A beginner’s guide to Pearl Jam
I became a Pearl Jam fan about twenty years after everyone else. It probably sounds a little bit strange. They were huge back in the days, I’m close to them in age and their music is exactly the kind of rock that I’m into: full of guitars, energy and heart. How could I miss them out?
It was probably a matter of bad timing. As Eddie Vedder was climbing the rigs like a chimpanzee, diving into the audience in the beginning of the 90s, I was preoccupied giving birth to and breastfeeding my two daughters, one after another. The hours I had to myself were few and far between. If there ever was a quiet moment, the last thing I wanted to do was to put on some rock music. With two toddlers in your home, the most enjoyable sound in the world is silence.
Fortunately for me, they’re still playing after all these years and I haven’t given up hope that I’ll see them live one day. Although you might suspect that the now 48 year old singer doesn’t climb as well as he used to. But while waiting for the opportunity, there’s plenty to catch up with – a ton of records, but also the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, made for their 20 year anniversary in 2011.
The Criticwire survey
I’m not sure I would have gotten around to watch it as soon as I did if it wasn’t for the topic of the Criticwire survey this week. They wanted to know which rock documentary that was the greatest of all time.
It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? I’m reluctant to appoint “best of all time” in any category of movies, but particularly so in this genre since my knowledge about it is so lacking. Compared to how many of those movies there must be out there, I’ve only seen a fraction, and in several cases it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember them very well. How could I possibly decide which film is the best one?
I also had problems with how the question was phrased. Film criticism is always subjective, but even more so if it’s a movie about a rock band. I think it’s difficult, not to say impossible, to not be affected in your judgement by how much you like the music. Regardless how well the film is put together: if I hate every song played in it, it will be hard to enjoy it. And similarly: if I love the band playing, you’ll have to work really hard on your crappiness to scare me away from it.
For a while I thought about skipping to answer the question altogether, but then I got to think of Pearl Jam. Hadn’t I seen it mentioned somewhere that there was a documentary about them that was worth seeking out? And shouldn’t this be a pretty good time to do so?
And this is how I ended up watching Pearl Jam Twenty, a decision I don’t regret. For a newbie Pearl Jam fan, this documentary serves as a perfect introduction to the band.
In two hours I caught up with the twenty years I had missed. I learned the story of the band from their humble origins, through their success in the 90s as well as their darkest moments to the point where they are today.
And I loved it. Oh, how I loved it. In fact I loved it so much that I watched it twice in a row just because I could.
Is this objectively the best rock documentary ever made? I guess someone might raise objections against it being so obviously benevolent. It’s clearly made by someone who loves the band and who probably never would go into places that the band doesn’t want him to go into. I sense that there are shadows that never are explored, untold stories hanging in the air.
But I don’t need to pry on those things and I don’t crave for sensations. Because all the honesty and intimacy I ever could ask for is already there, in the music and in Eddie Vedder’s naked voice.
My children don’t need my attention as much as they used to and I’m free to pick up listening to the music I love again. And my relationship with Pearl Jam has barely begun.
Pearl Jam Twenty (Cameron Crowe, US 2011) My rating: 5/5