Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Music Review: rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) - Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam fans rejoice! After more than ten years, Eddie and the boys are releasing a greatest hits collection. While there are no new songs here, this is an important anthology chronicling the band’s eleven years following their first major album, Ten.
The songs are divided into two disks. The order of this collection is interesting. Disk one starts with “Once” from Ten and ends with “Save You” from Riot Act, their most recently released studio album, and follows the chronology implied. Then the second disk opens with “Black,” from Ten and more or less repeats the same sequential order. So, what was the criteria for this arrangement? If pressed one could call disk one the angry anthems and disk two the introspective songs. But, like everything with this band, it is really too hard to nail down and label.
Since the disks are individually chronological, one is treated to two fascinating studies of the band’s growth from the early, heady days when they helped carve a place for grunge to today. Presented this way, the listener is struck by the untraveled roads this band still takes that keeps it an interesting and relevant band when so many of its early contemporaries have fallen away. But that is not to say that this is a disjointed or jarring collection to listen to. Quite the contrary. Where many artist’s or band’s hits collected over a similar time period would produce an album with a dissembling sound, Pearl Jam has a consistency, even a constancy, that makes each recording uniquely theirs though they may experiment with greatly varied sounds and structures.
Finally, this collection presents their evolution from the burgeoning rock stars that led the charge of alternative and grunge music in the early nineties to the mature, more thoughtful, and yet no less experimental Pearl Jam of today. Where they stunned with their rebellion then, they mesmerize with their complexity and depth now.
While the hard core fan of this band may question this list of “greatest” hits, it would be hard to deny that this collection includes many of their best tunes. Fans, here’s another jewel for your collection. Casual admirers, this would be a perfect acquisition if you have considered adding a taste of Pearl Jam to your library.

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