Thursday, June 04, 2009

Pearl Jam sucks ass

I once owned the soundtrack for Singles, on cassette. Pearl Jam contributed two songs to the movie soundtrack, and band members Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard made cameos, members of a fictitious grunge band, including Singles star, Matt Dillon. The band was called Citizen Dick. What many people don’t know is that the band had yet to hit it big prior to their movie appearance, and in fact still were known by their original name, Mookie Blaylock, their original name, named after the former NBA point guard. Pearl Jam’s members were all huge basketball fans.

In the early 90s, after Nirvana’s Nevermind blew things up for alt-rock, it changed the post-punk music context forever. Camps formed in the indie rock world, and bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and others, were now considered “sell outs” by the indie rock “purists.”
The heavier grunge sound would be coveted, sought out by major label A & R people, and a feeding frenzy ensued to sign the next Nirvana, spawning a host of lesser-talented sound-alikes, filling the airwaves of alternative radio stations.

At the time, I was doing a weekly radio slot at the low-power FM college station, WBOR (Bowdoin College). I was one of the handful of community members that they allowed slots for. I took a great deal of pride in my indie rock credibility, always trying to make sure my show was true to indie rock’s non-commercial values.

The DJ community at ‘BOR, made up mainly of fans of small label, indie rock, looked down their noses at bands like Pearl Jam, considering them to be sellouts. It never seemed to matter whether the band had at one time been relevant for ‘BOR’s playlist. Once they crossed an arbitrary threshold of popularity, there was no going back. They had become persona non grata to the Bowdoinanistas.

I’ve been thinking back to this mid-1990s period this week, mainly because Portland’s WCYY has been running through their top 1,000 songs, based upon listener’s votes. It’s been a great ride all week. So many of the songs I haven’t heard for years. Some of them have been quite evocative, bringing back memories (some great, some not so special) from a period of time that was much different than where I’m at right now.

It’s been awhile since I’ve spent this much time listening to radio of any kind, particularly alternative rock.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Robin Ivy’s morning drive time slot, and her Zodiac Zone. It brings back memories to the halcyon days of high school, almost 30 years ago, when the Cosmic Muffin was holding zodiac court, on WBLM, back when it was a freeform giant.

Mark Curdo, the station’s evening DJ is a hoot. His passion and knowledge of music is apparent. He’s the closest thing that ‘CYY has to the former indie rock freaks that made ‘BOR great in 94-95.

A musician friend of mine hates Pearl Jam. He sees them as the embodiment of all things that are wrong with music—corporate, mega-stars, and as he frequently says, “sellouts.” I wonder if he’s not feeling the same kind of jealousy I sometimes feel when I scan other blogs, and see 20 and 30 comments about topics that I don’t think are terribly deep, or particularly well-written. It’s probably partly driven by jealousy, and partly fueled by a sense of why them, and not me?

BTW, Pearl Jam has been making frequent appearances throughout the top 1,000.

8 comments:

Laurie said...

Hey. I read all your blog posts.

I think there's a reason why people are commenting on my blog, these days. I'm writing in a conversational style and I'm *asking* for comments.

Sorry if it's not particularly deep enough or well written enough for you, but I'm having fun with it.

Jim said...

Having fun with your writing is a good thing--I'm happy for you.

It's also a great thing to have people validate your work.

I've been told by people more astute than me that we have to write first for ourselves (and I do). Still, having others connect with what you're doing, either via comments, or if you are a published author, then with book sales, is a beautiful thing.

Obviously, you're doing something right and you've been blessed. Enjoy that and leave me and my bitterness to my own marginalized corner of the world.

Some days, I wish I'd never gotten hooked on the interwebs.

Nostalgic for the days of letters and waiting at the mailbox.

Lisa K. said...

Alas, there is not much music I like-a curse of my birth, I suppose. But Pearl Jam holds a special place of disdain. Years before PJ, I saw an interview with Eddie Vedder in which he appeared to be a normal, engaged, enthusiastic, conversant human being. Then PJ hits it big, and all of a sudden he's adopted the persona of a strung-out stoner. It just seemed enormously phony to me. I don't know if I'd call it "selling out" necessarily, but it definitely isn't genuine.

Laurie said...

I would pick Nirvana over Pearl Jam, by the way.

It's all good. Don't be bitter. People mistake it for whining. In my book, cynicism translates better than bitterness.

xxxooo

Robin Ivy said...

I just ran across your blog and I'm not sure yet who you are, but this June entry was a nice read for me. I listened to the Muffin back in Massachusetts while growing up. Later I met him and even hung out several times. He influenced me alot. It's a wise person who rules the stars but it's a fool who's ruled by them. Over and Out. Thanks. Robin Ivy

Jim said...

@ Robin,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm a fan and The Zodiac Zone is always a great listen, and yes, a flashback to The Muffin.

Cheers,

Jim

Joseph O'Connell said...

Watching a very well-produced documentary on PBS right now about pearl jam. PBS always does a great job on their films, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately pearl jam still sucks cock, and having to hear this is really renewing my hatred. The interviews they are having with these guys... wow. they sound like a bunch of pouty primadonnas, even at 40-50 years old. Sickening. This is all aside from the fact that Veder's voice seriously makes me want to kill myself. His goat bleat somehow became the new sound, and was imitated by a succession of other pieces of shit like dave Mathews, matchbox 20, creed, counting crows, the list goes on. Fuck pearl jam, they give white people a bad name.

Anonymous said...

I never really enjoyed grunge or alt rock. It was too wishy washy, not punk, not metal, not hard rock, not anything really. Depressing and lacking true energy and inspiration. I think grunge was a fad that just would not go away, and the big record companies pumped it up into something it was not. At least most punk bands showed true disdain for the corporate pigs, I respect that. Grunge is the talentless playing of punk, without the raw energy and no true anti-establishment spirit.