Pearl Jam

Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) (Epic)

This two-disc set from Seattle's greatest prog-pop band after Queensrche will undoubtedly be overshadowed by Nirvana's With the Lights Out--which makes sense, as Pearl Jam was overshadowed by Nirvana when both bands actually existed, too. But if Rearviewmirror feels less momentous than Nirvana's hit-and-miss scrap heap, it's no faint praise to say that it's inarguably more consistent than Lights Out: From the bloated float-and-sting of the Ten material to the elegantly streamlined alt-rock of Vs. and Vitalogy to the punk-flecked folk-rock of the band's underrated recent albums, Pearl Jam chased a sound and vision that is the reasonable, collected alternative to Kurt Cobain's impulsive, brilliant squall. Listening back now, at a moment when the chugging guitars and portentous bellow Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder pioneered are making a last-ditch end run around teen-pop and hip-hop on Top 40 radio, what stands out is the unpretentious, impassioned spirit of cuts like "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" and "Daughter," where they dialed down the banner-waving gravitas and reached out to a single young kid behind the desk in a shitty school. They have a name for this kind of stuff, one Cobain probably hated: classic rock.

 
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