No Code

No Code

After the surprise success of its debut album, Ten, Pearl Jam has spent its entire career trying to sustain and expand its impact with varying degrees of commercial success. The group has never succumbed to the easy anthem or played nice towards radio. No Code, its fourth studio album, begins with the quiet, contemplative “Sometimes” where singer Eddie Vedder calls his legions of fans into the intimate tent for a little meditation before kicking up the jams with “Hail, Hail,” where the band pounces from centerstage. “Who You Are” combines a Bo Diddley beat with a Led Zep-eastern-mystic melodic loop that proves PJ find heaviness not just in volume and velocity but in a nod towards spiritual grace. There’s still the blunt punk of “Lukin” and the surfing-alterna-groove of “Mankind” to roughen up the edges, and the harmonica-grunge of “Smile” that reflects the band’s collaboration with Neil Young, but the real beauty here shines through the Vedder ballads, “Present Tense,” “Off He Goes,” and  “Around The Bend.” Pearl Jam would never be content as just another hard rock band and every one of its albums stretches the definition without losing the plot.

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