No Code was released on August 27th 1996. The album, Pearl Jam’s 4th release, incorporated elements of noisy garage rock, worldbeat, psychedelia and avant-grande ballads. Musical stand outs are Off He Goes with its emphasis on delicate harmony, Who You Are with many eastern influences and the poetic I’m Open in spoken word rather than vocals.
“A man lies in his bed in a room with no door
He waits, hoping for a presence or something, anything to enter
After spending half his life searching
He still felt as blank as the ceiling at which he stared
He is alive, but feels absolutely nothing, so is he?
When he was six, he believed that the moon overhead followed him
By nine, he deciphered the illusion, trading magic for fact, no trade-backs
So this is what it’s like to be an adult?
If he only knew now what he knew then…..”
(Track 6 I’m Open.)
It is an album that definitely moves away from any of Pearl Jam’s previous works with its moods and experimentation. Like the Beatles, Pearl Jam has shown that it is willing to grow and mature and try different musical arrangements. The best song on the album apart from some of the stand outs mention above in my opinion is Present Tense. It is a wonderful piece of work lyrically and musically. Very moody with a hypnotic base guitar ever present throughout the song.
Famously the album artwork consists of 145 polariod photos, seemingly laid out randomly, taken by band members, family and friends. (Look for Eddie Vedder’s foot after he had been stung by a stingray.) When you open up and unfold the album cover, the collection of images blend to form the No Code ‘all seeing eye’ logo. Look carefully!
Eddie Vedder has said that the album is called No Code because it is full of misinformation or code. In some ways it reminds me of The Beatles ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy and all the supposed hidden codes and messages laid throughout their albums. Please refer to my blog post ‘The Curious Case of the Missing Beatle ?’ In medical terminology, ‘No Code’ apparently refers to the medical order to withhold CPR on a patient and/or as a ‘do not resuscitate’ order. In a Rolling Stone interview in 2000, Eddie Vedder once said that “If the record is a complete failure you’ve kind of owned up to it in a subliminal way. No Code was the same thing. For me, No Code meant ‘do not resuscitate’ !”