FOTIS MINI (23-30 November 2013)
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Fokus Artis Minggu Ini: Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam is an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Stone Gossard (guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), Mike McCready (guitar), and Eddie Vedder (vocals). The band’s fifth and current drummer isMatt Cameron, of Soundgarden, who has been with the band since 1998.
Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands of the grunge movement in the early 1990s, over the course of the band’s career, its members became noted for their refusal to adhere to traditional music industry practices, including refusing to make music videos, giving interviews and engaging in a much-publicized boycott of Ticketmaster. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”
To date, the band has sold over 31.5 million records in the U.S, and an estimated 60 million worldwide. Pearl Jam has outlasted and outsold many of its contemporaries from the alternative rock breakthrough of the early 1990s, and is considered one of the most influential bands of the decade. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic referred to Pearl Jam as “the most popular American rock & roll band of the ’90s.”
Musical style and influences
Compared with the other grunge bands of the early 1990s, Pearl Jam’s style is noticeably less heavy and harkens back to theclassic rock music of the 1970s. Pearl Jam has cited many punk rock and classic rock bands as influences, including The Who, Neil Young, and the Ramones. Pearl Jam’s success has been attributed to its sound, which fuses “the riff-heavy stadium rock of the ’70s with the grit and anger of ’80s post-punk, without ever neglecting hooks and choruses.” Gossard’s rhythm guitar style is known for its sense of beat and groove, while McCready’s lead guitar style, influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, has been described as “feel-oriented” and “rootsy.”
Pearl Jam has broadened its musical range with subsequent releases. As he had more influence on the band’s sound, Vedder sought to make the band’s musical output less catchy. He said, “I felt that with more popularity, we were going to be crushed, our heads were going to pop like grapes.” By 1994’sVitalogy, the band began to incorporate more punk influences into its music. The band’s 1996 album, No Code, was a deliberate break from the musical style of Ten. The songs on the album featured elements of garage rock, worldbeat, and experimentalism. After 1998’s Yield, which was somewhat of a return to the straightforward rock approach of the band’s early work, the band dabbled with experimental art rock on 2000’s Binaural and folk rock elements on 2002’s Riot Act. The band’s 2006 album, Pearl Jam, was cited as a return to the band’s early sound. The band’s 2009 album, Backspacer, contains elements of pop and New Wave.
Critic Jim DeRogatis describes Vedder’s vocals as a “Jim Morrison-like vocal growl.” Greg Prato of Allmusic said, “With his hard-hitting and often confessional lyrical style and Jim Morrison-esque baritone, Vedder also became one of the most copied lead singers in all of rock.” Vedder’s lyrical topics range from personal (“Alive”, “Better Man”) to social and political concerns (“Even Flow”, “World Wide Suicide”). His lyrics have often invoked the use of storytelling and have included themes of freedom, individualism, and sympathy for troubled individuals. When the band started, Gossard and McCready were clearly designated as rhythm and lead guitarists, respectively. The dynamic began to change when Vedder started to play more rhythm guitar during the Vitalogy era. McCready said in 2006, “Even though there are three guitars, I think there’s maybe more room now. Stone will pull back and play a two-note line and Ed will do a power chord thing, and I fit into all that.”
Campaigning and activism
Throughout its career, Pearl Jam has promoted wider social and political issues, from pro-choice sentiments to opposition to George W. Bush’s presidency. Vedder acts as the band’s spokesman on these issues. The band has promoted an array of causes, including awareness of Crohn’s disease, which Mike McCready suffers from, Ticketmaster venue monopolization and the environment and wildlife protection, among others. Guitarist Stone Gossard has been active in environmental pursuits, and has been an advocate of Pearl Jam’s carbon neutral policy, offsetting the band’s environmental impact. Vedder has advocated for the release of the West Memphis 3 for years and Damien Echols, a member of the three, shares a writing credit for the song “Army Reserve” (from Pearl Jam).
The band, and especially frontman Eddie Vedder, have been vocal supporters of the pro-choice movement. In 1992, Spin printed an article by Vedder, entitled “Reclamation”, which detailed his views on abortion. In an MTV Unplugged concert the same year, Vedder stood on a stool and wrote “PRO-CHOICE!” on his arm in protest when the band performed the song “Porch”. The band are members of a number of pro-choice organizations, including Choice USA and Voters for Choice.
As members of Rock the Vote and Vote for Change, the band has encouraged voter registration and participation in United States elections. Vedder was outspoken in support of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, and Pearl Jam played a series of concerts on the Vote for Change tour in October 2004, supporting the candidacy of John Kerry for U.S. President. In a Rolling Stone feature showcasing the Vote for Change tour’s performers, Vedder told the magazine, “I supported Ralph Nader in 2000, but it’s a time of crisis. We have to get a new administration in.”
Vedder sometimes comments on politics between songs, often to criticize U.S. foreign policy, and a number of his songs, including “Bu$hleaguer” and “World Wide Suicide“, are openly critical of the Bush administration. At Lollapalooza 2007, Vedder spoke out against BP Amoco dumping effluent in Lake Michigan, and at the end of “Daughter”, he sang the lyrics “George Bush leave this world alone/George Bush find yourself another home”. In the beginning of the second encore Vedder invited Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, the subject of the documentary Body of War, onto the stage to urge an end to the war. Young in turn introduced Ben Harper, who contributed vocals to “No More” and “Rockin’ in the Free World”. The band has since discovered that some of the Bush-related lyrics were excised from the AT&T webcast of the event, and are questioning whether that constitutes censorship. AT&T later apologized and blamed the censorship on contractor Davie Brown Entertainment.
Pearl Jam has performed numerous benefit concerts in aid of charities. For example, the band headlined a Seattle concert in 2001 to support the United Nations’ efforts to combat world hunger. The band added a date at the Chicago House of Blues to its 2005 tour to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina; the concert proceeds were donated to Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and the Jazz Foundation of America.
In 2011, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism and their large-scale efforts to decrease their own carbon emissions.