Pearl Jam dominated the 1990s. The upstart rockers survived massive amounts of fame and managed to keep their head, carefully overseeing their career and taking control of just about every decision that could possibly affect their brand and their future. But as the 21st century arrived, Pearl Jam's world got rocked a little. They managed to release five studio albums during the '90s, and their sixth, Binaural, came in 2000. However, the disc became the first released by the band to not reach platinum status.
On a more personal level, Pearl Jam suffered through a concert tragedy that no band should ever experience when nine people died and another 15 were injured in a crowd crush situation during the band's performance at the Roskilde Festival in 2000. Eddie Vedder told Seattle Weekly, "The days following, we were all pretty inconsolable. I'm sure that the families and friends have had to live with it in much rougher ways that us. But our own personal experience was that we were practically in the fetal position over the reality of what had happened." Band manager Kelly Curtis recalled, "When we still weren't sure what had happened or how it went down, I think we all thought at the time, 'This could be it.'" But the band would eventually continue, though it was a hard road to complete.
Simply put, it was time for a break and the band decided to step away for a year shortly after their support of Binaural was complete. During this year off, Pearl Jam watched on with the rest of America during the events of 9/11 and pretty soon, not only did the band have something to say, but they decided to use their platform to say it. So after nursing some wounds, the band regrouped with determination, ready to lay the groundwork for new music.
First up was a decision to work with producer Adam Kasper for the disc. Drummer Matt Cameron said, "I think we came into this thing pretty prepared and focused in terms of what we wanted to do. Adam is a super guy, and that helped a lot—the working environment was really relaxed. We tore through it, tracked everything in about four weeks. You're really hearing it 'live,' the sound of a band playing together in a room—which you don't hear too much these days."
As stated, the sound took on more of an immediacy, and that includes the vocals and lyrics coming from Eddie Vedder. "The biggest difference we heard, from like the first day we started, was how emotional Ed's approach was," said bassist Jeff Ament to Philly.com about the sessions. "He was talking about things that you could tell mattered to him, in his gut. Stuff like 'Bu$hleaguer' wouldn't have happened five years ago; he's really gone someplace different, both in terms of what the lyrics are saying and how he sings them."
Pearl Jam, "Bu$hleaguer"