By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
Right now, someone at Epic Records' New York offices is laughing, thinking about the two fools at New Timeswho shot off their mouths and shot themselves in the foot. I'll admit, it sounds stupid now: Listening to 25 live albums . . . by the same band . . . in a row. And to top it off, the band was Pearl Jam, deemed insufferable by both Robert Wilonsky and myself a long time ago. (I say Vitalogy was the last point of relevance, he says Vs., but why quibble?) The fact is, we got our bluff called; we were secretly hoping Epic would renege on the deal, decide they couldn't send all 25 to us. But they did, those magnificent bastards.
The idea of taking in Pearl Jam's entire European tour (save for the ill-fated show in Rosskilde, Denmark) in one sitting wasn't necessarily appealing, but the challenge was -- the sheer, unadulterated ridiculousness of it all. How long would we last? How long could we last? How long should we last? After all, even before we started, we came to the conclusion that -- with all of the CDsbooksrecordstapesDVDsvideotapes between us, and each week's new additions -- we had a mountain of pop-culture detritus we would never scale in this lifetime. Why does this get to skip to the head of the line? Why not? As we sat down on Sunday at Wilonsky's house, a football game on to distract us, we were David Blaine burying himself alive in a see-through coffin, Evel Knievel bearing down on the Snake River Canyon. This wasn't rock criticism, for once; it was adventure.
And about four hours later -- and that, my friends, is being generous -- it was over. Two albums down, 23 left to go, and it didn't matter. After album No. 1, we'd already flipped through most of Robert's recent comic-book purchases, examined his singles collection, watched all the NFL highlights, played with the dog, flipped though his comics again, and -- in my case, anyway -- barely managed to stave off the aggressive need to sleep. It was clear we would never make it: The PJ on the stereo was making us angry, confrontational. In another 12 hours, Robert would be calling himself Jeremy and threatening me with kitchen utensils; I'd be reduced to a feral state and only answering to the name Leatherman. In another 12 hours, we'd be dead.
So we compromised: Wilonsky took discs 1-13, and I was left with 14-25. Over the next day or so, we'd listen to as many as we could, trading our thoughts via e-mail while we listened. This, for the most part, is the time-elapsed version of that dialogue. How long did we hold out? Read for yourself; Wilonsky's comments are italicized, and much more coherent than my own. -- Z.C.
I have the new Radiohead album on my desk, as well as records by Budapest One, the Falcon Project, Mandarin, Fury III and Eyesinweasel, the new project from Tobin Sprout (from Guided by Voices). I haven't listened to any of these, really, not very much at least. And what am I listening to instead? Motherfucking Pearl Jam. I have now officially stepped into a rock-critic world that I'm not entirely sure I can come back from.
Last night, I went to the CD store to pick up my 17-disc bootleg Beatles box -- and how fucked up is THAT? -- when I got into a conversation with the guy who sold me the monster. He said, "You gonna go home and listen to it all night?" I said nah, that I had to plow through 13 PJ discs -- looking for a little sympathy. Then he got that look in his eye, that crazed fanatic rabid look. He said, "Whatchawannaknowboutem?" I said, "Huh?" He said, "I've made it through 12 of them -- whatcha wanna know?" "Uh, nothin'." I muttered something about having heard Hamburg as being the best, and he confirmed -- a friend was even there, dude, and she told him the same thing! How can something that makes one person so happy make another so fucking miserable? I was up 'til 2 a.m. listening to PJ and reading Michael Chabon. By midnight, I totally zoned out on the PJ. Wasn't even there.
You want annoying? How about this, and bear with me for a sec: When I run in the morning, I usually pick a handful of songs and sorta play them back in my head, to keep myself occupied while I plow through the five miles and change. Stuff I like, normally. This morning? Nothing but the PJ -- I'm talking "Corduroy," "Breakerfall," even -- goddamsunovabich -- "Jeremy." If nothing else, I ran faster just so I could get home and listen to something else. These 25 discs are like a virus. I can't believe we signed up for this; even listening to a handful of them is akin to the kind of mental torture you might find in one of the better books about prisoners of war in 'Nam.
Anyone who would do so willingly, gladly even, needs a life, a job, a hug, a kick in the ass. Something.