Pearl Jam, Vitalogy

Bands that believe their own hype believe they can play what they want and this makes for interesting musical studies: sometimes you get the Beatles, and sometimes you get this. Now, for a band to have sufficient hype they have to be sufficiently good, and therefore rarely are such high-on-hype albums bad. Vitalogy generally exemplifies this principle but it's largely because of the songs that aren't so strange; the alternative ballads like "Better Man" and "Nothingman" play the best because they're not so off the wall, and there's some good bluesy rock in "Whipping," "Corduroy" and (in spite of the cheesily transparent metaphor) "Spin The Black Circle." However, their self-granted libertinitude in the studio doesn't prevent a couple by the numbers tracks ("Not For You") yet aides and abets the creation of various other musical deformities ("Pry, To" plus the sped-up musings of the mentally ill in "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" and the abusive accordions and flyswatters (!) of "Bugs"). It also birthed the impressive yet baffling deluxe nonsense of the packaging, the CD in a tightfitting sleeve and the booklet a simultaneous satire and shrine of a billion early medical condemnations of self-abuse. That's a good description of this album: they clearly enjoyed themselves while doing it, but it's not something all of us would like to observe for 55 minutes. The reissue adds three uninteresting alternate takes. (Content: adult themes and some mild-moderate language.)