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Pearl Jam: No Code

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Early word on Pearl Jam's fourth album No Code had it pegged as the band's least commercial release to date, a record made more to please singer Eddie Vedder's artistic sensibilities than the band's kazillion fans. And while the signs of artistic expression are there—a greater than usual infusion of moody ballads, the use of unusual percussion and even chanting on a few songs—No Code shouldn't disappoint anyone who grew, over time, to love Vitalogy or Vs. After all, No Code has an abundance of future hits that showcase Pearl Jam's high-velocity arena-rock abilities ("Hail, Hail"), its inability to resist knocking the paint off the walls once in a while ("Habit," "Lukin"), and its formidable talent for creating radio-ready pop-rock ballads ("Off He Goes"). Hell, "Mankind" even sounds like a Foo Fighters song. For all its occasional dalliances with creativity (the aforementioned chanting, the poetry-reading that constitutes much of "I'm Open"), it's a remarkably consistent Pearl Jam album, and that's more than enough to sell millions right there. And as always, the ornate packaging is itself worth celebrating.