Vs. (album)

Vs. is the second album by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released on October 19, 1993 through Epic Records. After a relentless touring schedule in support of its debut album, Ten, released in 1991, the band headed into the studio in early 1993 facing the challenge of following up the commercial success of its debut. The resulting album, Vs., featured a rawer and more aggressive sound compared with the band's previous release.

Pearl Jam decided to scale back its commercial efforts for Vs., including declining to produce music videos for any of the album’s singles. Upon its release, Vs. set the record for most copies sold in a week, a record that has since been broken. Vs. occupied the number one spot on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, the longest duration for a Pearl Jam album. The album has been certified seven times platinum in the United States.


For its second album, Pearl Jam felt the pressures of trying to match the success of its debut album Ten. In a 2002 interview, guitarist Mike McCready said, "The band was blown up pretty big and everything was pretty crazy." Vs. was the first Pearl Jam album to have production duties handled by producer Brendan O'Brien. It was also the band's first album with drummer Dave Abbruzzese, who had joined the band in August 1991 and toured for the album Ten. Rehearsals for Vs. began in February 1993 at Potatohead Studio in Seattle, Washington. The band then moved to The Site in Nicasio, California in March 1993 to begin recording. Abbruzzese called the tranquil recording site "paradise" while frontman Eddie Vedder said, "I fucking hate it here...I've had a hard time...How do you make a rock record here?"

The band took the approach of recording one song at a time, and agreed with O'Brien to mix the songs as each one was finished. O'Brien had the band members set up much as they do live, and most of the songs were developed out of jamming sessions. Guitarist Stone Gossard said that most of the songs were arranged once Vedder joined in and started singing. The first week of recording produced "Rats", "Blood", "Go", and "Leash" before the band hit a lull. In order to keep up his intensity, Vedder traveled into San Francisco and began sleeping in his truck, as well as the sauna at the recording studio. Bassist Jeff Ament said that "toward the end it got fairly intense" and that the band "tried to make it as uncomfortable for [Vedder] as we could." The album was finished in May 1993. Vedder later said, "The second record, that was the one I enjoyed making the least...I just didn't feel comfortable in the place we were at because it was very comfortable. I didn't like that at all."

Music and lyrics

The album featured a much looser and rawer sound compared with the band's debut album Ten. Besides the heavier songs, the album features two acoustic ballads in "Daughter" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town". A few of the songs incorporate elements of funk, including "Animal", "Blood", and "Rats". Paul Evans of Rolling Stone said "'Animal', 'Daughter' and 'Blood'...are songs of a kind of ritual passion, tapping into something truly wild." In a 2002 interview, Gossard said, "We got our heavyosity out on that record."

The songs on the album tackle personal as well as social and political concerns. Topics on the album include child abuse ("Daughter"), gun culture ("Glorified G"), police racism ("W.M.A."), and the media ("Blood"). "Glorified G", a song mocking gun enthusiasts, was inspired by an incident in which Abbruzzese told the band he had just bought two guns which sparked a conversation about guns within the band. "Daughter", "Dissident", and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" are three storytelling songs. "Daughter" tells the story of a child who is abused by her parents because they do not understand her learning disability; "Dissident" tells the story of a woman who takes in a political fugitive; and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" tells the story of an old lady who has been stuck in a small town her whole life.

Release and reception

Vs. debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for five weeks. Vs. sold 950,378 copies in its first week and outperformed all other entries in the Billboard top ten that week combined. This set the record for most copies of an album sold in its first week of release. This record has since been broken by the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. Vs. eventually achieved seven times multi-platinum status.

Paul Evans of Rolling Stone gave Vs. a favorable review. He said, "Few American bands have arrived more clearly talented than this one did with Ten; and Vs. tops even that debut." He added, "Like Jim Morrison and Pete Townshend, Vedder makes a forte of his psychological-mythic explorations...As guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready paint dense and slashing backdrops, he invites us into a drama of experiment and strife." Jon Pareles of The New York Times stated that "Pearl Jam uses its new broaden its music," and added that "most of the album...projects individual misery as public catharsis." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B–. He said, "Vs. is not a carbon copy of Ten; for that alone, [Pearl Jam] get points." However, he countered by saying that "Vs. confirms once and for all that there's nothing underground or alternative about [Pearl Jam].

Pearl Jam made a conscious decision beginning with the release of Vs. to scale back its commercial efforts. The band declined to produce music videos after the very successful "Jeremy", and opted to give fewer interviews as well as make fewer television appearances. "Ten years from now," Ament said, "I don't want people to remember our songs as videos."

Vs. included the hit singles "Go", "Daughter", "Animal", and "Dissident". All four placed on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. "Daughter" was the most successful, reaching the number one spot on both the Modern and Mainstream Rock charts, spending a total of eight weeks at number one on the latter. Album tracks "Glorified G" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" also charted. In 1995, "Daughter" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and "Go" received a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.

Imagery and design

The picture on the front cover is of a sheep from a farm in Hamilton, Montana. According to Ament, the cover was a representation of how the band felt at the time, with Ament stating "we were slaves." The album booklet contains additional drawings and writings by Vedder, including one page apparently doodled at a business meeting that says "I will never trust anybody again." The lyric page for "W.M.A." features a portion of a news story concerning Malice Green, allegedly a victim of police brutality.

Originally, the album was titled "Five Against One" (The song "Animal" features the lyric "One, two, three, four, five against one..."). It was changed at the last minute, first to a self-titled album and then to Vs., a nod to the general theme of conflict present in most of the songs in the album. Referring to the title, Vedder said, "They were writing all these articles...Our band against somebody else's band. What the hell are they talking about? You know, don't try to separate the powers that be. We're all in this together.

The decision to change the album's name at the last minute resulted in a few different versions of the record:

  1. Some of the first pressings of the cassette still contained Five Against One printed on the cassette itself.
  2. The first couple of pressings of the CD and cassette do not contain the title printed on the artwork at all.
  3. The vinyl version has never had the title printed on it.

There are also different versions that are unrelated to the title:

  1. The initial versions of the CD came in an Ecopak. While not rare, they went out of print quickly and are now hard to find. The song titles aren't printed on the back cover of this version, but the artwork remains the same.
  2. The picture of the "elderly woman" changed at some point after the first pressings. Allegedly, the original woman never gave permission for her picture to be used, so Pearl Jam changed the picture to another woman. The difference is easy to spot, as "the new and improved woman behind the counter" is printed below the picture.
  3. The cover art on the vinyl copies is different from the CD and cassette.
  4. The lyrics to "Indifference" are only printed in the cassette version.


Pearl Jam promoted the album with tours of the United States in the fall of 1993 and the spring of 1994. The fall 1993 tour focused on the Western United States, while the spring 1994 tour focused on the Eastern United States. Industry insiders compared Pearl Jam's tour to the touring habits of Led Zeppelin, in that the band "ignored the press and took its music directly to the fans." During this tour the band set a cap on ticket prices in the attempt to thwart scalpers.

Several songs from the band's third album, Vitalogy, were premiered during this tour. The band's April 3, 1994 concert in Atlanta, Georgia was broadcast live on the radio in the United States. A few days later, the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found in his home due to an apparent suicide. This deeply affected Vedder, who later said that "the day that we found out about Kurt...I was just spinning." He considered canceling the remainder of Pearl Jam's tour, but then opted against it, stating, "I decided I would play those next two weeks and then I'd never have to play again." Pearl Jam was outraged when it discovered after a pair of shows in Chicago, Illinois that ticket vendor Ticketmaster had added a service charge to the tickets. Pearl Jam's plans for a 1994 summer tour were cancelled as a result of a Ticketmaster boycott.

Track listing

All songs written by Dave Abbruzzese, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder.

  1. "Go" – 3:12
  2. "Animal" – 2:49
  3. "Daughter" – 3:55
  4. "Glorified G" – 3:26
  5. "Dissident" – 3:35
  6. "W.M.A." – 5:59
  7. "Blood" – 2:50
  8. "Rearviewmirror" – 4:44
  9. "Rats" – 4:15
  10. "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" – 3:15
  11. "Leash" – 3:09
  12. "Indifference" – 5:02


Two songs were rejected from the album that later appeared on the band's follow-up Vitalogy, "Whipping" and "Better Man". Both songs made their live debuts at the band's May 13, 1993 concert in San Francisco where the band premiered most of the newly recorded songs for Vs. "Better Man" was said to have been rejected because Vedder was not comfortable with the song's accessibility. Another song that was recorded during the album's sessions is "Hard to Imagine". "Hard to Imagine" later made its way on to the soundtrack for the film Chicago Cab, however this version was recorded during the sessions for Vitalogy. The version recorded for Vs. appears on the rarities compilation Lost Dogs. According to Gossard, "Hard to Imagine" was cut from Vs. because the band already had enough mellow songs for the album. Pearl Jam's cover of the Victoria Williams song "Crazy Mary" (to which Williams herself contributed background vocals and guitar) and the Pearl Jam/Cypress Hill collaboration "Real Thing" were also recorded around this time. "Crazy Mary" appeared on the tribute album, Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams, while "Real Thing" appeared on the Judgment Night soundtrack.


Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1993 US Billboard 200 1
Australian Albums Chart 1
Canadian Albums Chart 1
Dutch Albums Chart 1
Norwegian Albums Chart 1
Swedish Albums Chart 1
UK Albums Chart 2
Austrian Albums Chart 7
German Albums Chart 8
Swiss Albums Chart 9
Hungarian Albums Chart 34
1994 New Zealand Albums Chart 3
Year Single Chart Position
1993 "Go" US Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
Norwegian Singles Chart 5
US Modern Rock Tracks 8
Dutch Singles Chart 21
Australian Singles Chart 22
German Singles Chart 96
"Daughter" US Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
1994 "Go" New Zealand Singles Chart 19
UK Singles Chart 190
"Daughter" US Modern Rock Tracks 1
Irish Singles Chart 4
New Zealand Singles Chart 11
Canadian Singles Chart 16
Australian Singles Chart 18
UK Singles Chart 18
Dutch Singles Chart 46
"Animal" New Zealand Singles Chart 7
US Mainstream Rock Tracks 21
Australian Singles Chart 30
"Elderly Woman Behind the
Counter in a Small Town"
US Modern Rock Tracks 17
US Mainstream Rock Tracks 23
"Dissident" Norwegian Singles Chart 2
US Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
Irish Singles Chart 7
Dutch Singles Chart 14
UK Singles Chart 14
French Singles Chart 24
German Singles Chart 97
\"Glorified G\" US Mainstream Rock Tracks 39
1996 \"Daughter\" US Billboard Hot 100 97


The information regarding accolades attributed to Vs. is adapted in part from
Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Entertainment Weekly United States "100 Best Albums from 1983 to 2008 2008 78
Pause & Play United States "The 90s Top 100 Essential Albums 1999 11
Visions Germany "The Most Important Albums of the 90s 1999 46
Juice Australia "The 100 (+34) Greatest Albums of the 90s 1999 14
The Movement New Zealand "The 101 Best Albums of the 90s 2004 37


External links

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