Pearl Jam will always be remembered as the band that survived grunge; the rock phenomenon that sprang up in Seattle in the late 80’s and hit its stride in 1992 with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s own Ten album. Whilst this is a film that is interesting from any musical stand point, it particularly stands out to fans of the genre and, more specifically, fans of Pearl Jam themselves.
Directed by Cameron Crowe, who first worked with the band back in 1992 on the film Single, it chronicles the band’s twenty year career through the highs and lows of music after glam rock and punk. With the band allowing director Crowe access to the never before seen footage from the Pearl Jam vault it makes for a very interesting look back at one of the greatest bands from not only Seattle but America in general. Highly influential and well known throughout the world, Pearl Jam were arguably the band that shot to fame fastest through the Seattle music scene and the film takes you through their rise in greater detail.
Starting in the late 80’s we’re introduced to Mother Love Bone, the band that came before Pearl Jam. After the tragic death of frontman Andy Wood the remaining members of the band found themselves lost. There is a lot of time spent on this moment, with Wood being the driving force behind the band. There are numerous interviews with rock stars and celebrities and the the entire band take part as well as Chris Cornell, the front man of Soundgarden and good friend to both Wood and Pearl Jam.
The film soon plunges us deep into the hectic world of the band and their new front man Eddie Vedder. Showing stock footage from the early Ten tour. Vedder’s antics of climbing 60 feet above the stage is both terrifying and entertaining at the same time. A few major events stand out through the film, the death of Wood and Cobain, the ticketmaster boycott and the Rockslide disaster. These are events that shaped and changed the band. A comparison can also be drawn between the heavy punk influences in both music and lifestyle in 1992 and the more mature band that is still releasing albums today.
Whilst the film is entertaining to a fan of both grunge and Pearl Jam, it is far from perfect for an average cinema goer. The Pearl Jam story runs rather dry from a dramatic point of view in around 2005. Whilst still producing top quality music as well as touring, the inner turmoil and difficulties within the band had ceased after 15 years together. It does, however, show that bands can endure the industry and can still be regarded as an independent and unique band rather than a trend. The Pearl Jam story, which is far from over, is great inspiration for anyone strumming a guitar on stage at a punk night or anyone trying to make their own kind of music without the input of a record company. Furthermore, it is an interesting reminder of how much the music industry has changed in twenty years.
This film is well worth a watch, however if you do have a hatred for Pearl Jam and grunge music it probably isn’t for you.