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on February 18, 2002
I remember getting this disc as a birthday present the year it came out. Much like the cover artwork, at first it seemed weird and too jumpy, but after repeated listens, it all started to fall in place.
While I'm admittedly not the biggest Pearl Jam fan out there, my comments may seem a bit worthless to bigger fans, But...this album is a masterpiece. It's dark, moody, eerie, ambient, reflective, searching, brutal and peaceful all at the same time, which leads me to some degree to believe that this is Pearl Jams's biggest artistic statement. It starts with the quiet, dark and ambient Sometimes. Then it bursts into the explosive Hail, Hail, which is followed by the hypnotic, middle-eastern Who You Are, which features an elf-like choir sound brought on by the vocal overdubs. It's weird but excellent. In My Tree is hard to describe actually, but it's somewhat catchy and groovy. Smile is a mid-tempo rocker. Off He Goes is a slow, dark, quiet and reflective piece with some poignant lyrics. Habit is a brutal rocker about drug addiction, if I'm not mistaken. Red Mosquito has a Neil Young type feel to it, which is bluesy/country-esque and heavy. Lukin is a 1 minute rocker with Eddie Vedder growling at super speed, which makes it hard to understand what he is saying, check out some websites to get the lyrics. Present Tense starts out slow and absorbing, then turns into a musical assault. Mankind is another heavy rocker, this time out, it's sung by Stone Gossard, which I rather like. He sounds like Ed Roland of Collective Soul. I'm Open is like a poetic number. Musically it's dark, ambient and somewhat new age-esque. Love the chant "I'm Open, "I'm Open". Around The Bend is an acoustic, peaceful number to end out this spectacular disc. This is an excellent, musically transcendent disc. Highly recommended to music lovers with a sense of adventure, space, mood, reflection and introspection.
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on August 8, 2004
As if Vitalogy wasn't weird enough, Pearl Jam fade even more out of the limelight with the release of No Code - an extremely diverse collection of experimental songs. Every song is so different from each other that I won't be able to do it justice unless I do a track by track review (and even THAT won't do it justice; it needs to be heard to be understood). So here goes:

1. Sometimes - the quirkiest song they ever wrote (until Can't Keep from Riot Act came out). It's a very subtle, and honest song. A nice opener that definitely sets the tone for the rest of the album.

2. Hail, Hail - a typical Pearl Jam rocker. Great guitar riff and punishing vocals. They show their punk influences in this song.

3. Who You Are - the first single from the album. People didn't know what happened to the REAL Pearl Jam when this song came out. It's so different from anything they've ever done. Great tribal drumming and very melodic vocals provide for one of their most interesting songs ever. Great song.

4. In My Tree - similar drumming as the previous song, another tribal sound. One of my favorite songs from the album, and great live as well (afterall, they are the best live band around).

5. Smile - a very upbeat, happy sounding song. It contains excellent use of harmonica. The chorus is beautiful and melodic. Another great song.

6. Off He Goes - most beautiful song on the cd (and also the longest, clocking in at just over 6 minutes). This is basically a slow acoustic song with brilliant lyrics and beautiful vocals. Probably my favorite song from this album.

7. Habit - another punky song, don't really like this one. The vocals are annoying.

8. Red Mosquito - Pearl Jam's first of several bluesy rockers scattered throughout their next few albums (well, Smile is pretty bluesy too). Great guitar work introduces the song and McCready is all over the rest of the song. One of their best.

9. Lukin - a minute long. Hilarious punk song with hilarious vocals. Can't really describe it, you just need to hear it. Not really a song, but I love listening to it.

10. Present Tense - definitely top 3 songs on this album. Starts off slow and constantly builds. Great lyrics, and like usual, great vocals. Very nice guitar too.

11. Mankind - The mic is given to guitarist Stone Gossard for this song. It shows why he isn't the lead singer, although I do enjoy it. A blatant pop song with very catchy vocals. An entertaining listen to say the least.

12. I'm Open - very different sounding "song". It's mostly spoken word with a nice, melodic "chorus". A very relaxing track with interesting lyrics.

13. Around The Bend - I don't love this song, but it did get much better after hearing the Live At Benaroya Hall version. Another nice, relaxing song that has a tropical feel to it. A little boring maybe, but pretty good.

Sorry if this review became overlong and tedious, but to fully understand how diverse this album really is, I figured it would help by reviewing each track. But like I already said, you won't really be able to tell until you hear it for yourself. So do yourselves a favor and pick up this brilliant album.
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on November 23, 2002
I don't know why this record did not do as well as its predecessors. It is a great piece of rock music. Maybe it wasn't marketed as well or something? There is easily some of Pearl Jam's best work on this record. And, of course, there is some strange stuff. But hey, it wouldn't really be Pearl Jam without some mild craziness, now would it?
This album is a major step in the evolution of Pearl Jam. There is a feel to this record that was not in the previous works by Eddie Vedder and the boys. There is a calmness. Not to say that there it contains no rock, but not plagued with era-related, stereotypical rock anthems. There is a feel of classic rock and maybe even some blues.
The first single "Who You Are" is very cool. It has this rolling drum beat and an almost Arabic sounding guitar (Eddie denies completely that the song was influenced by the time he spent with, now sadly deceased, Pakistani singer Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan, while working on the soundtrack of "Dead Man Walking." Eddie says that the song was, in fact, built around an old Jack Irons drum beat)
There are no real radio gems on this record. "Who You Are" was on the radio for a little while. "Hail, Hail" also spent some time traveling the radio waves. I was rather surprised that "Off He Goes" did not find its way onto the radio some how. It was an absolutely beautiful song and probably in my top 5 of all Pearl Jam. I really like "Present Tense." The words are nothing but captivating. The song "I'm Open" is a little bit of beat poetry. It is rather good. Without naming everything on the record, I think it is all very well done.
This record gets better and better with age, as I have had it for just over 6 years. The album art is great, the CD comes with "Polaroids" with the lyrics on the back. The vinyl comes with the same "Polaroids" but they are the size of an album. The vinyls pictures are much easier to make out and the sound is superior. Though it is a great CD, if you have the chance, find the vinyl, it is well worth the premium. There is a lot to the record and it is a great addition to any rock CD collection.
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on October 2, 2001
For those looking for another TEN, this is the wrong place to go. NO CODE is the key album to understanding Pearl Jam and is the turning point of their career, some say for better, others for worst. However, their progression is a journey, and this release is the one where Pearl Jam came to a fork in the road and chose a direction to follow.
Now, for those looking for another TEN, it�s time to move on. You cannot expect an artist (a good one, that is) to go on milking the same formula. Where would we be had The Beatles kept singing songs like �I Want to Hold Your Hand,� instead of traveling to the majesties of �Hey Jude,� and �Revolution,� (the White Album version)?
Following Pearl Jam, in some ways, is like following Bob Dylan�s and The Beatles� career. These three aforementioned are true artists, and so their evolution makes a very exciting one to follow. You can�t really get the full impact of BLONDE ON BLONDE without knowing the six records preceding it, or RUBBER SOUL without hearing the five albums and myriad singles before that. With this album, you can�t really get the full impact without having at least a passing knowledge of the three records before this one.
Commercially, this is Pearl Jam�s worst release, and there are no �biggies� in the song selection such as �Alive,� �Even Flow,� �Daughter,� or �Better Man.� However, just because a particular album does not get a lot of radio play does not necessarily negate it to the recycle bin. Almost all the tracks are very strong compositions. Sometimes the band falls down, such as �Present Tense,� which seems just a little to preach to me, and �Habit,� which says the same lines over and over and over for three and a half minutes. Some may really like them, but for me they�re just so-so. �Mankind� I still don�t really know what to do with, because, although I like it, the song is a rather odd selection for the tone of this album. Only one song will take you back to their earlier grunge days, and that is �Lukin�, which is just over a minute and sounds like Eddie�s vocal cords are ripped to shreds when he finishes. I have a live version of the song and I can�t understand anything he says in it.
Pearl Jam, with their release of TEN in 1991, became one of the major players in the early 1990s along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. Of these bands, Pearl Jam has had the longest career, and amazingly did not self-destruct as Nirvana did. There is a reason for this, and this album becomes on of the keys in understanding Pearl Jam.
The first three albums are begin a descent into the hellish regions of rage and it�s effects on the human psyche. VITALOGY, Pearl Jam�s darkest album, almost plays as a concept album about paranoia, pain, and death. Eddie Vedder�s emotions and struggle for understanding are laid out for all to see, and the all consuming rage will have to either be allievated or only more ill could come. The single most important moment on that particular album is �Immortality,� where Vedder deals with Kurt Cobain�s suicide. Had the rage been allowed to continue, Pearl Jam could not have continued for much longer. It�s no conincidence that the first two albums sound like earlier extensions of VITALOGY. They begin a downward spiral and absolutely plummet in VITALOGY, and the reason for all the experiments that made VITALOGY so uneven was because Pearl Jam was already, in their rage and fighting their own personal demons, were trying to come up with a way to deal with it.
With NO CODE, their most varied and least accessible album on a commercial level, find Pearl Jam on the morning after. The first three albums represent the night before, drunken rage and struggle for understanding of this inherently insane world (or so it would seem) being night�s only companion. From a musical standpoint this release takes the rather roughshod experiments of VITALOGY and builds an album out of them, resulting in the most sonically different album in this band�s catalogue. Here, with all sorts of world vibes going down with mantra percussion and some of the softest songs of this band�s career, instead of rage Vedder contemplates in a rational manner the problems facing him, and this record shows Pearl Jam finding solace in this course of action.
The experiments on VITALOGY borderline, at times, on the unlistenable with the likes of poorly executed sound collages (Foxeymophandlmama) or the inane (�Bugs�). Don�t think it�s because of a musical aversion to experimental music, because I really like �Revolution 9�. Here, however, with the rage gone, the band focuses on this branching out more, and instead of half-realised thoughts on VITALOGY, we have full musical expressions. The chaotic and unrealised song fragments or experimental vibes help indicate Pearl Jam�s searching, and while making an ascethic contribution, I always find myself skipping over them. The musical expansion on NO CODE, the maturing of a band, ties in with the band�s personal growth as human beings. With the rage stripped away, instead we have a more subdued Pearl Jam dealing with problems in their lives with contemplation, which is one reason that it is the single most mellow album in their catalogue. It is sad the fan base couldn�t see that.
In the end, this is Pearl Jam�s turning point. From here on out, their releases (1998�s YIELD and 2000�s BINURAL) would reflect this and further expand this band�s journey. It is a rather sad fact that, despite it being a very strong album, the fan base simply wouldn�t rally behind this one. This album had to come out, or Pearl Jam would just continually be plagued with their demons and artistically they would begin to lose their momentum and eventually self-destruct. Without Pearl Jam making this choice to let go of their anger, I do not think they�d still be around today, and I think Cobain�s death was a very sobering moment for them. With this decision to move on, we have Pearl Jam�s most touching, heart-felt, and most fully realised album to date.
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on July 6, 2003
Pearl Jam struck pure gold with Vs. in the early nineties and they do it again with No Code. On No Code, the band's fourth full length album there is no resemblance to the arena rock of Pearl Jam's infancy. Eddie Vedder really reinvented himself on this record, offering the most versatile vocal performances of his career so far, and the other band members are no slouches either. About half of the songs on No Code are sailing uncharted waters for the band, and each experiment succeeds. There are tones of folk, the Middle-East, punk, and there's even a spoken word experiment that works. Each song offers something new and produces one of the rarest virtues of an album: it's eclectic but flows effortlessly from song to song.
After opening with the atmospheric "Sometimes", the album roars to life with "Hail Hail", one of Pearl Jam's best rockers. "In My Tree" is the next highlight, an indescribable tune that simply must be heard to believe. "Smile" is Neil Young territory, complete with a similar guitar tone and raging harmonica solos. My personal favorite here is "Off He Goes", an acoustic song with storytelling lyrics and beautiful music and vocals. "Red Mosquito" is another classic, and "Present Tense" is the runner up for my favorite song; its quiet, atmospheric beginnings erupt later in the song, creating an emotional experience to say the least.
The essence of No Code can't really be put into words - it truly is an experience. Often overlooked because none of the songs hit it big with radio, No Code is the band's quiet masterpiece. While overwhelming upon first listen, each subsequent spin reveals more and more greatness ultimately resulting in Pearl Jam's most rewarding album. This is definitely not the album for newbies to PJ to get, try Ten or Vs. instead. But for those who are into the band already, this is a no-brainer. Bottom line - No Code is another underrated classic of the nineties.
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on February 17, 1999
I often hear people say that No Code is one of Pearl Jam's "weakest" albums. Although it doesn't have the slamming rhythm of "Animal" or some of the tracks off of Vitalogy, it offers a variety of great tracks.
"Hail, Hail" and "Habit" for instance, measures up with any of Pearl Jam's harder songs. And although "Lukin" is terribly short, the same can be said for it. However, the typical Pearl Jam rhythm is softened to offer a entertaining change of pace and an often inspiring message. Tracks like "In my Tree" and "Red Mosquito" retain their catchy lyrics and melody, while offering a softer feel, in case you've been headbanging too much. And if you want to hear an atypical Pearl Jam song, listen to "Mankind." Written by Stone Gossard, it sounds almost reminiscent of pop music.
It took me a good year to get hooked on No Code, but once I listened to it enough it really grew on me. Now I think No Code is perhaps one of Pearl Jam's best albums. I'm very upset that none of the songs on this album form Pearl Jam's radio staple. If you are looking for an alternative to the often hard-hitting PJ stuff, you can find a great blend of music in No Code.
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on October 26, 2005
Upon getting this CD in your hand and opening the creatively cut and folded box you get the feeling you're in for quite another journey. Vitalogy was their first album experimenting with different box art and it was done very well. It fully captured the feel of the album and this one is no different. No Code gives you lyrics on the back of collectable mock polaroid photos inside a little sleeve. Throughout the art of No Code you see a variety of pictures, some gruesome and others slightly disturbing but they all cover a wide range of either cultures or groups of people. This is the album that Pearl Jam went in a variety of different directions. While doing this PJ lost most of their casual fans but only reaffirmed thier hardcore fans belief that they're one of the best bands.

'Sometimes' opens the album up slowly while building up near the end. It's probably my least favorite song on the album but it works as an opener to show you what direction they are going in. Hail Hail is one of the more upbeat songs and has some of my favorite lyrics like "are you woman enough to be my man?...bandaged hand in hand". Songs like In My Tree and Who You Are certainly can be described as experimental be it the clapping or the interesting drumming. It should be said that No Code probably wouldn't have happened like this without Jack Irons on the drums. The experimentation will probably take some time for people to get used to but rest assured it will come with time.

This album has worked it's way up my charts of favorite albums(and favorite PJ albums) with songs as strong as Smile(upbeat with beautiful solos), Off He Goes(slower paced and powerful lyrics), Red Mosquito(in the vein of Smile with another great solo) and possibly their best slow song Present Tense. I've used Present Tense in a small little video I made for Hurricane Katrina relief and it fit beautifully with the lyrics and overall mood of the song. If anyone has given up on this album or are tempted to I ask you to keep giving it listens. Eddie Vedder excels at writing lyrics that fit critical points in our lives and it especially rings true on No Code.

If you want evidence listen to I'm Open. It's not really a song so much as a story. Ed does a great voiceover fit for any storyteller as he talks about when a child becomes an adult and the magic of childhood disappears. It gave me chills to listen to it and when you listen to the lyrics in pretty much all of these songs you can get the same effect.

While No Code is a softer album than their others it's still just as amazing. There's still the hard rockers like Habit, Lukin, or Hail Hail but Pearl Jam really matured with No Code. It was certainly for the best and necessary to stand the test of time. If you've been getting Pearl Jam albums I definately suggest to not stop and get this. New fans of PJ I'll give you the same advice I was given. Start with Ten and feel the growth of the band all the way to Riot Act.
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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2005
After three albums, throwing out their drummer, and recording a record with Neil Young, Pearl Jam went back into the studio and produced something... different. Whether it is the presence of Jack Irons at the drum kit, working with Young, or just a continuation of what they were doing on "Vitalogy" but more focused is unclear to me. Still, "No Code" stands out as the most unique album Pearl Jam has recorded.

Before talking about what's new, a note aobut what's old-- the influence of "Vitalogy", particularly on the heavier material, is evident here-- following in vein of "Spin the Black Circle", "Not For You", and "Whipping" are the compulsive and powerful "Hail, Hail" and the concise and brilliant "Lukin" (in just over a minute it tells a whole story and comes back around). But there's some other work on here that reminds of the past-- the lyrically inventive "Habit" and the acoustic "Off He Goes"-- that can't quite live up to the past. These pieces could have come off of "Vitalogy" easily enough but wouldn't have stood out on that record.

But its the difference that this record is known for, an almost Eastern vibe comes through in "Who You Are" and "In My Tree" (hinted at by "Vitalogy"'s "Aye Davanita"). The former is somewhat lifeless (and a poor choice for a leadoff single), the latter is among the best Pearl Jam has ever recorded-- circular drum pattern, superb vocals, and a clever, subtle arrangement. Ditto for the more western "Present Tense" and the totally bizarre and funky "Smile", both of which stand strong on the record.

But a few songs are a bit unbalanced-- the moody "Sometimes" and the unexciting "Red Mosquito" (which does feature a nice creamy lead guitar line but lacks any real bite). And while Stone Gossard's lead vocal on "Mankind" is passable, the song itself is more a novelty than something interesting for me. The totally bizarre, trancey, and mostly spoken "I'm Open" works better as an experiment, the hazes established in it are lovely, and Vedder's sung vocals are incredible.

An uneven but bold album, "No Code" is definitely worth a listen-- some folks swear by this one (I'm one of the ones who swears by "Riot Act"), you may be one of them, but I'd start somewhere else.
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on September 10, 2001
Arguably Pearl Jam's best album, No Code is their most focused and thematic to date. While the music jumps (sometimes in the frame of a single song) from Neil Young to Led Zeppelin to punk, the cryptic lyrics hint at the spiritual searching that Cat Stevens knows all too well. "Seek my part," Vedder sings in Sometimes, "Devote myself." This album actually has a lot of the same intentions that U2's Joshua Tree did, but Pearl Jam knows a subtlety that Bono finds anethemic and U2 has a bombast that is more accessible than Pearl Jam are willing to be. Bono also desperately wants to lead you to the promised land, whereas Ed would just as soon meet you there by way of your own chosen route.
Ed Vedder's experiences in the early 1990's actually remind me of a moment from Monty Python's Life of Brian movie. "I'm not the messiah!" He exclaimed, and while critics hunted him down (basically for NOT being Kurt Cobain), fans cried out "You are the messiah! I should know, I've followed a few!" And the song Sometimes, occupying the first 2 minutes or so of No Code, seems to me to be Ed's way of finally realizing that those people can't effect him if he doesn't let them. From there he's free to contemplate any number of things. Thoughts on life, death, and beyond coat this album like thick paint, dripping off of every edge and refusing to dry. One strong point of No Code is that for the first time on a Pearl Jam album these grandiose thoughts don't demand to be answered, they merely ask to be recognized and pondered. The low-fi recording fits this new perspective the way Tom Waits' music fits his personality, which is to say it couldn't be done any other way. Off He Goes, during which you can almost smell the incense burning, would sound silly with massive overdubs and echo. Present Tense cleaned up would seem like it was being a lot less honest with you. Also appropriate for the album is the erratic emotional and sonic landscape. Hail Hail almost seems like a seizure following Sometimes, and the transition from adrenaline-fueled punk to quiet contemplation that is Lukin and Present Tense makes the later seem all the more intimate.
Strangely coming immediately after the death-obsessed Vitalogy (this barely sounds like the same band, let alone like it could be the very next release), recorded by a group that was barely speaking to each other, and not as influenced by side projects with Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn and Neil Young as some people would have you believe, No Code is one of the most beautiful nods to life that I have ever heard. Audiophiles rejoice, for this was the day that Pearl Jam truly joined our ranks.
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on December 25, 2004
What an incredible album.

That's the only thing I could say that would due this album justice... never have I heard an album with this much diversity.. ever..

It's brilliance sums up the 90's in a whole, only pushes it to a further extreme, every area of great song writing is covered here, without any mistakes.
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