Kyle's Pearl Jam Odyssey, Part 2

My tools of nostalgia come in two forms: comic books and music.

This isn't to say that I can't be transported to the past by other things, like a particular movie or a toy or a cartoon. Those things work on me, just like they work on everyone else. But I have such a ridiculous memory that nostalgia is never ending for me and, thus, it's main components in my life revolve around things that I still enjoy. I don't still watch cartoons (not on a regular basis, anyway). I don't buy GI Joe's every Christmas with the money my grandparents sent me. The nostalgia that such things offers me ends at a certain point in my life. That isn't true for comic books and music.

Interestingly enough, my awareness of both came right around the same time. I bought my first comic in 1985, although I had read the three issues of the Gold Key Star Trek series that my brother owned before then. The first full album that I remember wearing out was R.E.M.'s "Lifes Rich Pageant," which came out in 1986, although the first album I ever bought was, appropriately enough, Michael Jackson's "Thriller," but, to be fair, I probably listened to three songs from that album over and over again before quickly becoming bored with it.

A side note, of course: I discovered R.E.M. through "Lifes Rich Pageant," and I only discovered that album because my brother played me "Superman," because he knew I'd recently started reading comic books. I then devoured the rest of that album and could probably name every song, in order, and say which side of the tape it was on (that would be the "Dinner" side or the "Supper" side).

The fact that I still read comics and I'm still crazy for music means that I still have a running dialogue of my life. I have mixes that date back, in general, to the 80's, and specifically starting with 1990 (my "Best of 1990" mix is the first in a continuing series).

What does all of this have to do with Pearl Jam?

Well, my normal level of nostalgia is higher than most. But when I have a big, life changing event either hitting me or coming towards me, I start to get really nostalgic. A little less than a year ago, I was going through some massive life changes, so I decided to look back into my past. And there was Pearl Jam, like some poor, forgotten dog, waiting by the road for me to return.

I went out and got everything they'd done since I'd last listened to them. I knew that I was no longer that angry, angsty twentysomething that had abandoned them all those years ago. I was curious, though, to see if the band that I had last listened to when they were in a state of flux, had settled down, settled in, much the way I had.

I decided to take it two albums at a time.

First up, was the previously maligned "No Code."

It was pretty obvious to me when I listened to "No Code" of why I had been so turned off of it way back when. The Neil Young influence that concerned me all those years ago can really be felt throughout this album. No offense to Neil Young, but he's not really my thing. The album is incredibly uneven, too, as if Pearl Jam were determined to push off the 90's alt. rock label that had been stuck on them, but weren't exactly sure how to do that. More so than "Vitalogy," even, this was an album about transition.

There are also some gems on the album, but gems I would never have appreciated back in 1996. I'm rather found of (the unfortunately titled) "Smile," but punk rock Kyle would never have admitted as much. But "Hail, Hail" is the only track that really rocks it out without getting cheesy in parts. Still, I felt like I'd missed a pretty pivotal moment in the band's evolution or, perhaps more importantly, I missed the fact that they were evolving, that maybe they were turning into something as good as what came before.

"Yield" is a pretty good argument that Pearl Jam rules.

There is exactly one song on "Yield" that I don't enjoy ("Pilate," for those who wonder). Sure, "Brain of J." is similar to some of their older rockers, but it's just so damn catchy. The chorus to "Given to Fly" is perhaps the most dynamic thing they've recorded since "Corduroy." I'd actually been a fan of "Do the Evolution" for some time before this -- it was basically the only Pearl Jam song I knew that wasn't off of the first three albums. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite song, "MFC," which is just complete gold.

While I was still on the fence after "No Code," "Yield" had sold me on Pearl Jam. I could actually say that I was a fan again. And I still had three albums yet to hear, not including bootlegs and rarities collections!

And evidently they were going to re-issue (and remix) "Ten"...