Knowing my habits, because of the Twenty book, CD, and documentary, it doesn't come as a shock that I've decided to circle back to Pearl Jam albums I've neglected. Namely, their albums after Matt Cameron joined the band. Plus, I hadn't listened to Ten since, oh, 1993.
It's not that I think the band lost the plot. Rather, I blame Creed and Nickelback.
Up until now, my thoughts on Pearl Jam post-Dave Abbruzzese were, "Pearl Jam got weird." Meaning, less of rip-roaring drums and guitars and more atonal experiments. This is a rather unfair sentiment, especially because of some powerful songs on Yield. I get this all now, and I'm enjoying albums like Yield and Pearl Jam.
I can safely say I won't be praising Creed's My Own Prison or Nickelback's Silver Side Up any time in the near future. For me, and many other people who got into grunge as adolescence kicked in, those bands typified what major labels wanted Pearl Jam to be when Pearl Jam learned to say, "No."
When it comes to saying no to making videos and playing Ticketmaster venues, this still sounds like a bold move. Especially with where Pearl Jam was in their career, it could be considered career suicide. Alas, more people had respect for the band. And I think this kind of level-headed attitude has kept the band going all this time.
But when you grab some eager bands that sound like a primped and buffed version of early Pearl Jam and they sell more records than Pearl Jam's latest records, the cynicism of the industry really kicks in. "What Pearl Jam won't do, we'll find some other bands who will." Thus, a distinct sound becomes bland. And that sucks. Especially for those who have fond memories of hearing Ten for the first time.
This industry tactic has been done plenty of times before and since. It seems like the same thing happened after At the Drive-In broke up. The industry liked their sound, but they went for bands that wanted to be rock stars instead of full-time musicians. Thus explains so many terrible bands that have come and gone and never made anything as strong as Relationship of Command.
I could wonder why I spend so much time around an industry ripe with cynicism. I counter with all the great feelings that come from seeing and listening to a band, whether I'm in seventh grade or as a 32-year-old. When music is good enough to cut through the crap, then it's worth it.