It’s part two of our mammoth deep-dive into the career of Pearl Jam and Remfry’s taking no prisoners, delivering the longest single episode we’ve ever recorded for our Classic Album series. But hey … how often do you get to wax lyrical on your favourite band of all time eh?
Recorded during the most tumultuous part of the band’s career, Vitalogy was a dynamic and sometimes disturbing reflection of a band on the brink of self-destruction. Their reluctant, meteoric rise had forced the band to withdraw from the typical major label promotion machine, despite the music press often dragging them kicking and screaming back into the spotlight. Whilst Vs. marked the beginning of this process (see Part 1), Vitalogy was the antagonistic culmination, a middle-finger to the hysteria and hyperbole that followed them no matter how opposed they were to it.
Pearl Jam faced a myriad of arduous challenges during this time; intra-band relations were strained, particularly with drummer Dave Abbruzzese, who was fired just prior to the release of the record. Guitarist Mike McCready was struggling with addiction, entering a rehab facility during recording sessions and bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard represented the band when the US Justice Department asked for their assistance in an investigation against Ticketmaster. Vocalist Eddie Vedder meanwhile, was desperately trying to shake off the unwanted ‘voice of a generation’ tag that he’d been saddled with, particularly in the wake of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death. The largely fabricated media feud between the two bands meant that the two frontmen never got to bond in a truly meaningful way, despite their similarities, something that was a source of deep frustration to the empathetic Pearl Jam singer.
As a result, Vitalogy contained some of the most antagonistic material of their career (Not For You, Bugs, Satan’s Bed, Hey Foxymophandlemama That’s Me) but also some of the most enduring and beloved songs in their back catalogue (Nothingman, Corduroy, Better Man, Immortality). Imperfect by design, Vitalogy delighted in testing the bands fanbase and divided opinion like no other Pearl Jam album before or since. Whatever people think of Vitalogynow or then, it’s undoubtedly the most important record in the Pearl Jam canon, allowing them to break free of the shackles of ‘grunge’ (a tag that never really suited them in the first place) and become the band they were always destined to be.
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