By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
To be honest, I have no idea how many I made it all the way through. (I say made, because I've also given up.) I had a system, I think, but somewhere along the way I got mixed up, confused by countless versions of songs I used to enjoy (endure, at any rate) that have turned against me. The dozen renderings of "Go" surround my brain like a moat, not letting anything in or out; it truly is "five against one"--me. There's so much "Corduroy" between my ears, I hear it rustling even in my sleep, and I look in the "rearviewmirror" and only see more "rearviewmirror." If you lose your way in the midst of this maze of setlists and virtually identical piss-poor packaging, there is no trail of bread crumbs that will lead you back out.
[Speaking of the packaging, figure a dozen or so listens before the in-and-out of the rough cardboard sleeves renders each disc unlistenable. Unfortunately, No. 18--from Ljubljana, Slovenia--couldn't make it past one listen, but that might just be because it starts bad (the blown riff on "Corduroy" almost ends the show one song in) and ends worse (with "Indifference," and how).]
And I guess I'm lost, but not really between the Czech Republic (Praha, No. 14) and Norway (Oslo, No. 25). I guess I'm lost between a time when I gave a shit what the new Pearl Jam CD sounded like and now, when it took me 15-20 minutes just to remember the name of the disc they released this year. (Bi...something. I forget.) It feels like decades separate the two. Try as it might, 25 or 13 or even a couple live shows don't do much to remind me of the former, but it does shed some light on the latter.
Why don't I listen to Pearl Jam anymore? Maybe it's Eddie Vedder's just- oneadaguys schtick (see: well, all of 'em). Or maybe it's because the good stuff (the entire first side of the Hamburg, Germany set, especially the first four songs, and Berlin's disc-ending "I Got Shit") is good, but the bad stuff (might as well skip the Salzburg, Austria set entirely, and the ponderous version of "Long Road" that begins--and ends, frankly--the Katowice gig) is worse. To be honest, they might as well have tried this in 1994, because by then, they'd stopped writing anything worth hearing a dozen or so (slightly) different versions of.
Guess what it comes down to is this: Who knew former drummer Dave Abbruzzese was the heart and soul of Pearl Jam? Come back, Dave; Eddie needs you.