No Code

Pearl Jam

Epic Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/11/2005

No Code is Pearl Jam's answer to a concept album. A drastic departure from the grunge/stadium rock sound of its predecessors, No Code is a mishmash of the weirdest ideas thrown out by the band on their worst acid trips. No Code is undoubtedly Pearl Jam's most insane effort; however, it is a great record.

Pearl Jam's music always had an air of pretentiousness, with its macho yet sophisticated belligerence and a bloated ego. No Code finds the band in a new light and in a completely different frame of mind.

To begin with, singer Eddie Vedder sounds like an intelligent folk singer-songwriter this time around. He is more down-to-earth and introspective than he ever was. On "In My Tree" -- a track that reeks of Greenpeace activism -- he is at his earthiest, as he sings "Wave to all my friends, yeah / they don't seem to notice me, no / all their eyes trained on the street," about the simple pleasures of living in a tree. Vedder has never dared to be so naïve.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

Moving away from the band's traditional bombastic songwriting nature, the songs on this record are blatantly confessional and are more honest than on any of Pearl Jam's earlier albums. On "Present Tense," Vedder is most poignant, as he advises against committing suicide in Bob Dylan-ish poetic style and in the manner of an enlightened preacher, whose only motive in life is to make other people's lives better.

Vedder's vulnerability on "I'm Open" is almost scary, as he speaks in a brooding and meditative fashion on the false comfort of living in a dream world, and the difficult and almost inevitable transition to the harshness of reality.

By the time No Code was out, Pearl Jam had made some interesting collaborations with other artists/bands, and the influences coming out of these collaborations make obvious presence on the album's music. It is impossible not to link the infectiously rhythmic hands-clapping (reminiscent of Qawwali music) on "Who You Are," to Vedder's famous duets with the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on the soundtrack of Dead Man Walking.

Also, a glimpse of Pearl Jam's full-time transition to folk rock on later albums is seen on "Hail-Hail," "Smile," and "Off He Goes," and it is but obvious that Vedder and co. took a few lessons from Neil Young while collaborating on Young's Mirrorball.

No Code is Pearl Jam like you've never heard before. This is the only album on the group's entire catalog that neither sounds grunge nor folk rock. This experimental adventurism by the band may be a letdown for a lot of Pearl Jam fans; however, this album was critical in cementing Pearl Jam's reputation as not merely grunge rockers, but also a bunch of versatile musicians/song-writers.

Rating: B+

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Comments

by avaman23 on November 8, 2007 05:41:46 AM
By far my favorite Pearl Jam album......always has been always will be. There are such great songs start to finish on this one....love the change in direction sound wise the band chose to do for this album. I never get tired of hearing Who You Are.......In My Tree......Smile......Off He Goes..

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© 2005 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.