By Brian Ives
On Friday night (April 7), Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during a ceremony/concert event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. There was some bit of controversy about which drummers were included, and which weren’t: founding drummer, Dave Krusen (who played on their debut album, 1991’s Ten) and current drummer Matt Cameron, who joined in 1998 and has played on every album since then were the only drummers who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band.
Omitted from the induction were drummer Dave Abbruzzese, who was in the band from 1991 through 1994 and played on Vs. and Vitalogy, and Jack Irons, was a member from 1994 to 1998 and played on No Code and Yield. (Irons, however, is already a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)
Oddly, of the four songs Pearl Jam performed at the event, one was from Krusen’s era (Ten‘s “Alive,” which he joined them for), one from Abbruzzese’s era (Vitalogy‘s “Better Man”) and one from Irons’ era (“Given to Fly” from Yield); the other song was a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” But they didn’t play anything from any of the albums that Cameron played on.
Cameron joined after the band’s years of radio dominance were in their rear view mirror, there’s a lot to love on the five albums that he played on. Here are some of our favorites.
“Evacuation” (from 2000’s Binaural) – The third song from Cameron’s first album with the band didn’t only feature his pounding drums, he also composed the music. All of Pearl Jam’s drummers have contributed to songwriting, and Cameron has continued that tradition. But besides his drumming and songwriting, Cameron’s underrated backing vocals have also added to Pearl Jam’s sound.
“I Am Mine” (from 2002’s Riot Act) – This centerpiece to the band’s second album with Cameron seemed to be a stoic Bush-era protest (and a much more effective one than “Bu$hleaguer,” from the same album), and would have fit in perfectly with the anti-Trump vibe of much of the induction ceremony.
“You Are” (from 2002’s Riot Act) – Most Pearl Jam songs have a raggedly glorious analog/vinyl sound; “You Are,” by contrast, has a very digital and modern feel. And the song was written by Cameron and Eddie Vedder (Cameron composed it, Vedder co-wrote the lyrics with the drummer).
“World Wide Suicide” (from 2006’s Pearl Jam) – A straight-ahead rocker written by Vedder, this one feels pretty timely today (if you share Pearl Jam’s politics) and also showcases Cameron’s backing vocals.
“Come Back” (from 2006’s Pearl Jam) – One of the band’s most underrated songs. If they were songwriters-for-hire, they could have pitched this one to Solomon Burke back in the ’00s, or to Adele today; it’s a great modern soul song. Sometimes playing a simple beat is difficult for drummers; the trick is to add just a little bit, and mostly stay out of the singer’s way. That’s what Booker T. & the MGs drummer Al Jackson Jr. did, and that’s what Cameron does here.
“The Fixer” (from 2009’s Backspacer) – Another rocking anthem, this was co-written by Cameron, Vedder and guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard. The straight-ahead song also brought the band back to the upper reaches of the rock and alternative rock radio charts.
“Just Breathe” (from 2009’s Backspacer) – There aren’t even drums on this song, but Cameron’s contribution is all about his gentle support vocals. While Gossard and Ament have taken the mic on rare occasions with Pearl Jam and in their side projects, neither of them is the singer that Cameron is. And the song sounded timeless the minute it was released; it was covered by Willie Nelson soon after, and it’s one of the only post-2000 songs that regularly makes Willie’s concert set lists.
“Mind Your Manners” (from 2013’s Lightning Bolt) – Mike McCready, who composed this song, drew on his hardcore punk influences and Cameron, as always, was up to the task of bashing away like Pearl Jam is playing to a mosh pit in 1988.
“Sirens” (from 2013’s Lightning Bolt) – Another McCready composition, had this come out twenty years earlier, it surely would have been one of Pearl Jam’s biggest singles. Again, Cameron not only lays down the perfect beat, but his vocals are a perfect accompaniment for Vedder’s.