Pearl Jam’s “Vs.” at 29: A Quick Look Back

Kevin Alexander

Happy 29th birthday to Pearl Jam’s second studio album Vs., originally released October 19, 1993.

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Cover art for Pearl Jam's 1993 Vs. recordAmes

“They were writing all these articles … Our band against somebody else’s band. What the hell are they talking about? You know, don’t try to separate the powers that be. We’re all in this together.”

~Eddie Vedder

The title of Pearl Jam’s sophomore album, Vs. tells you a lot.

The band was grappling with expectations following the massive success of their debut, Ten. They were fighting the exhaustion of relentless touring, interviews, and press conferences. They were girding for a fight with Ticketmaster- one that would see the band testify on capitol hill.

And they were fighting their own ideas of what they should sound like.

Twenty-nine years later, listening to Vs. and Ten back to back is like listening to two different bands.

Eddie Vedder’s voice is the same, but the list of similarities is short. The band’s sound is looser and rawer as if they’re trying to bottle up their live sound on a studio record. Dave Abbruzzese hits the drums as if his life depends on it; every chord Mike McCready strikes feels like he’s touching a power line.

Vs. is a record constantly on the verge of bursting into flames.

Did it work?

At this point, it’s hard to argue the record’s success. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, sold almost 1 million copies in its first week, and stayed there for the next five weeks. Despite the band doing very little promotion and refusing to make videos for the singles, the record went on to go 7x platinum.

Not bad for a record that Vedder noted, “…was the one I enjoyed making the least.”

Have any memories or thoughts on the record? Share them below!

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