Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pearl Jam

  • Ten [Epic, 1991] **
  • Vs. [Epic Associated, 1993] Dud
  • Vitalogy [Epic, 1994] A-
  • No Code [Epic, 1996] *
  • Yield [Epic, 1998] A-
  • Live on Two Legs [Epic, 1998] **
  • Binaural [Epic, 2000] *
  • Riot Act [Epic, 2002] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ten [Epic, 1991]
in life, abuse justifies melodrama; in music, riffs work better ("Once," "Even Flow") **

Vs. [Epic Associated, 1993] Dud

Vitalogy [Epic, 1994]
Eddie Vedder's struggles with stardom have a concreteness missing from more mythic epics of resistance. But it isn't his MTV boycott or TicketMaster stand that make his third album his best--it's his need to live up to Kurt's musical example and expiate Kurt's mythic pain. Three or four of these songs are faster and riffier than anything else in P. Jam's book, token experiments like "Bugs" are genuinely weird, and in an era of compulsory irony his sincerity is something like a relief--a Kurtlike relief at that. A-

No Code [Epic, 1996]
slowly winning a heartwarming battle against constitutional melancholia ("Mankind," "Around the Bend") *

Yield [Epic, 1998]
The reality they come to terms with here is musical, and I'm impressed they had it in them. From the electronically foreshortened riff that announces their need for attention to "Push Me, Pull Me" studio manipulations that signal their refusal to be pigeonholed, the nice techy edge of Brendan O'Brien's production can't conceal their aesthetic conservatism or materially enhance songwriting and performance skills they've never pitched higher. Like nobody less than Nirvana (right, they're dumber, thank you for sharing), they voice the arena-rock agon more vulnerably and articulately than any Englishman standing. Rarely if ever has a Jesus complex seemed so modest. A-

Live on Two Legs [Epic, 1998]
Know more Mr. Nice Guy ("Given To Fly," "F*ckin' Up"). **

Binaural [Epic, 2000]
Rock as inner struggle, eternally externalized ("Of the Girl," "Insignificance"). *

Riot Act [Epic, 2002]
masters of their own audio, with soft spots where their emotions can go ("Save You," "Bushleaguer") *