Song 106: Pearl Jam, “Corduroy” (1994)

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“Corduroy” isn’t a perfect song, but I think it’s the perfect Pearl Jam song. That is, it’s the Pearl Jammiest. It features Eddie Vedder displaying his various vocal styles, and the band is playing to its strengths, from vicious power chords to Neil Young-esque abstraction.

Pearl Jam seems to have become a band to scoff at only because of their longevity, which I don’t understand. They may not be releasing anything innovative, and certainly nothing on the level of Vs. or Vitalogy, but they’re still making good music. And it’s always nice to have bands around that aren’t concerned with how cool they look (if they did, they probably wouldn’t still be playing classic rock-tinged grunge, though it’s a style that’s come back into favor in the past few years).

I never much cared for Ten. The production, so cold and tinny, always drove me crazy. I’m much more a fan of the next few albums, when their sound became a little more interesting: more low end, less bite. “Corduroy” is my favorite Pearl Jam song, for the reasons described above but also because the melody is so well-constructed. It’s one of those melodies that seems like it existed sometime, somewhere else, because it’s so simple. But it wasn’t.

That’s always been Pearl Jam’s biggest asset: the ability, underneath the (glorious) bombast, to sneak up on you.


Song 14: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Eddie Vedder, “The Waiting” (2006)

I know, I know. This doesn’t sound like a good idea, and you don’t want to hear it or watch it, and who put these two things together, and what’s new on Gawker? But hold on! Try it out.

It works, right? I think so, anyway. I know it’s not cool to say so, but I think Eddie Vedder’s a great singer, and not only am I glad Pearl Jam is still around, I think they’re still putting out some good music. Vedder gives it his all here. In fact, he seems genuinely stoked to be belting out a classic song by, let alone standing in front of, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s obvious he’s a huge fan, and I find that completely endearing.

I first saw this performance in the 2007 Peter Bogdanovich documentary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream, which, despite is dull title, is a pretty fascinating portrait of a artist who makes great, underappreciated art, year after year after year. I think we tend to take Tom Petty for granted.