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December 6, 1994


3.796 (average of 15 ratings)


grunge rock



Album Tracks:

  1. Last Exit
  2. Spin the Black Circle
  3. Not for You
  4. Tremor Christ
  5. Nothingman
  6. Whipping
  7. Pry, To
  8. Curduroy
  9. Bugs
  10. Satan’s Bed
  11. Better Man
  12. Aye Davanita
  13. Immortality
  14. Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me

Total Running Time:


Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 5.0
sales in U.K. only - estimated 0.1
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 10.0


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 1 1
peak on U.K. album chart 4

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Spin the Black Circle (11/19/94) #58 US, #10 UK, #16 AR, #11 MR
  • Tremor Christ (11/19/94) #18 US, #16 AR, #16 MR
  • Better Man (12/3/94) #13a US, #1 AR, #2 MR
  • Curduroy (12/10/94) #53a US, #22 AR, #13 MR
  • Not for You (2/25/95) #34 UK, #12 AR, #38 MR
  • Immortality 7/8/95) #10 AR, #31 MR


In 2011, an expanded version of the album was released with a guitar and organ-only mix of “Better Man,” an alternate version of “Curduroy,” and a demo of “Nothingman.”



Pearl Jam


Released on vinyl two weeks before its CD release, Pearl Jam created a definite demand for their third album. The vinyl version alone sold 35,000 copies in its debut week. When it hit the shelves in CD format, it became the second-fasted selling album in U.S. history – second only to the group’s previous effort, Vs.. WK

It wasn’t just a big seller. “Thanks to its stripped-down, lean production, Vitalogy stands as Pearl Jam’s most original and uncompromising album.” STE That can be good or bad – Jon Pareles said, the album incorporates “fast but brutal punk, fuzz-toned psychedelia, and judicious folk-rock, all of it sounding more spontaneous than before” WK while Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times said “this isn’t just the best Pearl Jam album but a better album than the band once even seemed capable of making.” WK Edna Gundersen of USA Today confirmed the latter point, saying this is “the band’s most compelling, inventive and confident music to date.” WK The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly’s David Browne said that “Vitalogy marks the first time it’s possible to respect the band’s music as much as its stance” WK but also said that it “leaves an odd, unsettling aftertaste.” WK

More to the latter point, Rolling Stone’s Al Weisel called it “a wildly uneven and difficult record, sometimes maddening, sometimes ridiculous, often powerful.” WK It is definitely “more diverse than previous releases” WK with “aggressive rock songs, ballads, and several experimental tracks.” WK The band’s guitarist, Mike McCready, concurs, saying “there is some weird stuff on there.” WK

Weisel said some of those come across as “throwaways and strange experiments that don’t always work.” WK Time’s Christopher John Farley specifically signaled out Bugs, with its “sub-Tom Waits accordion romp,” STE as one of the album’s stinkers, but also said “that’s one admirably experimental failure on a largely successful album.” WK Other more experimental numbers included “the mantrafunk of Aye DavanitaSTE “and the chilling sonic collage Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me,” STE which was reportedly created with “looped recordings of real patients from a psychiatric hospital.” WK

The album sports a noticeable lack of guitar solos compared to the group’s first two studio efforts. As McCready said, “I don’t think the songs demanded solos; it was more of a rhythmic album.” WK

“While it isn’t a concept album, Vitalogy sounds like one. Death and despair shroud the album, rendering even the explosive celebration of vinyl Spin the Black Circle somewhat muted.” STE As Pareles said, the bulk of the songs are “tortured first-person proclamations” WK and that “vedder sounds more alone than ever.” WK As Jim DeRogatis said in the Chicag Sun-Times, the album can leave you “wishing that they’d just lighten up.” WK

“But that black cloud works to Pearl Jam’s advantage, injecting a nervous tension to brittle rockers like Last Exit and Not for You, and especially introspective ballads like Corduroy and Better Man.” STE The latter was written by Vedder when he was in high school and he performed it with in his pre-Pearl Jam days with the group Bad Radio. Pearl Jam initially rejected it for Vs. because it was too accessible – or, as producer Brendan O’Brien said, a “blatantly great pop song.” WK

Thematically, many of the songs also address “the pressures of fame and dealing with the resulting loss of privacy.” WK In addition to the previously mentioned “Not for You” and “Curduroy,” Pry, To, ‘Bugs,’ Satan’s Bed, and Immortality all address these issues. WK “Not for You” deals vents against the “bureaucracy of the music industry and, as Vedder says, “how youth is being exploited.” WK He explains that “Curduroy” is about “one person’s relationship with a million people” WK and that “Immortality” is about “the pressures on someone who is on a parallel train.” WK

“Pearl Jam are at their best when they’re fighting, whether it’s Ticketmaster, fame, or their own personal demons.” STE To that point, things were tense with the band during the recording process. Drummer Dave Abbruzzese says that communication problems spiked as a result of guitarist Stone Gossard refraining from his usual role as mediator. WK Gossard, who has said he considered quitting the band, says this was the first album where final decisions were pretty much in the hands of lead singer Eddie Vedder. WK He also said that “eighty percent of the songs were written 20 minutes before they were recorded.” WK On top of it all, McCready sought rehab for alcohol and cocaine abuse. WK

As for the album’s title, it was originally intended to be called Life, something confirmed by the statement on the first single “Spin the Black Circle.” However, Vedder found a medical book, Vitalogy, which means “the study of life” which became not just the album title but the source of the cover art and liner notes.

Review Source(s):

Related DMDB Link(s):

previous album: Vs. (1993) Pearl Jam’s DMDB page next album: No Code (1996)

Spin the Black Circle

Tremor Christ

Better Man (live)

Curduroy (live)

Not for You (on Saturday Night Live)

Immortality (live)

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Last updated March 30, 2011.