On October 19th, Pearl Jam‘s album “Vs.” turned 20 years old. It’s a sobering number.
I can still remember the anticipation. The in-store displays touting its arrival, the midnight line at Tower Records, the news coverage of unpacking boxes of CDs. It was an event.
The drums of “Go” thumping through my young chest as I pawed through the booklet. I would wear out that orange circle, cueing up the next track in my mind as the sustain faded on the last. I was totally immersed, experienced.
I was reminded of these times last week.
Now 30 years old, I dug into “Lightning Bolt“, the latest offering from Pearl Jam. This time it was blog posts that touted its arrival, a morning click of Spotify, and very little coverage that accompanied the moment.
Once again I unfurled each track, nodding my head ever so slightly, frequently minimizing windows to see how far we’ve come. Feeling a bit underwhelmed, I promptly deleted the playlist I had created for “Lightning Bolt“, moving on to new music from Cults.
That was the beginning and end of my relationship with Pearl Jam’s tenth studio album. Gone into the digital waste bin, until one night I will hear “Mind Your Manners” on a bar jukebox and be tempted to try again.
I bring this up not as a slam on the current state of Pearl Jam, but rather the current state of music. It’s unfortunately become very disposable.
There was a time when you spent your fifteen bucks on a CD and had to live with that choice. Songs would grow on you, stick after time. It was worth it to explore the deeper caverns of an album, picking out things that made you proud of your pick.
There was consequences to your choices, and over time these choices and this experience refined sensibilities and eventually…created brand loyalty to bands. It’s why your favorite band of all time isn’t Imagine Dragons.
If nothing else, you would spin it straight through at least a few times before you worked to salvage three dollars from a “Used” music store. There was an investment in listening.
I wonder, perhaps if we still lived in a 1993 world, would I have given “Lightning Bolt” more of a chance? Has attention span outpaced taste and appreciation? Did I ever give it a fair shot, or was I deterred by the sheer volume of other options.
And if this was 1993 and I still didn’t like it, how would I tell the world? It would take forever to take a picture of the CD, wait until my film was finished, get it developed, mount it on construction paper, write something pithy below it, make copies, then pass it out to all my friends.
Ahh 2013. I guess you do have your upside.
VS. > LB #NoDisrespectToEddieVedder #AllDisrespectToLightningBolt