This is exciting for me. First off, Pearl Jam is my favorite band of all-time. They were the band that first got me into music, so I feel qualified to be writing a review about an album that was released when I was two years old. That being said, if I fail at this review, maybe I should just stick with the news. But there’s a reason why I’m writing a review about an album that came out in 1993. Today, Vs. is being rereleased along with it’s 1994 follow-up Vitalogy.
“Go,” the album’s opening track, begins with one of Jeff Ament’s most famous bass lines pounding over Dave Abbruzzese’s hard drumming. The following track, “Animal,” is where the album got it’s original title from, which was Five Against One (told you I was a fan.) “Daughter” is one of only a couple speed bumps over the course of the album. A more stripped down song, Ament plays an upright bass on the track, and it features the first time that Stone Gossard had recorded a Pearl Jam song using an acoustic guitar. The album gets back on its aggressive track with “Glorified G,” a song Eddie Vedder penned after he found out that Abbruzzese had purchased a handgun. The song features technical guitar work from Gossard and Mike McCready, and it carries on over to the next track, “Dissident.” The tom-heavy “W.M.A.” is the only part of the album where it’s easy for the listener to drift off, but if they do, they will be brought right back with the heaviest track on the album, “Blood.” “Rearviewmirror” was actually the last song to be recorded for Vs. after numerous failed attempts, but all the practice paid off in the end with this fast-paced gem about leaving bad situations. “Rats” precedes the acoustic ballad “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.” Vedder frequently dedicates this song “to anyone from a small town who needs to get out.” The eleventh track on the album, “Leash,” is one of the most underrated Pearl Jam songs of all-time. This song is a perfect example as to why they have “jam” in their name. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this (don’t you just miss grunge fashion?) The album closes with “Indifference,” which to this point in the band’s career was the quietest that Vedder had ever sung.
So why should you go out and buy another copy of an album that you probably already own? The reissue is packed with goodies. First off, the packaging is really well done. The booklet includes photos of the original lyrics for each song as well as rare photos of the band. But the reason to buy albums that you already own is for the three bonus tracks, “Hold On,” “Cready Stomp,” and “Crazy Mary.” Diehard fans already know “Hold On” from Lost Dogs, the band’s album of B-sides, and anyone who has seen them live knows the Victoria Williams’ cover “Crazy Mary.” So the only new completely new material is the three-minute instrumental jam “Cready Stomp.”
I feel like Vs. is sometimes overlooked. Sure, it did great commercially, but it was released right in between the band’s two most critically acclaimed albums (Ten and Vitalogy.) This is the album where Pearl Jam just rocks the eff out the whole way through. It is without a doubt their most aggressive album. After the massive success of Ten, this was the album that proved that Pearl Jam wasn’t just some band whose fifteen minutes of fame was starting to wind down, but a legitimate rock band that would be around for years to come.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Stand Out Tracks: “Daughter,” “Rearviewmirror,” “Leash,” “Cready Stomp”