Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)


Oh, where did the grunge go?

This is the story about one of the greatest alternative rock bands of all-time. No, fuck that! This is the story about one of the greatest ROCK bands of all-time, Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam and I, well, we go way, way back to the days of grade school just when I was starting to get into “rock music” again. I remember I was going through this huge-ass 90’s alternative music phase where all I would listen to had to either sound like grunge, be associated with grunge, or had to be released before April ’94 (aka the month grunge died, for good). And Pearl Jam was definitely always on my listening list because of just how awesome they were and how much I respected them for all that they stood for and did for the past 20 years. I actually went to one of their concerts when they came around Philly in ’08, and it was probably the first time I ever smoked pot. You know what, it definitely was. Yeah, those were the golden days of being that young, brass, slightly-rebellious, but always fun kid that wouldn’t stop singing “Jerreeeemyyy spokeeeee innnn claassss todddayyyy!!” So, yeah, pretty much in a nutshell; Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands and needless to say, this documentary made me realize that fact once again.

I don’t think anybody else could have ever done this film, other than the one and only Cameron Crowe. When the dude wasn’t out building zoo’s with Matt Damon and Scar-Jo, he was actually close friends with the band, has always been at their shows, done interviews with them, and hell, even included them in his 1992 flick, Singles. That’s why I think it’s pretty safe to say that this guy knows these guys well enough to the point of where he could get these types of interviews out of them and make them feel at home whenever they talk about their history, the thick, the thin, the good, the bad, the painful, and just about everything else they have been through as human-beings, friends, and as band mates  I also have to give a lot of credit to Crowe for assembling all of these insane amounts of rare-footage where we see the earliest shows, sound checks, behind-the-scenes footage, and even Eddie’s first demo reel that he ever submitted to these guys, and subsequently, got him in the band. It’s all edited together so wonderfully that it makes you wonder just how the hell Crowe found all of this existing footage and found a way to make it all come off as one cohesive flick, rather than a jumble of Crowe showing us what he found and how cool he thinks it is.

"Hey, Eddie? Do you mind moving over more to the right? You're sort of ruining my shot here."
“Hey, Eddie? Do you mind moving over more to the right? You’re sort of ruining my shot here.”

Although, if there is one thing I have to complain about with this flick that kept me away from fully loving it was the later parts of the film where it seems like they don’t really climb into what happened to Pearl Jam’s career from 2002-on. They do discuss some parts of it, but they never really go fully in depth as they did with the 90’s, which is understandable because it’s no doubt that Pearl Jam was at the peak of their popularity during that time, but you never really get the essence of what these guys are up to doing with their lives in later parts. But if anything, it actually makes me want to listen to the latter albums a lot more now, almost as much as I did with the 90’s stuff so maybe that’s making a positive out of a negative.

But despite this slight problem, the real reason to see this flick, other than the crazy footage that Crowe finds or even Crowe himself, is all because of the band itself: Pearl Jam. Anybody who has ever or is currently a fan of this band, will love this movie because it’s all about these guys from start-to-finish, with a couple of interludes to other icons of the grunge era here and there, but it’s nothing too much that will distract you from what’s really focused on here. Perhaps what’s so damn interesting about these guys in the first place is not only how they make their music (without any outside inspiration), but how they have lasted with pretty much all of the same members for the past 20 years. Even in a day and age where bands seem like they’re ending over stupid shit like the usual conflicts between two mates, or contract negotiations, or not making enough money, it’s great to see a band like Pearl Jam still be around with everybody who started it all, still intact. And this may not be a huge surprise to you, but trust me, just watch this movie and see what happens to them over the course of these 20 years. You’ll be surprised to see that any of these guys actually still want to make music.

Nothing like a relaxing walk on the beach for a burnt-out musician.
Nothing like a relaxing walk on the beach for a aging-rocker.

Maybe if this movie doesn’t win you over, that is if you’re not a Pearl Jam fan before seeing this, then it may give you inspiration to use for your own band, if you ever start one because these guys really do have some intense dedication, not only to each other, but to music as well. What always pisses people off about Pearl Jam is how they reacted to all of this stardom in the first place. They didn’t want to make music videos, they showed up to glamorous music shows like the Grammy’s and basically told them to go ‘eff themselves, and couldn’t handle being known as the new faces of rock, along with guys like Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain. Some of this would probably annoy people considering they make all of this damn money and all they do is complain about what comes along with it, but that didn’t bother me as much because these guys really do seem like they just want to do their own thing, regardless of whether or not others like it or not. These guys have stayed together for a very long time and they have also been doing things their own way for as long as I can remember, regardless of what other people think, so it’s pretty damn inspiring when you see this and knowing that in today’s music business, that’s a very hard thing to find. Look at Pearl Jam and don’t just see a band that knows how to rock with their artistic-cocks out; but instead, see a band that does whatever they want, whenever they want, and never once, not even for a second, decide to call it quits and sell-out. Well, maybe all except for that last album, which I thought sounded kind of “poppy” but hey, that’s just me, people.

Consensus: Pearl Jam Twenty may not win over any new fans looking to see whether or not they really do care for the alt-rock genre, but if you do love Pearl Jam, or are at least familiar with their music, you’ll find yourself not only entertained but also inspired by these guys’ story and just how they’ve made it through 20 years, despite everything that has happened to them and around them as well. Rock on and prosper. That’s what I always say and it seems like they do also.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Say cheese, as well as hello to our next album: "Fuck Conformity."
“Say cheese, as well as hello to your next album: “Fuck Conformity.”
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8 comments

  1. I really thought this was one of the finest rock docs out there. Pearl Jam I think has taken the mantle of being the best American rock band working today. Can you name anyone better? For me, grunge died w/ the dissolution of Soundgarden. The first nail in the coffin was Kurt Cobain’s death. Grunge is now a dirty word. It’s because anything that says grunge will remind me of all of those shitty rock bands playing in the radio like Shinedown, 3 Dull Dudes, Crud, and most of all, Nickelturd.

    • Grunge isn’t even grunge anymore. It’s just metal with soft melodies. That’s why Pearl Jam will, and forever always will be, the best band working today.

  2. Great review man. I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan. I’ve got a PJ tattoo on my leg and travelled to Sweden to see them last year, I absolutely love them. This really is a brilliant documentary, I saw it at the cinema when they showed it for one night only. I totally agree with you that it kind of cuts their career a little short though and doesn’t show what they’ve been doing for the past 10 years or so. They could have focused on that a little more rather than all the Andrew Wood stuff, which although important, took up quite a lot of screen time.

    • There were opportunities to really focus on, so we could get a bigger picture of what was going on but altogether, I really liked the hell out of this documentary. Thanks!

  3. Oddly, what i appreciated most about this was not the PJ stuff (which was incredible) but the Mother Love Bone / Andy Wood footage. i’d always know MLB was a forerunner of the genre, but the scenes, interviews and clips with Wood and the band turned me on again to one of the 90’s saddest stories. i put the album back into heavy rotation on my playlist, and can’t believe i took it off. Now if only somebody would’ve shown this to Layne…

  4. I actually got to see this film on the big screen back when it was released. Really lucky to be able to see this and it was a great experience and a nice fist-pump film considering that I would end up seeing them live a few months later. I need to rewatch this film again someday.

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