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Alternative and Indie

Pearl Jam

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Grunge frontrunners turned stadium rock giants

Buy Gigaton here

Pearl Jam formed in 1990 out of the ashes of grunge pioneers Green River and Mother Love Bone. Following the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard set about putting together a new band. They joined up with lead guitarist Mike McCready and recorded a demo with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron that made its way into the hands of a Californian surfer by the name of Eddie Vedder. Dave Krusen took over as full-time drummer and Pearl Jam was born.

Their 1991 debut album Ten became one of the defining albums of the grunge movement, standing out from the crowd via Vedder’s impassioned howl and the band’s unwavering sincerity. Singles Black, Even Flow, Alive and Jeremy marked them as the genre’s frontrunners alongside Nirvana, despite the two band’s significant differences. By 1992, Ten had made them one of the biggest bands on the planet, ubiquitous on both mainstream radio and MTV.

Rather than repeat themselves, Pearl Jam returned in 1993 with Vs, a rawer album of searing intensity that seemed a rebuke to their newfound superstardom. It also found them in mellower form on songs such as Daughter and Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, a shift in dynamics that suited both the band and Vedder’s vocal abilities. The album was another enormous success. 

The band ventured further from the instant anthems that made them famous with their third album, 1994’s Vitalogy, which interspersed strange sonic experiments (Bugs, Heyfoxymophandlemama, That's Me) with a mix of both their rawest (Last Exit, Spin The Black Circle) and most immediate (Corduroy, Better Man) songs to date. It became their third straight album to go multi-platinum.

Following a collaboration with Neil Young on his 1995 Mirrorball album, Pearl Jam continued to progress beyond the boundaries of grunge on No Code, which found the band in a reflective and spiritual mood, incorporating eastern rhythms and Buddhist concepts into their sound. The album again debuted at No.1 in the US, while its successor Yield, which marked a return to a heavier, driving sound, landed at No.2 upon release. Shortly afterwards, their third drummer Jack Irons departed the band and Soundgarden's Matt Cameron returned to the drum stool on a permanent basis.

Changing tastes, the passing of time and some tragic deaths had caused most of Pearl Jam’s peers to fall away by the end of the 90s. And even though their audience had dwindled somewhat, the band found themselves enduring where many couldn’t. A passionately dedicated and sizeable fanbase remained and the band’s refusal to repeat themselves saw them continue to grow into something that stood firmly apart from the now-outdated grunge era.

The next millennium would see the band continue to sell out stadia and garner positive reviews and healthy sales with each successive album, from 2000’s Binaural to the even louder Riot Act. The self-titled Pearl Jam and Backspacer – the band’s first independently released album – found them in vitriolic form, brought about by their extreme distaste for US foreign policy. They recorded 2013’s expansive Lightning Bolt with long-time collaborator Brendan O’Brien and in 2017 were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

In early 2020, after 30 years together as a band, Pearl Jam returned as principled and impassioned as ever with Gigaton, which addressed both climate change and US politics in true Pearl Jam style. The band was scheduled to play British Summer Time in Hyde Park that summer but the gig was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2021, they announced that they would instead play two consecutive nights at BST in July 2022. Support on the first night was confirmed as indie rockers Pixies.