Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Jam’

In a battle of Pearl Jam tracks off their 1994 album Vitalogy, who wins: “Nothingman” or “Better Man”?

“Better Man” – Pearl Jam, 1994

Okay, so I’ve probably listened to this track thousands of times (if not more.) It’s been a classic in my mind ever since the first time I heard it way back when; in fact, it’s the main reason I purchased this album. Right from the intro guitar, the track gets you hooked. Vedder’s vocals are filled with just enough emotion, that you feel the heaviness of the song bleed through your speakers. The story is a woman who know she needs to get out of her toxic relationship, but just can’t seem to do it. She thinks about it all the time, she knows she needs to, but convinces herself that maybe they’re still in love, so she keeps going back to him. A heavy track, relevant to far too many people, even today.

 

“Nothingman” – Pearl Jam, 1994

As previously mentioned, the main reason I bought Vitalogy, was because of “Better Man.” Having said that, I was more than happy to have found this track (which also resurfaced on 1998’s Live on Two Legs album). It’s not as well known as “Better Man,” but damn, is it great. It’s slower and more somber; self-deprecating almost. The story of a guy who’s regretting walking away from something great, leaving him with nothing. He has nothing, he is nothing. He’s finally seeing he screwed up, and there’s no going back. Vedder’s vocals are superbly controlled, conveying that burden of regret throughout the track. The lyrics are full of imagery, and paint a picture that the listener can not only understand, but also feel.

Verdict

“Nothingman” It’s a purely personal choice, because I can relate. Vedder’s vocals are more versatile, plus the lyrics are beautiful and sad, and relay so much, in such few words:

“Empty stares…from each corner of a shared prison cell…
One just escapes…one’s left inside the well…
And he who forgets…will be destined to remember”

Sigh.

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Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but I find myself longing for music of the past more and more these days. I’ve never hidden the fact that the current state of music is deplorable compared to when I grew up. But this isn’t a post about that. It’s a post about trying to (rhetorically) figure out what truly connects a person to music, and if that changes over time, across generations and through individuals.

(Note: Everyone’s experience with music is different; I’m not trying to make all-encompassing blanket statements. These are just my observations over the years.)

When I was a kid, all my musical influences lay in the hands of my older family members. As such, it was all 80s rock – U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc. At that time, cassette tapes were the only vehicle for music, and I still remember this INXS tape we had – 1987’s Kick album, loaded with classics like “Need You Tonight” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” I used to play that tape over and over and over again on my small pink tape player (that came with earbuds!) I would just lay on the ground, headphones in, and listen.

I continued on like this, album after album (including The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) until U2 essentially took over my entire world. I had this one U2 mixtape that I spent hours upon hours crafting, timing every track to perfection. I must’ve listened to it countless times over years and years. At the time, I had a shiny silver Sony Walkman that automatically switched the tape’s sides. I knew every single word to every single song on that tape – they were my first favourite band of all time, and felt like a part of me.

Adolescence is a time when one is easily influenced, inspired. We hang on to things that (we think) mean something to us. If we’re angry, we like loud music. If we like to dance, we pick dance music. Our minds are so malleable and spongey, we can absorb anything. During such a precious time, it’s also easy to just follow what your friends are doing, so you won’t feel left out. For me, it was a combination – my entire school listened to grunge in the 90s, therefore I did too. However, I also enjoyed the music, and felt some connection to it, because it became about learning about an entire genre, and all the bands involved.

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out: when I hear 90s music now, do I love it because of that previous connection to it, because of nostalgia? Is it attached to specific memories, or a more care-free time? Or do I truly think it’s better than a lot of the music of today? If I heard that same music now, what would I think? Would I enjoy it the same way, would it speak to me in the same way? Or was it just a right time, right place scenario? Let’s be real, grunge doesn’t exist anymore (in spite of some pitiful attempts at a comeback); it died a long time ago – is that why it has such a pull over me?

Same would go for those who are fans of 60s-70s music – maybe that attachment comes from the notion that there currently isn’t any music out there that resembles anything from back then. Maybe they feel like they experienced the birth and demise of a genre. Its evolution and inability to survive in the current world. Maybe they just miss it. In previous decades, music had so much more to say. Musicians used their voices to make statements.

Nowadays, the industry has gotten soft. No one (rather, not many) talk about anything real, which is why everything is so interchangeable and unrecognizable. It all kind of blurs together. For example, millennials all think Drake is the almighty – but will they still think that in 10 years? Or is it because they hear his songs at clubs and bars right now? In 10 year’s time though, will they still be going to clubs? Moreover, even if they did, would Drake still be playing over the speakers? Has the music scene just changed now?

These days, music can be heard anywhere and everywhere – which is great. But that also makes a lot of room for noise. I wonder if in this day and age, it’s possible to really connect to an artist, and still feel connected years later. If it is possible, I feel like it’ll still be different than how music was felt in the past; when you earned the ability to listen to a track over and over. You had to save up. You had to really want it, and if the album wasn’t all that good, you wouldn’t delete it or toss it, you’d make yourself listen because you invested in it. You would give it a real, solid chance.

Year after year, there’s so much turnover in tracks too, so many singles released, that it’s tough to really feel the impact of any of them, due to so much output volume. It seems as though Selena Gomez releases a track every week, so how does one even keep track? With programs like Spotify, essentially every single song you could ever want in life, can be found there. You don’t have to buy the album and only play it on your CD player, or if you’re lucky, in your car. You don’t have to commit to an artist.

You can download a track just as easily as you can delete it. No one has Walkmen/Discmen (RIP) anymore, so all music on-the-go comes from their phones. The flow of which can easily be interrupted by phone calls, txt msgs and taking photos. How are young people supposed to understand how to truly value music? People these days don’t get obsessed with albums; they get obsessed with songs. One track.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Spotify too – guilty as charged. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get a track I want when I want it. I don’t have invest so much time/energy in its acquisition. But here’s the thing: I kind of miss that process. I kind of miss getting to know the music, the artist. I kind of miss opening the plastic wrap around the CD. I kind of miss analyzing the album art, and flipping through the lyric books and footnotes. I kind of really miss that connection.

 

 

Is it just me, or is there a hankering for everything 90s in the music world? It seems to be a general consensus. Not that I’m surprised, because let’s face it, 90s music really was everything. Grunge, Britpop, true Rap/Hip-Hop, girl/boy bands all saw their rise (and some, even their demise) in the 90s. There has been a lot of music between now and then, so why the resurgence? Could it be a simple case of nostalgia? Or maybe music these days has lost its charm, its wonderment. Maybe 90s bands need to make some of that cash money, and know nothing makes that happen more than a new album + reunion tour. Whatever the reason, it’s happening.

Green Day

One of the original, ultimate 90s bands, who whined their way into our hearts with their album, 1994’s Dookie. The 14-track album was essentially the same song over and over, with the same chords, just in different arrangements. It was full of anthems for the lazy, bored teenager, but somehow struck a chord with so many young people, it sold upwards of 20 million copies. Since then, the band has released a few other albums, the most memorable of which was 2004’s American Idiot (mostly because it was full of political commentary.) So yes, technically they’ve been around in the 2000s, but their sound has never changed. Now they’re up for another release – Revolution Radio due out later this year. Its first single “Bang Bang” proves their 90s sound is about to take over the radio again.

Blink 182

Similar to Green Day, Blink 182 saw their glory days in the 90s, starting with their 1997 hit single “Dammit.” What really made their name, however, was 1999’s Enema of the State, which catapulted them into superstardom selling 15 million copies. They made music videos imitating boy bands, and running through the streets naked; they wrote songs about teen suicide. Mostly, they were a trio of young guys, making money acting silly, because they could. They continued to release music into the early 2000s, their popularity decreasing with each album. In 2016, in spite of an indefinite hiatus in 2005, and subsequent break up, plus a change in the original lineup, Blink released California, and its lead single – totally 90s sounding – “Bored to Death.”

Prophets of Rage

This is a bit of a different take on the 90s comeback, because Prophets of Rage is a newly formed supergroup consisting of members of Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. They released their debut EP, The Party’s Over this year. A 5-track work of art, consisting of a cover of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down” and “Prophets of Rage.” Don’t worry though, they also have an original track, “The Party’s Over.” It’s classic 90s rock-rap at its best.

Temple of the Dog

If there was ever a true, quintessential 90s grunge supergroup, Temple of the Dog was it. They got together in 1990, in Seattle of all places, and brought together band members from both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, including lead singers Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder (before he was the Eddie Vedder.) They released their debut self-titled album in 1991 (also their only album,) which came about as a tribute to a roommate of Cornell’s who had died of a drug overdose. They haven’t released any new material, but during 2016, the band is reuniting to tour in honour of the 25th anniversary of Temple of the Dog. “Hunger Strike” alone is reason enough to go – it is everything 90s.