December 12, 1994 12:00 PM

Pearl Jam

Though it sells lots of CDs, Pearl Jam has always kept its alternative credentials in working order with a serious, somber sound that rarely brings words like fun and party to mind. On Vitalogy, its third—and best—release, the band not only pleases hard-core fans, but also manages to lighten up just enough to attract skeptics who had consigned it to the grunge-rock ghetto. As usual, singer Eddie Vedder’s intensity drives every song, yet even he seems to be enjoying himself more this time out (witness “Bugs,” his goofy, spoken-word rant about arachnids). Whether it’s the retro-punk thrash of “Spin the Black Circle,” the arena-rock thump of “Satan’s Bed,” the slow-building fury of “Not for You” or the sad “Nothing-man,” every tune seems more open and inviting than anything the band has done before.

Bruce Springsteen did it with Born in the U.S.A., U2 did it with Achtung Baby. Now Pearl Jam does it with Vitalogy; by mixing artistic integrity with keen commercial instincts, the band has expanded its music—and come up with a classic. (Epic)”


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