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Pearl Jam glance back,
look ahead

Pearl Jam
rearviewmirror (Epic)


Before we get any further, I must admit a personal
bias: I hate “greatest hits” albums. Absolutely loathe
them. I feel like they take away from the band’s career,
make the full albums useless, and inevitably boil a
band who’s been working for years down to 15 songs
and a jukebox appearance.
That said…I really, really like what Epic has done here with rearviewmirror. And that hurts me a little.

Pearl Jam’s entire career has been based on forgetting the past, forging ahead in newer, weirder directions on
every studio album, and putting on a blazing show every second they get. Their live set is as far from a “greatest
hits” set as one could get, and after the release of the b-sides collection
Lost Dogs, it seemed like this set would
never come out – and I wouldn’t have been happier.

But it still happened, and damn if they didn’t do it right. This set, divided into two discs titled “Upside” and
“Downside,” actually paints an accurate picture of the band’s career to date. It’s not seven songs from
Ten, “Last
Kiss” and a couple of other throw-ins, there’s even representation through their career, showing their
transformation from a thrashing, bombastic, classic rock/punk band to a mature outfit that are just as capable of
adding subtle, subdued touches as they are blowing out a Marshall amp at any second.

There’s a little something for everyone here. For Pearl Jam newbies, all the radio hits are here, and for the
fanatically obsessed, there are several subtle changes, including re-mixes of “Alive,” “Once” and “Black” that
strip away all of the studio gloss to leave just the raw, live sounding core. “State of Love and Trust” seems to
have been enhanced a bit, and “Who You Are” has a lyric change in the second verse.

In the end, though, it’s just a glance back into the past. The evolution of the band is shown for everyone to see,
and as soon as the package is opened it’s clear that this is not a band living in the past. This set, if nothing else,
liberates them to continue forward. It’s also important to note the significance of the name
rearviewmirror: This is
a band content to glance back once in a while for their own benefit, but they won't stop moving ahead.