The Long, Long, Long, Long Pearl Jam Discussion.

I know I didn't go to college to do this job, but for my first temporary gig in the big city, it's not so bad.

Then, I got to thinking about it: what WOULD I need to learn in school to be able to do this job? It hit me almost instantly as I sat on the subway this morning. So, as a high schooler, go out and buy one of those magazines like Vogue or Vanity Fair or Cosmo or whatever you fancy. Redbook, you know, any of the great ones. Then, get on the bus or the train at your usual time in the morning, but instead of getting off at your stop, just stay on the train or bus until you've read the entire magazine cover-to-cover. Maybe buy a couple of those magazines, and don't just flip through things that don't interest you. Read every little thing. Then, go out and have yourself a nice lunch, maybe go tanning or get your nails done, then get BACK on the bus or train and try to finish the magazines by 2pm. Finally, drop in for your final period of the day, but then just sit around passing notes with your friends until the final bell rings.

THAT'S the education you'd need to be able to do my job.

So, I've been thinking about Pearl Jam recently for a couple reasons. First and foremost because I've been listening to them the last couple days on my iPod on my way to work; and secondly because I went to this Photography Showing last week. Photographer Lance Mercer has followed the band extensively - even though apparently not all that big on Pearl Jam's music - and he's releasing this book of photography. I wouldn't buy it, because I don't need any more crap lying around my apartment and because it's $40 for a bunch of pictures in a book. But, the prints he had hanging on the walls of this bar in the West Village were pretty freakin' sweet and I would've loved to buy one if they didn't range from $400 to $1000.

I couldn't tell you if Pearl Jam is my favorite band or not. In favor of that argument would be the fact that I've been listening to them since their first album came out in '91, I've since purchased all of their studio albums on CD (and sold them all off again), and I've seen their live shows more than any other band (though, to be quite honest, I don't get out to live shows as often as I'd like).

But, here's the thing. I don't find myself with that giddy excitement of anticipation whenever they decide to release a new album. And, when someone asks me who my favorite bands are, they don't automatically come to mind. You know, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Pink Floyd. They all come to mind first, off the top of my head.

It seems to me that my interest in Pearl Jam has always been influenced by people around me for some reason. When I was a kid, I wanna say it was '93 or '94. Probably '94. Pearl Jam had already released their first two albums - I was there on the first day of Vs' release with cash in hand for the new cassette. Their third album, Vitalogy, was on the brink of coming out. I don't know why, but either I wasn't listening to the radio at the time, or the stations weren't playing the advance single very much. But, I just remember having absolutely no clue as to what the new album would sound like. I'd read in Rolling Stone that the new album was a bit of a departure from the first two albums and that kinda left a bad taste in my mouth because I really LIKED what the first two albums sounded like. I think I assumed that they'd gone all pussy on me and turned into a soft-rock band. Plus, I had friends I'd just met who were REALLY anti-Pearl Jam. I mean, just hated Eddie Vedder and their songs and everything about them.

So, I didn't buy the album. And I'd listen to The End, and they'd play "Better Man" - and I really didn't care for the song at the time - and I was glad I didn't buy it. Then, their fourth studio album came out, and I figured I was just done with Pearl Jam. Didn't really care for what I heard on the Radio, so that was that. Then, 1998 came around. I'd stopped hanging with the anti-Pearl Jam friends, PJ had a new album out, and "Do The Evolution" was the advance single/video. That song fucking rocked my world! So, I went out and bought my first ever Pearl Jam album on CD, Yield. And, that got me high on Pearl Jam again, I went out and bought the two albums I'd missed, enjoyed them wholeheartedly, and that was that.

Now, that takes me to college, where I meet this BIG ol' group of PJ fanatics! Pearl Jam this, Pearl Jam that, Pearl Jam is so great, Pearl Jam is the best, when I grow up I want to BE Pearl Jam, if only I could kidnap them and keep them in my house so they could only play for ME and then I'd marry each of them and we'd all live together in the house but they'd have to be chained up because they'd try to run away and we'd have to get Jeff Ament a muzzle because he'd be repeatedly trying to chew his hand off to get out of the chains and then that old police chief from the movie "Misery" would walk in accidentally and find out what's been going on so I'd have to take an axe to his back and bury him in my basement ... you get the idea.

Anyway, they started getting me to go to see them live, saying their shows are pretty spectacular. And they are, I really enjoy seeing 'em. The great thing about Pearl Jam is that they're Catalogue Artists. Most bands that've been around this long, they'll go out on tour and recreate their Greatest Hits album, and then play a cover like "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" or "Puff The Magic Dragon" or something. But, Pearl Jam is able to play from any album and any song ON that album, on any given night. They don't make a whole lotta throw-away tracks. Their songs tend to MEAN something to them and they tend to make music they enjoy playing. In other words, they're not making music from a formula to try to create hits and sell millions of records. So, that's like 2 and a half hours of music right there on any given night. Then, they always throw in three or four covers, but they actually cover COOL songs. Songs a lotta people might not hear, or might not have heard in a while. The reason why I own so many bootlegged shows, right there, is to hear some of the covers and b-sides they do. And, of course, to hear some of the album tracks they don't play live too often.

But, it's gotten to the point now where I think I enjoy listening to their live shows more than their regular albums. Part of that is probably the fact that in the late 90s I did pretty much nothing BUT listen to their studio albums. But, mostly I just like the fact that you can listen to any of their live shows and they don't play the songs exactly the same night-in and night-out. They still resemble what you hear in the studio, but there's the additional energy and improv involved that keeps it fresh. It's the reason why rare is the month that goes by where I'm not listening to SOMETHING from them. And it's also the reason why I tend to devote an inordinate amount of LiveJournal space in their direction.

There's no solid reason for me to say that they're NOT my favorite band! I mean, I like their music, I like everything they stand for, I like the fact that they're just regular guys, that they're not these insufferable celebrities out looking for the spotlight while simultaneously denouncing all the cameras in their faces. I like their devotion to their fans and the fact that the fans, in return, express the kind of devotion you don't usually see. I mean, when do you EVER hear of a band playing songs from the new album - or songs simply unheard of before - and the crowd going into a frenzy? Usually it's, "Oh man, can you BELIEVE I paid $40 to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Emerald Queen Casino and they had the NERVE to play music from their last album? When I go see BOC, I want 'Don't Fear The Reaper' and 'Godzilla' and THAT'S IT!"

The thing with Pearl Jam is, they've been around forever. Bands don't stick around for 16+ years very often, let alone produce quality music throughout: that's why they're important. But, there's something to be said for the fact that I look forward to downloading this year's Gorge set more than I do their new studio album. It's hard for me to say they're breaking new ground, because at their essence they're playing straight-ahead rock music. Sure, they play it exceedingly well, but that's not the point. I'm the kind of guy who's normally more geeked out about a well-crafted studio album, which means I like sonic experimentation and hearing sounds I've never heard before. That's why Radiohead catches my fancy, that's why the last White Stripes album has been growing on me, that's why I can't get enough of the Mars Volta and Muse the Flaming Lips.

But, maybe I should make two different catagories of Favorite Bands. Favorite Studio Bands and Favorite Live Bands. Because, now that I think about it, I think of Pearl Jam the same way I think about Jimi Hendrix. I've got asstons of live shows by Hendrix, and I listen to them WAY more than I do his three original studio albums. Then again, maybe it's just because Pearl Jam and the Hendrix family make these live shows more available. Maybe, if my favorite bands threw millions of live shows out there for me to buy/download, I wouldn't need the distinction.