Pearl Jam released this double album of B-sides and unreleased tracks in 2003. For a band whose recent albums had been delivering diminishing returns, it came as a breath of fresh air. It’s split into a faster, heavier disc, and a slower one. Many of the faster tracks have catchier, and indeed stronger melodies than much of the material on albums like Binaural and Riot Act. Tracks like Sad, Down and Undone feature great guitar workouts, strong tunes and performances. It’s a wonder they only surfaced here. Perhaps they were afraid to put them on their albums? Hold On and Yellow Ledbetter are slower, anthemic singalong tracks.
If anything, the slower disc has even more gems. Fatal, Other Side and Hard To Imagine would have been standouts on any of their albums. Eddie Vedder is on fine voice on the last of these, and equally manages a subdued, sensitive vocal on the brooding likes of Dead Man and Strangest Tribe. Later, tracks like Sweet Lew and Dirty Frank show what could have happened if they had spent too much time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The album finishes with hidden track 4/20/02, an abrasive strum recorded solo by Vedder, referencing the death of Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley: “so sing just like him, fuckers, it won’t offend him, just me, because he’s dead”. This collection is way more essential than many of their ‘proper’ albums.