The idea of a deep cut usually isn’t so complicated. They’re the padding, the filler, the less marketable tracks buried deep on records or used as buffers between the singles both band and record company pin their joint hopes on. Of course, what’s beautiful about deep cuts is that once we’ve grown tired of the singles we’re urged to consume again and again, we stumble upon these afterthoughts, and they can often become our favorite songs off a record.
Pearl Jam kinda throw a wrench into that idea, though. First off, the band at one point were so popular that their non-singles, B-sides, and outtakes often found their way onto the charts and even became radio staples in some cases. And while most bands, especially established ones, rarely look beyond their hits and a handful of new tracks when piecing together a setlist, Pearl Jam dive right into their deep pool of deep cuts and have often turned them into fan favorites. That being the case, a deep cut from a Pearl Jam album isn’t always the same as a deep cut in concert — as this feature will show — and often doesn’t feel like a deep cut at all.
Like we said, it’s complicated.
So, to keep things as simple as they can be when trying to scan across 30 years, we limited ourselves to 10 deep cuts, one from every studio album (or its respective singles, sessions, or tour) leading up to Friday’s release of Gigaton. The great news is, of course, that not only are all of these songs waiting for you in Pearl Jam’s catalog if you want to revisit them, but you’re likely to hear a heap of them when the 2020 tour finally gets going.
So, here they are. Ten Pearl Jam deep cuts so deep (how deep are they?) that you can’t touch the bottom.
I walked right into that, didn’t I?
“Release” from Ten (1991)
“Release” has the unenviable task of closing out Ten, and we say “unenviable” because it’s more or less following some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most anthemic moments to date (see: “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Jeremy”, “Black”, “Once”). But rather than end on an explosive note, the band opts for tranquility, and it’s such a wise move, especially given the song’s personal history. Eddie Vedder improvised the lyrics on the spot, searching his feelings about his father — or lack thereof — and the mood matches that intuition. Both Stone Gossard and Mike McCready match the impromptu hymns with angelic energy, and the entire experience can best be summed up as “embalming.” Oddly enough, this has since become one of their best show openers. –Michael Roffman
Times Played Live: 173
“Rearviewmirror” from Vs. (1993)
It’s the guitars. McCready and Gossard lead this Vs. gem like an electrified roller coaster, and the whole thing works even if you just zero in on their tangoing and ricocheting. How this wasn’t a single back in 1993 is one of the few sins that Pearl Jam have to live with today, but fortunately, it’s become a total hit with the fanbase. It’s a live staple in the band’s canon, and for all the reasons a rock song becomes a staple: the aforementioned guitars, the popcorn drums, those emotional change-ups, the build, and, yes, Vedder’s wail. It’s kind of a tease, really, the way it scales back and forth, but man, when Vedder finally lets loose, it’s near-impossible not to scream the title with him. Easily one of their most riveting tracks to date. –Michael Roffman
Times Played Live: 468
“Out of My Mind” from Vitalogy B-side (1994)
Okay, this one is a deep cut in every sense of the word. While most Pearl Jam friends can sing the Vitalogy single “Not for You” while standing on their heads and clicking their boot heels, only the diehards will raise an eyebrow if you mention “Out of My Mind” to them. That’s because the song’s lone official release came as the B-side on the “Not for You” single, and that official recording is merely an improvisation done live in Atlanta in 1994. Still, there’s enough menace in that four-plus minutes to make it “Not for You”‘s brother once removed, and it’s quirky enough to bare the offbeat stamp of its “Vs. Tour” origins. Diehards also know that the odds of hearing this one in concert are just about, well, nothing man. –Matt Melis
Times Played Live: 4
“Red Mosquito” from No Code (1996)
No Code is certainly the black sheep of the Pearl Jam canon, and “Red Mosquito” is certainly one of the oddest of the batch. Like “Rats” off of Vs. or even “Bugs” off Vitalogy, it’s a sloppy peanut butter and jelly jam that shambles around unconsciously in the name of an unwanted pest. But it’s so unique. It’s so abrasive. It’s so unpredictable. As McCready heads to the Mississippi Delta (with a Zippo lighter, no less), Vedder claws through a fever dream inspired by a bout of food poisoning. Co-written with Ament, Vedder sounds just as befuddled as us regarding the song’s meaning, as he told a South Carolina crowd in 2008: “It’s all about … uh … being trapped in a hotel room with an insect.” Whatever the case, this pesky insect managed to fly all the way up to No. 37 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart without a lick of promotion. Quite a bug’s life. –Michael Roffman
Times Played Live: 88
“Untitled” from “Yield Tour” (1998)
Bands cobble together cool little interludes and intros to their favorite songs and jams all the time. Often, they’ll even borrow a verse or chorus from a cover song to lead them into a live staple. However, rarely does that little ditty turn into a crowd favorite itself. “Untitled”, best known for its appearance on Pearl Jam Live on Two Legs, first appeared in concert on the “Yield Tour” in 1998 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, in Columbia, Maryland. “Got a car, got some gas/ Let’s get out of here, get out of here fast,” Vedder nudges over some dissipating guitar. It’s a perfect little synthesis of everything rock and roll once meant to us — guy, girl, car, full tank — and slides beautifully into the slippery getaway that is “MFC”. Still employed to this day, a swaying ballpark or arena crowd echoing Vedder’s teenage promise of “With you I could never be alone” never fails to bring goosebumps. –Matt Melis
Times Played Live: 48
“Insignificance” from Binaural (2000)
Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron joined the family starting with 2000’s Binaural, and he’s since gone on to redefine the outfit over the last 20 years. “Insignificance” is an early signifier of this impact, thriving with tribal percussion that recalls the eclectic stylings of the great Stewart Copeland. There’s so much life in his myriad beats, adding an almost math rock quality to Ament’s rhythms or Gossard and McCready’s six-string needling. It’s also a surefire example of the way Vedder can turn a mouthful of lyrics into the sweetest pop rock candy, especially in that chorus when he screams: “Bombs dropping down/ Overhead, underground/ It’s instilled, to want to live/ Bombs dropping down/ Please forgive our hometown/ In our insignificance.” For an album that was bereft of major radio hits — at least compared to its predecessor,Yield — perhaps they ought to have given this a spin. –Michael Roffman
Times Played Live: 171
“Other Side” from Riot Act sessions (2002)
It’s a coin flip between this track and “Out of My Mind” for the most obscure pick on this list, the latter likely earning that distinction since it didn’t appear on the band’s 2003 chart-climbing collection of B-sides and rarities, Lost Dogs. That said, “Other Side” is just one of a small handful of worthy songs (see also: “Down”) that, for one reason or another, ended up on the cutting-room floor of Riot Act. Then again, it’s almost as difficult to imagine this beautiful, reflective strummer — despite its melancholy content — on the grieving and political back half of that album as the slippery, hopeful injection that is “Down”. Better suited as the B-side for the “Save You” single, “Other Side” and its history tell us that seeing it on a setlist anytime soon is the longest of long shots. –Matt Melis
Times Played Live: 3
“Come Back” from Pearl Jam (2006)
Look, Eddie Vedder is a romantic. Beyond that bed of hair is a big, ol’ heart that pumps with unadulterated passion. On “Come Back”, the frontman lets it all hang out as an emo cowboy reeling from the wound of snapping off Cupid’s arrow. Vedder plays the role well, and this boozy midnight meditation on heartbreak soothes all the right itches, particularly when it cuts right to the chase: “Since you slipped away, know that I still remain true/ I’ve been wishing out the days/ Please say, that if you hadn’t of gone now/ I wouldn’t have lost you another way.” Aided by Ament’s balmy basslines and McCready’s lassoing, the penultimate track off Pearl Jam is communicable to anyone who’s ever been a lovelorn insomniac. –Michael Roffman
Times Played Live: 50
“Unthought Known” from Backspacer (2009)
On an album that mostly charges full-speed ahead and rarely minces words, “Unthought Known” brings a different structure and vibe to 2009’s Backspacer. A chugging guitar part that begins as a whisper and gradually adds percussion and keys that allow Vedder to scrape the sky with some of the most hopeful lyrics he’s ever penned, “Unthought Known” soars high before transitioning into deeply rewarding, straight-ahead rocker that shifts gears perfectly until finally fading out. It’s a perfect build-up and breakdown that luckily will represent Backspacer on most tour stops. –Matt Melis
Times Played Live: 132
“Infallible” from Lightning Bolt (2013)
We’ve been harsh on Lightning Bolt over the last several years. Hell, I’ve even joked that the jolt you get from this album is less like lightning and more like licking the terminal of a sapped Triple A battery. Still, the “old girl” has her moments, and Infallible, nestled at the album’s midway point carries that baton. Matt Cameron’s unpredictable drums lead the way into a beautiful vocal turn as Vedder slides into a near-R&B croon for the song’s chorus. It’s a mini-epic tucked into five minutes and change and a helluva lot more interesting than, say, “Sirens”. Unfortunately, with new music under their belts, it’s difficult to imagine a Lightning Bolt deepy will make many future setlists. –Matt Melis
Times Played Live: 22