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Essay Paper on Pearl Jam as a Counter-Cultural Band

The early ’90s alt-rock rebellion, which spewed from the underground like a geyser and saved rock-n-roll from hair bands, exacted a serious toll. Band break-ups, career nosedives, sell-outs and drug abuse death are as much a legacy of that dramatic period as the music. Pearl Jam is still standing – arguably the only band from the age that still matters. “I’m totally excited about still being around,” said Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.

While the group is still blessed with a sizeable mass of diehard fans, Pearl Jam’s overall fame has declined over the years. Ten was their 1991 debut. It was sold nearly 10-million copies.

When Pearl Jam lifted a real press embargo to promote the albums of last year’s Riot Act, music scribes couldn’t oppose taking jibes at the band’s sinking recognition. Also it was all those years of being shut out of interviews. That was a beginning of counter-cultural transformation.
But their take was way off. Except for maybe Ten, Pearl Jam has always made the music they wanted to make, without much deliberation of market forces. You only need to listen to make this statement. Through the years of development, their sound has become less and less commercial, more experimental (at times self-indulgent) and introspective. Away from the group, members have each taken free rein in seeking out whatever mysterious side projects may interest them.

The white warmth of early recognition really obscured Pearl Jam, especially charismatic front man Eddie Vedder, who got slapped on the cover of Time and was heralded as the voice of a new generation. So much of Vedder’s coping involved hiding. Also Pearl Jam stopped doing video releases when video clips were still an essential tool of the deal.

To short-circuit their celebrity, Pearl Jam weaken the commercialism of their sound moving towards counter-cultural side. What began as huge and raging became lean and seething, or reflective and acoustic, or just plain odd. And while hip-hop and acid influences have permeated rock in the last ten years, the band has proved particularly resistant to fads, preferring instead to stick with its massive guitars-bass-and-drums attack. The X generation factor, of course, is Vedder’s brawny, passionate baritone, the most imitated voice in rock’n’roll.

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