Picks and Pans Review: No Code

updated 09/02/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/02/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pearl Jam

PJ's fourth full-length album invites a game of Name That Influence. The pseudo-mystical leanings of "Sometimes," with its rain and thunder effects, suggest the Doors' creepy classic "Riders on the Storm." The garage-band crunch of "Smile" conjures up Neil Young's "Mirror Ball," and slabs of guitar on "Hail, Hail" suggest punk icons from the Ramones to the Clash. It testifies to PJ's gifts as grunge's most melodic artisans that the Seattle icons can touch these influences while still sounding fresh and vibrant. Mike McCready's buzzing guitar and Eddie Vedder's anguished vocals provide a one-two punch reminiscent of Jagger and Richards in their heyday. True, there are some typically tormented PJ moments—like Vedder's self-indulgent, spoken intro to "I'm Open" (A man lies in his bed in a room with no door/ He waits, hoping for a presence, something, anything, to enter). But his pensive rendering of the ballad "Off He Goes" recalls recent Springsteen. In this tale of an encounter with a spectral figure, Vedder, reluctant pop star, could be examining his own life: "I wonder 'bout his insides/ It's like his thoughts are too big for his size." The quiet power of the song reflects a maturity that secures Pearl Jam among rock's elite. (Epic)

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