No Code – Part One

pearljamPearl Jam’s Fourth Release: Eclectic, Amazing, Divisive.

It’s somewhat ironic that 25 years on, Pearl Jam is the only huge band of the early 1990’s, from the vaunted grunge era, that has managed to survive without breaking up and to a certain extent, even thrive, particularly as a live act.

By the time 1996 rolled around Pearl Jam had been together for 5 years and scaled the heights of rock stardom. But it was a hard 5 years and it had taken its toll on the band. The band’s first 3 albums had sold over 20 million in the U.S. alone and taken the group on a ride none of them could have possibly foreseen when they started from the ashes of Mother Love Bone and discovered Eddie Vedder.

(L to R) Dan, Jim, Randy
(L to R) Dan, Jeff Popp, Randy

Their debut album ‘Ten’ broke huge based on the strength of radio hits ‘Alive’, ‘Evenflow’, ‘Black’ and especially ‘Jeremy’. Together with Nirvana, they helped to make grunge music a worldwide movement and cultural touchstone.

In an era of reluctant superstars, Eddie Vedder, lead singer, may have been the most truculent of them all. His worldwide fame at odds with his punk ethos, becoming a lightning rod and international figure became trying and eventually exhausting for the temperamental front man.

The rest of the band bore the brunt of Vedder’s dissatisfaction, even if they were spared the painful reality of being recognized by the general public that Eddie had to deal with. A war with Ticketmaster that blew out-of-proportion was emblematic of the struggle the band as a whole was feeling.

The cycle of recording, promoting and touring with nary a break through the first five years had worn the band thin. Internal power struggles and wrangling had also put the band on edge by the time they convened for ‘No Code’ as there was a real chance the band could wind up going their separate ways.

Buoyed by the maturity and sensei-like presence of drummer Jack Irons, the band, fresh off their tour and album ‘Mirror Ball’ with their hero Neil Young, coupled with the spiritual wandering and musings of Eddie Vedder, put together their most eclectic collection of songs in their discography.

You get the contemplative (thanks Jeff Popp J) journeys of ‘Sometime’ and ‘Present Tense’, the pulse-racing ‘Hail Hail’ and ‘Red Mosquito’, to the world music feel of ‘In My Tree’ and ‘Who You Are’ and the spiky punk of ‘Lukin’’ and ‘Habit’ amongst others.

For Randy W. Hall, the ‘No Code’ record is the Pearl Jam album that he finds himself returning to year-over-year and one of his two favorites of the band’s catalog. For Dan Minard he jumped off the Pearl Jam bandwagon by ‘Vitalogy’, so we brought in lifelong Pearl Jam fan and Randy’s brother-in-law Jeff Popp as a guest to discuss the album the band seemingly (or unwittingly) used to weed out their true believers.

So listen as we get into our thoughts on the band, bust Randy’s chops on ‘early adopting’ and hear Dan’s take from an outsider’s perspective. No matter how you feel about the band, the album or even Dandy Classic, this episode is guaranteed to make you ‘Smile’ ;).

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