10 Most Underrated Pearl Jam Songs
You’ve heard Pearl Jam‘s big hits a million times and rightfully so. Tracks like ‘Alive,’ ‘Betterman,’ ‘Yellow Ledbetter,’ ‘Black’ and others capture the ears of listeners with Eddie Vedder‘s raw emotion and the wall of sounds coming from his bandmates. But for every ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Even Flow,’ there’s a huge catalog of songs that never got the same commercial push.
It’s time to right that wrong and give credit to some songs that deserve more recognition. In some cases, the tracks for whatever reason never achieved widespread radio play, while other songs simply never had their number called at all when it came to releasing singles. But one thing they all have in common is that they show Pearl Jam’s excellence far exceeds “the hits.” These are our picks for the 10 Most Underrated Pearl Jam Songs.
Pearl Jam’s ‘Footsteps’ initially appeared as a b-side to ‘Jeremy,’ but finally got its placement on an album with the rarities collection ‘Lost Dogs.’ The track’s moody guitar work serves as the perfect compliment to Eddie Vedder’s raw-to-the-bone delivery and adding a harmonica solo midway through just cinches the heartbroken vibe for this story of hard choices.
‘Do the Evolution’
Though the all-out rocker ‘Do the Evolution’ did receive a pair of Grammy nominations (Best Hard Rock Performance, Best Music Video, Short Form), it never reached huge commercial popularity. Vedder penned the lyrics, inspired by the Daniel Quinn novel ‘Ishmael,’ telling the tale of a man drunk on technology. Speaking of technology, the track feels more distorted than a lot of Pearl Jam songs, giving it a unique and standout vibe.
‘Nothing Like It Seems’
‘Nothing As It Seems’ is a fitting pick for the 10 Most Underrated Songs list, bolstered by Mike McCready’s guitar work, which features a swampy blues opening early and Pink Floyd-esque atmospherics later. Though McCready shines, the track was actually penned by bassist Jeff Ament, who used the platform to discuss perception and snap judgments.
‘Release’ is one of Pearl Jam’s more hypnotic tracks. The ‘Ten’ album closer once again finds Eddie Vedder addressing his paternal parentage, exclaiming, “Oh dear dad / Can you see me now? / I am myself / Like you somehow.” Later in the track he delivers “I’ll open up / Release me” in a moment of catharsis that is as emotionally raw as anything on ‘Ten.’
‘State of Love and Trust’
At the height of Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’ breakout, the group found a spot for another full-on rocker deserving of a home. ‘State of Love and Trust’ turned up on the soundtrack for the Cameron Crowe film, ‘Singles,’ and the director describes Vedder’s lyrics as being “about battling with your instincts in love.” The singer’s full rasp is dripping with emotion, making for one of the 10 Most Underrated Pearl Jam songs and a stellar performance.
Pearl Jam show exactly how to build a song with their ‘Backspacer’ album cut, ‘Unthought Known.’ The song starts with some simple guitar strumming, adding layers and Eddie Vedder vocal intensity along the way until the chorus feels like a triumphant peak. ‘Unthought Known’ is one of Pearl Jam’s more heady tracks, with Vedder addressing the brain’s subconscious actions.
Things get dark and sullen for Pearl Jam on ‘Immortality.’ The haunting track begins with a familiar guitar refrain before Vedder’s rumination begins. Though many have suggested that the song is about the loss of Kurt Cobain, the singer denied the claim, but did state in an interview that he could see how someone could make an inference about a person on “a parallel train.” Regardless, the mix of restraint and intensity works perfectly here.
Turn it up and rock it. Pearl Jam’s ‘Animal’ is a rocker guaranteed to pump you up. Once titled ‘Five Against One,’ it’s that line which led Stone Gossard to suggest the song was about the struggles of trying to make a record. Whether that is the true inspiration is up for debate, but Vedder is definitely unleashing his wrath toward someone.
‘I Got Id’
In the midst of huge success, Pearl Jam found the time to work with Neil Young on the track ‘I Got Id’ from the ‘Merkin Ball’ EP. Though the song did get some radio play, it’s often overlooked in the Pearl Jam canon. It’s also a rare track that doesn’t feature the full band, as Vedder and Jack Irons are joined by Young on guitar and producer Brendan O’Brien on bass. With a memorable opening guitar line, this song about unrequited love hits the mark.
How ‘Corduroy’ never became a huge hit is beyond us. This ‘Vitalogy’ album cut opens with a haunting, slow-building guitar riff before the band hits you full force. ‘Corduroy’ is definitely a relationship song, but Vedder stated it might be more about “one person’s relationship with a million people.” Ironically, this song was never commercially released to their millions of fans, which makes ‘Corduroy’ the perfect choices to sit atop our 10 Most Underrated Pearl Jam Songs.