There are those who hate Pearl Jam. There are those that subscribe to my blog and “read” it that hate Pearl Jam. There are those who subscribe to my blog and “read” it and claim to have slept with Eddie Vedder that hate Pearl Jam. There are those who subscribe to my blog and “read” it and claim to have slept with Eddie Vedder and say it was less than stellar that hate Pearl Jam.
Let me start out by saying that those claims are, on all counts, erroneous, slanderous, and above all blasphemous. You know who you are. And you should be ashamed, but I know you’re rather proud. Which disappoints me. Really, it does.
Beside the point.
Pearl Jam is, arguably, my favorite band. I’d list those that rival them, but that would be a monumental task as the list is both immense and in constant flux (not to mention, who gives a shit what my favorite bands are?). But Pearl Jam is one of the very few to maintain top 10 status. Affinity with particular musical artists waxes and wanes, just as anything else. For a very long time Pearl Jam fell away, down the pecking order in favor of bands like French Kicks, the Shins, Radiohead, Postal Service, My Morning Jacket, the White Stripes. It wasn’t that I suddenly found grunge rock distasteful or had outgrown the leftist lyrical tendencies. I didn’t become too mature or educated or refined for the groggy, cigarette smoke-induced growl of one of rock music’s greatest frontmen. I didn’t come to favor the soothing sounds of new age ambient music over the harsh incantations and stage antics that hailed from the grimy nightclubs and dive bars of dreary, bleating Seattle. I simply put them down for a time to try other things.
But for all my dabbling in the dark, unexplored crevices of this vast ambiguity we call music, Pearl Jam has never lost its footing.
Every band has its detractors; Pearl Jam is no exception. In fact, Vedder and the boys probably have more than most. And I’m sure they don’t mind that at all. It’s a rare artist in any forum or medium that can make a particular political statement only to be booed by the majority of an audience that are supposedly its fans, laugh at the incident in that moment, and in the next have that same audience belting a chorus as if it were their own. Pearl Jam have lasted not because of their virtuosic talent or groundbreaking innovation. They do not persist because of the shockwaves they send through the musical community or their soaring record sales. Pearl Jam exist today, 22 years after their nascent debut album, because they are real. Because they have been true to themselves. Because they have grown, evolved, developed, changed without losing sight of what they know to be true and important. Because they are artists, through and through. Pearl Jam are today what they were when a young surfer from the outskirts of San Diego stumbled upon an instrumental cassette tape from a burgeoning band in Seattle. And for that, they will always be close to my heart.