Pearl Jam…What Could Have Been

Written by @KralTunes

What the hell is this band doing to me?!

For years (decades, at this point) Pearl Jam has left the best tracks from their recording sessions on the cutting floor, and while the released products are usually good to great, they make me lament the possibilities (ahem…Binaural).

Therefore, I certainly wasn’t surprised when I heard the positive reactions to the recent leak of circa 2006 Pearl Jam material.

Comprised of mainly instrumentals from early in the recording process, it is hard to say what the final outcomes might have been, but these blueprints give us ample room to speculate on what could have been.  My initial reflex after listening to these tracks is to question how it would’ve altered their evolution over the last couple of decades if they had gravitated more towards this sound rather than the more mainstream path. These demos, in addition to the 2 tracks leaked earlier this year (“Let It Ride” and “Cold Concession”), could have morphed the 2006 ‘Avacado’ album into a very different, and stronger, beast altogether.

In the leak, we also hear early takes on album cuts “Life Wasted”, “Severed Hand”, and “Big Wave” (known here as “The Bigger the Wave”).  These earlier versions do not differ musically a great deal from the final take.  The main differences here are the place card lyrics strewn about and the final jam on “Life Wasted” (which is absolutely killer) that was absorbed by the stupid fade out on the album.  The positives continue on “Big Wave” as it sounds a little more edgier on the original – complete with no mentions of crustaceans!

The real gifts, though, are the unheard tracks that accompany this release.

Fans have heard murmurs of a track named “2X4” for years, but have not heard a note of it. Of all the new material here, this one rocks the most. It’s a good song with a a nice hook and some punkish qualities that grooves really well.

“Open Door” is a meandering little jam that has a pretty vibe with some trademark Vedder wailing over somber notes.  “Breezy in D” showcases exceptional guitar instrumentation with a great funky feel throughout the track.  “Lucky 13 (Litho Demo)” is a more fleshed out arrangement with great percussion (I could only assume this is a Matt Cameron song). “The Only Cloud In The Sky,” a moody jam fit for some brooding Vedder poetics.

“Rearranged Furniture” and “Rearranged Priorities” are fantastically breezy tunes that I wish the band would do more of (apparently they did, hoping we would never hear them) and do not go over the mainstream cliff (a la “The Fixer).  You could almost picture the guys sitting back and jamming these out in a living room.  I am particularly fond of how you can hear a brief laugh and unscripted interactions after each take that harkens back to their early releases.

“10 Billion Years” is a country-ish ditty with Stone Gossard on vocals and it is practically all polished up for release. Lyrically, this is a simple, repetitive offering of religiously bent verses (“God has been around for ten billion Years/Christ has been around for two thousand years”). I’m not sure if this would ever fit on any Pearl Jam album, but I love when their attempts to tackle this sound.

Although its not an undiscovered gold mind, I am still thrilled to add it to my playlist. Coupled with “Let it Ride” and “Cold Concession”, this song collection is a glimpse of another direction that Pearl Jam can take; to me, it is more mature and graceful than the “Avacado”. It’s also more proof that Pearl Jam knows how to rip out their fans’ hearts by abandoning good work to the dust bunnies.

But hey, at least they’re consistent.

14 thoughts on “Pearl Jam…What Could Have Been

    1. Can you blame them really?? They went for the gold with the self-titled (more immediate, mainstream songs) hoping that they would hit a chord with the fans that would put them in that zeppelin/stones category of bands. Personally, I wish they continued with the No Code-Riot Act trajectory, but I probably would have done the same thing as they did.

  1. Only Cloud in the Sky became a Jeff song for his solo album, Tone which was released around the same time period. Btw, the Mommason links are all dead. Got to love DMCA’s. I no longer torrent anyway thanks to 6 Strikes. #SadnessoflivingintheUSA

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