100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #31 Pearl Jam – Jeremy

Released : 1992

The outcome of purity tests tends to revolve around the person administering them. Kurt Cobain fitted the likes of Pearl Jam in his crosshairs, dismissing them with “Those bands have been in the hairspray/cockrock scene for years and all of a sudden they stop washing their hair and start wearing flannel shirts. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” All this despite signing Nirvana to Geffen after leaving Sub Pop for reasons of gaining a wider audience; how, some people wondered, was this fair.

Jeremy was the apex of the (other) Seattle outfit’s debut album, Ten, a record full of delivered promise that seemed conscious and intended, the lack of chaos seemingly the reason why Cobain had taken so much umbrage. Careerist sellouts was at that point a slightly perverse insult given that few could’ve predicted the movement’s spiraling global popularity, but his prophecy would duly became self fulfilling as Nevermind’s follow up In Utero would be outsold at a ratio of five to one by Ten‘s follow up, Vs.

Not that Eddie Vedder and co. were singing about California Girls. Jeremy was constituted from two stories, one of a teenager who shot himself in front of his classmates in Texas and another whom the singer had known himself that nearly met a similar fate. A howled, epic requiem, it was unafraid to pick up rock by it’s bootstraps, to carry weight but do so without blistering the listener’s ears. Vedder’s advice meanwhile to anyone in a similarly desperate position was simple: ‘The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back’.

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