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Album Review: Pearl Jam 20 [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] by Pearl Jam
Excellent, Based on 5 Critics
Rolling Stone - 100 Based on rating 5/5
One of the most stunning moments in Cameron Crowe's new Pearl Jam documentary comes near the end, when the band plays "Better Man" at Madison Square Garden and the audience euphorically screams along to every word. The soundtrack to the film – which contains that "Better Man" – is for those hardcore fans. There's no "Jeremy," "Daughter" or "Even Flow" here.
It’s a bit surprising that the most important track on Pearl Jam Twenty, the soundtrack to the accompanying film documenting Pearl Jam’s 20 years as a band, is not even a Pearl Jam original. “Walk with Me”, from Neil Young’s outstanding 2010 full-length Le Noise, contains poignant and telling lines, which Pearl Jam augmented onstage with guts and panache at Young’s Bridge School Benefit in October of 2010: “I feel a strength / I feel your faith in me / I’ll never let you down no matter what you do / If you just walk with me and let me walk with you / I’m on a journey / I don’t want to walk alone. ” That night, exactly 20 years and one day after Pearl Jam played its first gig together, those lines encapsulated what Pearl Jam stands for as a band.
Twenty years ago, when the grunge scene was just picking up, Seattle’s Pearl Jam arrived with their now iconic album Ten. Even though they were often lambasted for trying to ride the coattails of the alternative rock scene, and often flagged for their lengthy guitar lines, the group managed to defy expectations by pushing the limits of their sound while still keeping their die-hard fans emotionally invested. Now, director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Say Anything) delivers Pearl Jam Twenty, a new documentary that captures the band’s exhaustive history, celebrating the little details that all fans are sure to enjoy.
To celebrate their 20th anniversary -- marked from the release of Ten, not their formation -- Pearl Jam launched a multimedia project called Pearl Jam Twenty, spearheaded by a Cameron Crowe-directed documentary to which this double-disc set provides the nominal soundtrack, both supplemented by a memorabilia-laden coffeetable book. It’s a project not dissimilar to The Beatles Anthology and, appropriately enough, the PJ20 soundtrack is a weird hodgepodge of demos, alternate tracks, outtakes, and live cuts all culled together under a title that suggests it has broader appeal than it does. This is yet another release designed for the dedicated, the kind of fan eager to dissect and analyze, the kind who won’t mind a few wordless demos in a row.
Pearl Jam are the reigning kings of nineties rock, an unlikely gang of elder statesmen dressed up in flannel shirts and worn-out jeans. Twenty years since their debut album helped establish grunge as a radio format, fashion choice and buzzword for an entire generation, the guys have thrown themselves a long-deserved congratulatory party, hiring honorary Seattle-ite Cameron Crowe to direct a documentary chronicling the band’s history. Accompanying the movie are a hardback book and this double-disc soundtrack, which essentially does the same thing Crowe’s film sets out to accomplish: trace Pearl Jam’s career arc by shining a light on the rare stuff.