Pearl Jam gets a new drummer, tours the world, releases an album, and stays alive.
For most bands, by the time you record and release your fourth studio album, you know who you are. For Pearl Jam, things were still evolving. This album represented an even further departure from commercial success than 1994’s Vitalogy. So much so that no other band could have remained at the top with an album like 1996’s No Code. No one.
But that is just what Pearl Jam did with radio friendly rock like Hail, Hail, campfire sing-a-longs like Who You Are, and downright sad Off He Goes.
Pearl Jam doesn’t do videos for MTV anymore, so here is Hail, Hail on Letterman.
I give No Code a 7.75⁄10
Pearl Jam is so incredibly talented that No Code is a “down” album.
No Code Track listing
- Hail, Hail
- Who You Are
- In My Tree
- Off He Goes
- Red Mosquito
- Present Tense
- I’m Open
- Around the Bend
No Code song notes
sometimes occasional show opener, like 2018 Fenway Night #1.
Sometimes feels like a Vitalogy leftover.
Hail, Hail has the pleasure of containing one of the most intriguing and introspective of all Pearl Jam lyrics, “Are you woman enough to be my man? Bandaged hand in hand.”
Pearl Jam’s writing style today is much more Hail, Hail than Alive. Not sure that is a good thing. Oddly enough, the music was penned by Gossard, Ament, and McCready.
That isn’t to say Hail, Hail is a bad song, far from it. It just meant that Pearl Jam was hittable, like a pitcher retaining his or her velocity, but losing the movement that came with the fastball.
Song still rocks in concert.
Who You Are
The first time on No Code than Jack Irons can be heard.
Eddie harmonizes with himself, along with some additional depth. Who You Are is a song that builds upon itself over its duration.
Who You Are represents Pearl Jam’s first real withdrawal from rock. Elderly Woman on Vs. might have been an acoustic ballad, but it was the exception to the rule. Who You Are is actively moving the band in a new direction.
In My Tree
No Code is full of uncharted Pearl Jam waters. In my tree wouldn’t have made Ten, Vs., or Vitalogy.
Then again, new drummer Jack Irons comes with a different bag of tricks than the prior PJ drummers.
The song where Stone and Jeff switch instruments.
Harmonica! It’s an instrument that always deserves an exclamation point.
I MISS YOU ALREADY! I MISS YOU ALWAYS!
Off He Goes
Off He Goes is a sad song. Not quite Nothingman sad. But sad nonetheless.
Taken from an interview with lead singer Eddie Vedder, “The song “Off He Goes” is really about me being a shit friend. I’ll show up and everything’s great and then all of the sudden I’m outta there … I also remember saying I should write a lullabye and by the end of the day I wrote a lullabye, It was “Around the Bend.” It was kind of a writing exercise. Then I thought, “well you can’t just write a lullabye because that’s just too sweet.“So, just by changing a few words, I made it so if you listen to it one way it was like a lullabye like a father singing to his child, which is basically a song for Jack Irons to sing to his boy, or it could be like a serial killer who had just eaten half of his … See, there’s a nasty side.”
Interesting fact is that Off He Goes is one of producer Brendan O’Brien’s favorite songs in the PJ catalog.
If No Code is/was a transitional album, then Habit is the transitional song. One part Blood (Vs.), one part Spin the Black Circle (Vitalogy), one part Brain of J (Yield), one part Gonna See My Friend (Backspacer).
It’s an alright tune.
Slide guitar is like harmonica, it needs to be called out for recognition.
An in-concert spectacle. Lukin comes out of nowhere and explodes. It’s not Evenflow or Alive, but there is a good chance you will hear it if you see both shows in your city.
Lukin was a guy. Or a market. Or both? Something like that.
Love the intro.
Present Tense might be the strongest song on No Code. Lyrically thoughtful. Musically diverse. And, quite memorable. Not in a Jeremy or Better Man way, but in a way that wonderfully understated.
Like Warden Norton, I’d like to think that the last thing that went through Vedder’s head, other than the song he wanted at Track 11, was to wonder how the hell Stone Gossard ever got the best of him.
Good for Stone for stepping up to the mic on Mankind.
Music. Spoken words. Things. People. Places. Piano. Vedder. Irons.
A better rando calrissian track than Hey Foxymophandlemama, on par with Aye Davanita.
Around the Bend
Lullaby PJ! Around the Bend is a nice slow diddy. If you walked into a random nightclub and heard this song, you’d never guess it was Pearl Jam.