songs in the 40, and Binaural shows well, too.
Non-album songs are the strongest of all, which is weird but not necessarily the result of liking weird for weird's sake. "Yellow Ledbetter" and "Last Kiss" are two of the most loved Pearl Jam songs in the canon, and the band's two songs from the Singles soundtrack are considered primary-source material.
Vitalogy has always been my least favorite album. I love love love the songs I love and I hate hate hate the songs I hate. My three least favorite Pearl Jam songs are #140 "Aye Davanita," #141 "Pry, To," and #142 "Bugs." Barf.