Pearl Jam's second foray into alternative styles is an even more successful experiment than the punk-ish Vitalogy. Proving the band is versatile enough to try its hand at just about any type of rock, No Code refuses to adhere to the grunge foundations Pearl Jam helped to lay. Collaborating with Neil Young on Mirrorball clearly extended their musical confidence and, as evident in the delicate guitar harmonies and wistful ramblings of 'off he goes', added a touch of country and western to their musical repertoire. There's also a bit of The Who in the superb 'in my tree', and healthy dose of The Ramones in 'Mankind', during which Vedder's vocals rather refreshingly take a back seat to rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard‘s - again exuding the impression of a band at the height of their confidence. The sublime Dylan-esque finale, ‘around the bend’ (a nod towards Creedence Cleerwater Revival perhaps, who recorded another track titled ‘Green river’?) finishes the album on the same high point it sustains throughout the hour. Whatever your opinions regarding the direction Pearl Jam took with their music post-Vs, this is worth the asking price for the last two minutes of ’habit’ alone, which contains some of the most assured bass playing Jeff Ament has ever recorded. It is fairly obvious that the hybrid-rock niche the band continued to carve itself was detrimental to their mainstream success, but No Code will always be my favourite ‘mistake‘. Anyway, if seven equally fantastic and diverse studio albums come hand in hand with chart anonymity, here’s to the second half of Pearl Jam’s career. Smile!