Album Review: Pearl Jam – “Vitalogy”

Vitalogy is Pearl Jam’s third album, and it was released on December 6, 1994. After all of the success that their previous album, Vs., had achieved, there was a lot of anticipation and expectations for the band when this album was released. At the time of its release, Vitalogy became the second fastest-selling album in history at that time, only being beaten out by Pearl Jam’s Vs. A few years later, these records would be beaten.

Vitalogy opens with “Last Exit.” Musically, the song has a sound that’s similar to some of the material that Nirvana had recorded a few years earlier, especially with the bassline. However, the sound is definitely a little “poppier” than how Nirvana would have performed it. This is followed by “Spin the Black Circle,” which was released as the first single from Vitalogy. Musically, this is one of the harder sounding songs the band has recorded; in fact, it sounds rather close to punk. According to Eddie Vedder, the lyrics of the song are about the band’s love for vinyl records.

The next song on Vitalogy is “Not for You,” which was released as the second single from the album. According to Eddie Vedder, the song is about how youth is being sold and exploited. Musically, it sounds a bit closer to the “typical” Pearl Jam song. This is followed by “Tremor Christ,” which has a heavy-sounding bassline, and has a marching rhythm in the percussion.

Next is “Nothingman,” and it’s one of the slower songs on Vitalogy. Eddie Vedder has said the lyrics of this song say that if you love someone and they love you back that you’d better not mess things up; if you do, then you’ll be left with less than nothing. This is followed by “Whipping,” which picks the pace of the album back up considerably. Musically, it has some of the “typical” Pearl Jam sound; however, you can also hear some difference in how this track is produced in comparison to previous albums.

The next song on Vitalogy is “Pry, To,” and it’s the shortest song on the album. This is basically Eddie’s vocals with some kind of processing accompanied by some instrumentation, and the words are rather incomprehensible. This is definitely not one of the better tracks on the album. Next is “Corduroy,” which opens with a guitar riff as an arpeggio of the first two notes of a power chord. This song also has some different elements for its lyrical structure; however, these differences work for this song. One common theory that has arisen over the years concerning the lyrics of this song is that they are conveying the pressures of fame.

This is followed by “Bugs,” which is definitely one of the oddest songs on this album. It almost sounds like Eddie Vedder is being accompanied by an accordion and maracas, and he’s singing about all the bugs he sees. This is by far one of my least favorite songs on this album. Next is “Satan’s Bed,” which is one of the harder songs musically on the album; however, it’s not as hard as “Spin the Black Circle.”

“Better Man” is one of the best-known songs on the album, even though it never received a commercial release; it became the band’s biggest pop hit from Vitalogy. The song was written by Eddie Vedder when he was in high school, and it’s a song about abusive relationships; it is said that Eddie has dedicated the song specifically to his stepfather. This is followed by “Aye Davanita,” which features heavy percussion and very little in the way of lyrics; it sounds more like humming than any actual words. This song sounds rather repetitive, and it’s one that I don’t go out of my way to listen to.

Next on Vitalogy is “Immortality,” and it was released as the third single from the album. While a lot of speculation has existed that this song was written about the death of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder has consistently denied that this is the case. Musically, it’s the slowest song on the album. The album closes with “Heyfoxymophandlemama, That’s Me,” which is also known as “Stupid Mop.” It’s the longest song on the album, clocking in at seven minutes and forty-four seconds. It’s definitely one of the more experimental songs on the album; it’s closer to being like “Bugs” than to any of the other songs on the album. This is another one of the songs on this album that I don’t go out of my way to listen to.

I have to give Pearl Jam credit for trying to experiment and do some different things with Vitalogy, instead of trying to replicate the success of Ten and Vs. However, there are times when the experimentation doesn’t work (“Bugs” and “Stupid Mop”). Also, when compared to the previous two albums, the material on this one doesn’t flow together as smoothly. While Vitalogy isn’t a bad album, I really don’t go out of my way to listen to this one a whole lot. And when I do listen to it, I tend to only listen to particular songs: “Spin The Black Circle” and “Better Man,” which are my two favorites from Vitalogy.


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