Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Pearl Jam – Vault 9: Live in Seattle 12/8/93 – 24 tracks / 99 minutes
Raw and loud, this homecoming set from the Vs. era is a must-listen for fans of Pearl Jam or 90s rock in general.
As 1993 came to a close, Pearl Jam were on top of the music world. Their first two albums, Ten and Vs., were massive successes and the quintet’s mix of grungy angst and masterful songwriting had sent them into the stratosphere. However, as this homecoming recording shows, they were still a work in progress. There is plenty of energy, and Eddie (as he was still known at the time) is full of piss and vinegar, on several occasions imploring his adoring audience to get off their asses and do something and to be grateful to be alive in this place and in this time. Listening to this recording is hugely satisfying but does more to show the potential The Greatest American Rock BandTM had that they had not yet realized.
This is in the thick of their battles with MTV and Ticketmaster, and not long before they would team up with Neil Young as the backing band for his excellent Mirror Ball, a collaboration and friendship that would steer the band in a new direction in the late 90s. Fittingly, the show ends with a cover of Mr. Young’s ”Rockin’ in the Free World” – as both of the Pearl Jam shows I’ve attended did (2000 and 2018, FYI).
The setlist on this December 1993 show is largely comprised of those first two PJ albums, with a few exceptions, including the aforementioned Neil classic. “Footsteps” and “State of Love and Trust” are both solid PJ B-sides that saw the light of day on Lost Dogs. “I’ve Got a Feeling” is a Beatles cover that Ed introduces by telling the crowd that this was a special day, and to “go home and look it up”. Finally, two tracks from their phenomenal Vitalogy (which would not be released until months later) were given a test-drive: “Last Exit” and “Tremor Christ”, the latter which finds Mr. Vedder butchering the verses so badly that he acknowledges it afterwards even though the elated crowd doesn’t have a clue.
The ever-wonderful “Daughter” is played as medley with “W.M.A.” thrown in on the last couple minutes, and their “opera of incest and murder, you know, the stuff you read about at breakfast” suite of “Alive”, “Once”, and “Footsteps” is excellent. All in all, this collection is tremendous and is worth your time – it takes me back to a golden era of the PNW grunge heyday- one that Ed, Mike, Stone, Jeff, and Matt survived while so many have not (RIP Kurt, Layne, Chris, and so any others).
Key Tracks: “Rockin’ in the Free World”, Dissident”, “Last Exit”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1D4fI3BbLIJL1aNhGztjUK?si=fhgswIwiTFWlqYM8pCfjVw
Atmosphere – Whenever – 12 tracks / 43 minutes
Slug and Ant are back with another collection of beats and thought-provoking rhymes.
With so many references to lakes (frozen and otherwise), it comes as no surprise that this duo proudly hails from Minnesota. On their latest effort, they continue to evolve into the thoughtful and peace and love embracing hip-hop group they’re becoming – and it works really well for them. “Love Each Other” is smooth and easy to listen to, and I dig the chorus: “If we knew each other, maybe we would love each other; or maybe we should wanna run far away to find a place the other could never discover”.
“Romance” finds Slug in rare form, as he raps about meeting a dream woman who talks of her desire to free Mumia Abu-Jamal while identifying various strains of marijuana. This line is slick: “hey pretty mama are your kids at school, you and I should go and find a swimming pool; better if it comes with a hotel room, that’ll let us check in before noon”. He also takes the opportunity to rhyme “gecko from Geico” and “white women celebrating Cinco de Mayo”, and references being the “droid they’re looking for”, for good measure. Good stuff.
The guitar riff on “Lovely” is jangly but groovy a la Two Feet, and carries this terrific track along with Nikki Jean’s backing vocals. On “You’re Gonna Go”, he laments a relationship that he knows will end, but going through with it anyway. “I’m not a victim, I’m not a victor; I’m just tryin’ to eavesdrop when the cosmos whisper… I don’t know where you’re gonna go, but I know, you’re gonna go”.
The constant effort and struggle to reach the top is the mantra on “The Ceiling”: “I been workin’ my whole life to touch the ceiling, don’t even know if I’d recognize the feelin’, but I been workin’ my whole life.” Keep up the work, and we will keep playing your shit while we keep working on ours, Slug.
Key Tracks: “Romance”, “You’re Gonna Go”, “Lovely”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5P1zPxtGyoNhGEoZpAw8Tc?si=WaQYJ_UcTbm8Ogoqz3tzew
Foo Fighters – 0099925 (EP)
Yes, indeed, it’s yet another sample of tunes from their archives. This ten-song EP has three unreleased tracks including covers of The Obsessed’s “Iron and Stone” and Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”, along with a Foo original “Make a Bet”. None of these move the needle for me, but there are a few gems among the 7 live recordings from 1999 and 2000 on their world tour behind There is Nothing Left to Lose. “Ain’t It the Life” is slow Foo at their best, and the loud/quiet dynamics of “Breakout” make for great live performances. On this take, Dave allows for some audience participation before belting it out so hard that I believe I can hear his vocal chords telling him to go fuck himself. Rawk!