Vitalogy reaffirms the Seattle quintet's status as the principled, proudly confused voice of a generation. On their third album, they've found their footing as a raw, forward-looking '90s rock act that fearlessly tackles t... more »he Biggest Questions. Lead track "Spin the Black Circle" celebrates the healing power of Eddie Vedder's LP collection, but it is overshadowed by such masterstrokes as "Immortality" (which can be read, right or wrong, as a reaction to Kurt Cobain's suicide), the Lennonesque "Tremor Christ" and a thrilling anthem for the pro-choice movement, "Whipping." --Jeff Bateman« less
Vitalogy reaffirms the Seattle quintet's status as the principled, proudly confused voice of a generation. On their third album, they've found their footing as a raw, forward-looking '90s rock act that fearlessly tackles the Biggest Questions. Lead track "Spin the Black Circle" celebrates the healing power of Eddie Vedder's LP collection, but it is overshadowed by such masterstrokes as "Immortality" (which can be read, right or wrong, as a reaction to Kurt Cobain's suicide), the Lennonesque "Tremor Christ" and a thrilling anthem for the pro-choice movement, "Whipping." --Jeff Bateman
Michelle K. from RIVERVIEW, FL Reviewed on 8/27/2013...
Has some really great tracks (Whipping, Not For You, Satan Bed, Betterman); but on others, they're trying too hard to be edgy and offbeat, and it just doesn't work. They are a straightforward rock-n-roll band with grunge/Seattle influence, and they should stick to what they know and do best IMO. But kudos to them for trying to go outta the box. :)
The White Album of the 90s
Mike London | Oxford, UK | 01/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back in 1968, The Beatles released their double set called The Beatles, more commonly known as The White Album. Within those original album sleaves were four sides of brilliant and strange music. But there was also filler. Strange music. We're talking Revolution 9, Rocky Racoon, Why Don't We Do It In the Road, and several others.In 1994, Pearl Jam released Vitalogy. Although different in sound, it was no different in content. On this album we had moments of sheer brilliance. Immortality, Corduary, Nothing Man, Spin the Black Circle, and Better Man really shone out. But we also have some strange cuts on this one. Privacy, Bugs, Aye Davinita, and Stupid Mop (listed as Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me on the back of the booklet). Then there were mediocra songs also.This album has some brilliant moments. But it is, as Rolling Stone said, a wildely uneven and chaotic record. I grew up on Pearl Jam, my brother spinning Ten (and later vs.) into oblivion on his CD player as we went to private Christian school. Some of these songs on here are just unfit. pry, to is absoluetely stupid (if you play it backwards get Pete Townsend Saved My Life). Stupid Mop, clocking in at over seven minutes long, is a good 6 minutes and 15 seconds to long.Sorry, the White Album is better. All the filler on that one had a purpose. And even the filler was listenable, and was cool. Plus, it was a double set. Not only that, it was The Beatles. And I can actually dig Revolution #9. Try as I might, I can't do that with Stupid Mop. Interesting lyrics though. Should have been released as an oddity track on some obscure single. Both are good, but The White Album is five stars. One thing about this is it didn't inspire any cult leaders/serial killers like its prentecessor did. But when its brilliant, its brilliant."
An ambitious third album
Daniel Maltzman | Arlington, MA, USA | 11/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
A common complaint fans often have against their favorite band is that "the early stuff is great, but then they went commercial/sold out." No such complaint could ever be made against Pearl Jam. Quite the opposite; while Pearl Jam's early albums, most notably "Ten" (1991) and "Vs." (1993) were quite radio friendly, their music became more and more obscure and arty as the band went on. With the exception of the band's straight-forward fifth album "Yield," (1998) most of Pearl Jam's work from the mid-90s up has been far less assessable than their first two albums. In this sense, Pearl Jam are like the anti-sellouts. Not caring how well an album is perceived, the band has always had the integrity to follow its artistic vision.
In some respects, Pearl Jam's third album "Vitalogy" (1994) represents the end of an era. "Vitalogy" was the last Pearl Jam album to enjoy multi-platinum success and spawn numerous singles that dominated the radio. "Vitalogy" was sort of the last Pearl Jam album that "everybody" had to buy. While Pearl Jam's next two albums achieved platinum status, by the mid-to-late 90s, their reign at the top was over. While the faithful have stood by the band over the years, most of Pearl Jam's fickle audience that so loved "Ten" and "Vs.," moved on to Phish, Matchbox 20, and the Dave Mathews Band as the 90s progressed. In addition, 1994 was really the last year of the grunge era. While the Seattle movement had briefly brought authenticity back into rock in the early 90s, by 1995, with the likes of Bush and Seven Mary 3, it was back to corporate pap as usual, in the era known as post-grunge. In 1994, with the death of Cobain, in the eyes and ears of the fickle mainstream, grunge breathed its last breath. "Vitalogy" was one of the last albums from the grunge movement to enjoy a healthy reign at the top.
While Pearl Jam's debut "Ten" has been pigeonholed as "grunge," it is actually one of the least grunge sounding albums in Pearl Jam's catalogue. "Ten," with its classic rock trimmings and finely crafted songs, doesn't have the distorted guitars, feedback, intense drumming, or the "fuzz" associated with the grunge sound. By contrast, "Vs." and "Vitalogy" are far more grunge sounding than the debut.
Pearl Jam's second album "Vs" was a 180 degree turn from the debut "Ten." Compared to "Ten," "Vs" sounds far less polished; more stripped down, and has more of a live feel. "Vitalogy" takes the sound of "Vs." to the next level and sounds even looser, and more stripped down. But while virtually every song on "Ten" and "Vs." was a potential radio single, many of the songs on "Vitalogy are just flat out-there. Lyrically, the album is also more vague and the songs harder to decipher.
In short, of the first three albums, "Vitalogy" is the most grunge-sounding, the least commercial and by far the most abstract.
But none of this is meant as criticism against the album, because as loose as "Vitalogy" is, everything works. There's a fine line between having an album that's avant-garde and having one that's just a mess; luckily, "Vitalogy" never crosses that line. Pearl Jam knew what they were doing and created a rather chaotic, yet cohesive collection of songs.
The opening full-throttle "Last Exit," which sounds like the band is just working out a song at a jam, immediately lets the listener know what's in store. Brash as the song is, it has melody and is fully captivating. "Spin the Back Circle," which sounds like Led Zeppelin meets the Sex Pistols, shows Pearl Jam's intense side. "Not for you" starts out slowly, giving the listener a temporary reprieve, but soon goes into full-attack-mode. An underrated song, this features a really cool solo by Mike McCready. The album slows down a notch for the sluggish "Tremor Christ," which offers an interesting contrast between its lethargic pace and Eddie Vedder's preacher-like delivery. The semi-acoustic "Nothingman," which tells the story of a wasted life, of a man that "could have been something" is both harrowing and beautiful. The free-flowing "whipping" sounds like a jam, but with structure and melody, and works for the overall flow of the album. The bizarre "Pry to" is just a minute of filler, but is atmospheric and is a good transaction to the next song. The opening chords of "Corduroy" are instantly memorable to anyone that listened to the radio back in '94. Loose, intense, stripped-down and melodic, this is Pearl Jam at their best. An ode to the dangers of conformity, "Bugs," which Vedder speaks of being besieged by bugs over the repetitive sounds of an accordion, is just flat out bizarre. While I usually skip over this track when I have "Vitalogy" in my discman, "Bugs" adds a little something out of the ordinary to the album and its inclusion is warranted. The good-but-not-great, off-center punkish "Satan's Bed" keeps up the momentum. Another PJ classic, the sensitive "Better Man" tells of the pain of having to settle. Much like "Bugs," I usually skip over the off-center instrumental "Aye Davanita," but it's still an interesting and cool track which adds flavor to the album. The death of fellow Seattle rock star Kurt Cobain no doubt impacted the band, as they pay tribute with "Immorality." The song doesn't attempt to idolize or make Cobain out to be a martyr or infallible, but rather acts as a beautiful tribute that tries to explain the tragic suicide. The song depicts Cobain (although not by name) to be a deeply troubled man, seeking solace and a release from pain. The avant-garde, bohemian-like closing "Hey Foxymophandlemama, that's me," is a bizarre, semi-instrumental with sound bytes. It's a bit like "Revolution #9" from the Beatles self-titled "White" (1968) album. I've listened to this song for eleven years, as of this writing, and I'm still not sure whether it's high-art, or just plain pretentious. Either way, it's a cool non-song that I enjoy.
The packaging of the album is also really cool. The mini-book, filled with photos, drawings, and various odds-and-ends, done in the style of the 19th Century, is quite cool. It's sort of a return to the more personal and artistic days of the vinyl, as opposed to the cold and lifeless age of CDs.
Because of the brashness, off-centeredness, and bizarre non-song tracks, "Vitalogy" is not the best place to start if you want to get into Pearl Jam. New listeners are advised to buy "Ten," "Vs." or the "Rearview Mirror-best of" (2004) before they pick up "Vitalogy" or subsequent albums. That said, "Vitalogy" is still an excellent album that is well worth owning.
Pearl Jam?s New Path
E. Callaway | Grand Rapids, MI USA | 11/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the release of Vitalogy, Pearl Jam takes on a new direction toward obscurity. After the two extremely popular, rock anthem, grunge records, "Ten" and "Vs.," Eddie Vedder and company have made a rather impressive attempt at growing beyond the grunge roots that made them what they are today. This record is amazing, and main-stream enough. But, you can feel the winds of change coming in the new material. There are some extremely strong songs on Vitalogy. The first single off the record, called "Spin the Black Circle" was rather punk-rock, very different than most Pearl Jam. The B-Side was the better of the two tracks on the single. "Tremor Christ" ended up being the bigger radio song in the long run, as the single did not do all that well. It was strange to see what they released as singles from the record. Next was "Not For You," a rock anthem, very Pearl Jam. It's B-Side is a non-album, improv track called "Outta My Mind." The final single released was a great song called "Immortality," Its B-Side, a cover of "Rearview Mirror" from "Vs.," by a band called "The Frogs." The strange thing about the record is the songs that weren't released as singles. "Betterman," "Corduroy," and maybe even "Nothingman" were great songs that found their way the radio even without the backing of Epic Records. They are some of the strongest songs on the LP, they could have easily done better than they did with a little marketing. Though, it does seem, that Pearl Jam does some of this to themselves. A band, troubled for some time, with internal shake-ups, squabbles, and an ongoing battle with Ticketmaster, seemed to be allergic to the limelight. This record came out in the middle of the aforementioned strife in the band's history. But, even though all of this was going on in the life of the band, they managed to create a rather high quality piece of the work. This record is a pivot point in the band's history. It is a must-have for any Pearl Jam fan, and a great record for anyone who likes grunge era music. Pearl Jam is one of a mere few bands who still remain and are active beyond the days of grunge. Their brilliant evolution is the only reason they have survived into the twenty-first century. This album is the beginning of said evolution.epc"
The band's best album
Taylor | USA | 02/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a huge Pearl Jam fan, but I'm a fair reviewer. I look for weak spots, and I've given some of their albums fairly negative reviews. However, "Vitalogy" is almost a masterpiece. I highly recommend this album to any casual Pearl Jam fan.The album follows Pearl Jam's normal formula; Vedder bellowing, McCready and Gossard playing their hearts out on the guitars, and Ament doing his usual base heroics. The rythym section- a bit weak on past albums- shines here. There are some great power rockers ("Spin the Black Circle", "Whipping"), angry low tunes ("Last Exit", "Not For You"), poppy rockers ("Cordouroy", "Better Man"), religion-influenced tunes ("Tremor Christ", "Satan's Bed"), and finally the best soft song they've ever done ("Nothingman"). "Bugs" is a brilliant accordian song, and "Prye, To" is a song I chant every day about the struggles of fame. "Aye Davanita" is just a catchy little instrumental.The album is almost a masterpiece. They misstep once ("Hey Foxymophandelemama, That's Me"), because the song is way too long. However, it has some killer instrumental heroics.Buy this album. Right now. After two or three listens, you'll love it!"
Pearl Jam's most ambitious album.
D. Mok | Los Angeles, CA | 08/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Whereas Ten was an extremely well rounded classic and its follow-up Vs. a relentless juggernaut, Vitalogy is the erratic masterpiece -- like The Beatles' eponymous "White Album".Vitalogy contains blazing high points like the raw cry of anguish "Last Exit" (with its intriguing 5/4 beat), the carnivorous "Spin the Black Circle", vocally soaring "Tremor Christ", the elegiac "Immortality" and of course, the album's best duo of songs, the treatise on independence "Corduroy" and the affecting ballad "Better Man". Then you have weird moments like the accordion-and-spoken-word "Bugs", a sloppy garage-rock tune in "Satan's Bed", and experimental pieces like "Pry, To" and "Aye Davanita".This album has many more ups and downs than any other Pearl Jam release. But that, I think, is part of its greatness. Pearl Jam after Vitalogy would eventually lapse into a kind of mid-tempo malaise, losing its dynamics and intoxicating tensions in favour of generalist rock. Personally, I'd take Vitalogy over No Code, Live on Two Legs or Yield any day."