Greatest hits albums can be seen as unnecessary products, attempts to cash in on a band that’s either extinct or at the very least, past their prime. Some would say they’re a way for a record label to squeeze a couple more bucks out of a band that quit making them money several albums ago. This collection isn’t exempt from this criticism, as Pearl Jam hasn’t had a platinum album in six years. And since their contract expired with Sony after last year’s B-side album Lost Dogs, the band will most likely continue on as a self-contained entity, releasing albums on their own.
So this double album seems only to serve casual fans and the occasional diehard geek. Even though there’s a handful of tracks from Ten that have been remixed especially for this release to remove the layers of sheen, there just isn’t anything else this album offers if you already own the band’s studio albums. Maybe it should have come out before they cleaned the vaults with Lost Dogs. The only real highlight here is “Black.” This remixed version sounds a little closer to what the band would have put out had the song been written and recorded now, but it’s not as dramatic a difference as one would like.
The songs are split into two discs, cleverly titled “Upside” and “Downside,” then arranged in chronological order. All the obvious choices made the cut (“Jeremy,” “Daughter,” “Alive”) and even some never commercially released as singles (though still overplayed on rock radio), including “Corduroy,” “Elderly Woman ..” and “Betterman.”
What’s interesting is how you can hear the songs evolve from radio friendly anthems to downbeat, sideways and sometimes tuneless anti-anthems. While the songwriting remained excellent, it’s obvious that the band was almost trying to sabotage their career with some of the choices they picked as singles.