If Pearl Jam's previous album didn't successfully separate the diehard fans from the dudes expecting "Even Flow" 24-7, then Vitalogy certainly tried to finish the job. While it featured some of the group's best and most beloved songs — thoughtfully defiant anthems "Corduroy" and "Immortality," and the evergreen pop ballad "Better Man" — it also featured some of the group's strangest. And I'm not just talking about Eddie Vedder's spoken-word accordion-driven paean to the wonderful world of insects. Nor am I talking about the oft-mentioned, rarely-listened-to seven-minute sound-collage that concludes the original album. As with the other Pearl Jam reissues, bonus tracks are tacked on to the album proper. For Vitalogy, that means three alternate takes of album tracks, with the guitar / organ version of "Better Man" outshining the only-vaguely different takes on "Corduroy" and "Nothingman."
Despite the scattershot nature of the album — with an off-kilter rock tune like "Satan's Bed" sandwiched between polar opposites "Bugs" and "Better Man," and a proto-punk ode to vinyl ("Spin The Black Circle") sharing album space with a slithering instrumental like "Aye Davanita" — Vitalogy manages to cohere, ultimately as satisfying as it is confounding and uncompromising. Pearl Jam probably didn't know they wouldn't see the top of the Billboard charts for 15 years after Vitalogy, but by the sound of this record, they probably didn't care, either.