Well...Pearl Jam finally got what it wanted, sort of.
After Ten dominated the charts for about two years, the band was determined to bring things down to a smaller level. Few interviews were granted, no videos, practically impossible to get a ticket to a concert, even if it wasn't sponsored by Ticketmaster. They also got looser and more obscure, especially in Vitalogy.
Their efforts resulted in No Code. A failure when it comes to sales, but musically, I guess I'm one of the twelve people in the world that actually really liked No Code. Now, instead of grunge, ska rules the charts. Pearl Jam seem to be more fit for classic rock stations than alternative. In Yield, the band probably had the least pressure they've ever had to endure when it comes to recording a follow-up.
Unfortunately, Yield doesn't answer a lot of questions raised about the band. Rumours were circulating about how the band recorded the music without Vedder and gave him the master tapes, where he quickly did the vocals and lyrics. They've never sounded as relaxed as they are on Yield, but their second most-relaxed album was No Code, which showed all was not good in the Pearl Jam camp.
For a piece of music though, Yield has some fantastic moments. Drummer Jack Irons finally feels like a fully-integrated member of the band, outshining even guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard in the opening song, "Brain of J.". The crescendos on "In Hiding" and "Given To Fly" are among the strongest Pearl Jam has accomplished. No small feat considering that crescendos are one of the band's best fortes.
Psychedelic elements are all over "Wishlist", which is one of the most earnestly written songs the band has recorded. It is also one of the most complicated pieces musically. Still in the school of guitar, taught by Neil Young, the sound of squalls are intensified by a sample of an ocean, a nice touch.
"I wish I was a sacrifice/that somehow still lived on.......I wish I was as fortunate.../as fortunate as me," Vedder yearns on "Wishlist". It is one of the songs that you know that the band recorded together. Other songs, such as "Pilate", makes you wonder if each member of the band were recording the song in seperate studios.
Pearl Jam may no longer have the title of "best rock band of the 90s" by the masses, but at least on Yield, it sounds like the band wants to get the title back. "Do the Evolution" is a great harkening back to their stadium anthem days. Throw in a couple of unlisted tracks and it gives you the feeling that they wanted to create a "classic" album, in the vein of Led Zeppelin IV or Blonde On Blonde.
The countryish sway of "In Hiding" show Vedder at his calmest and most at ease. Even Vedder mutters "I am content". And in a rare display, a piano is even used. The last two songs end the album on an off-beat note. "All Those Yesterdays" again show a growing maturity in Pearl Jam's lyrical abilities, but musically, it has a passive effect. Maybe it may take a couple of listens for it to set in. And the last "hidden" track doesn't take hold of you immediately.
Yield shows Pearl Jam as a strong, cohesive unit. With the breakup of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam is the last of the Nirvana-Soundgarden-Pearl Jam titans to rule the charts. With each of the members approaching or are above the age of 30, maybe dominating the charts is no longer possible for the band. They have the ability to now strengthen their already strong collection. 1998 will be as pivotal of a year for the band as 1993, when Vs. came out. A tour and a hit album will guarantee another album. If Yield flops, then it all comes down to five guys who still like the energy they create in a studio. Record executive pressure or not, I'd certainly like to see another few albums come out. Yield is a great album, but their true "classic" album may be one release away.