Pros: a great opening chapter on the early Seattle Scene
Cons: see review
An opening tip to those of you writers on this site that may someday decide to write a book about your favorite band: make sure your only sources aren't people who hold grudges against the band or it's members. It just makes you look like an a*s.
Having said that, one can obviously see where I'm going with this review. For years Pearl Jam fans have hoped of getting a defining piece of work on their band, something that didn't end after 6 or 8 or even 10 pages. We want a perfect job of analyzing the band, the good and the bad (yes, despite what some think we are willing to accept that the band is NOT all good). We want something honest, but fair. If there's one thing (well, it's more than one thing but I digress) this book is NOT, it's fair.
Author Kim Neely, a former writer for Rolling Stone, details the Pearl Jam story, from the early days when Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone looked to conquer the world, up until just before the band's fifth album, Yield, appeared on store shelves in 1998. That being said, it can be said that this book does not cover perhaps the two most interesting developments of Pearl Jam's career yet: the surprising success of Last Kiss, and the tragedy that was the Roskilde Fetival in 2000.
As a Pearl Jam fan, I've always looked at articles and stories about the band with a very wayward eye. Sure, the Cameron Crowe article in Rolling Stone in 1993 was amazing, and the Spin ten year retrospective on the band was the BEST piece on the band yet, but the same Rolling Stone produced a hack job on lead singer Eddie Vedder in 1996 that makes Neely's obsession with him seem normal.
And if there is one thing you should be warned about with this book, it is Neely's disturbing obsession with Vedder's life. She acts like a stalker, interviewing anyone who will talk about Eddie's past, including his stepfather, who all Pearl Jam fans know how much Ed loves his stepfather. She goes as far as to get as many court documents as she can, in some sort of vein attempt to validate the Rolling Stone story (of which, to my knowledge, she was not a part of).
Neely's credibility with the band is shot because of one huge factor: the last interviews she conducted with the band was in 1994, 4 years before this book went to press. Anything after this date that she discusses is due to other magazine articles she's researched, or her interviews with those who have a grudge against the band: former drummer Dave Abbrusseze (who has since publically softened his stance), his girlfriend, Eddie's stepdad, and on and on and on.
Of course, in order to sell more copies of her book, Neely focuses on the band's most popular years: 1992-1994. Almost 175 pages are devoted to these years, and then there's about another 100 devoted to Eddie's battle with his family problems. With about 25 pages on the Seattle Scene, that leaves about 40 pages for the years of 1995-1998. Considering the band's battle with Ticketmaster, the release of No Code, the friction within the band at this point in their history, it is ridiculous to only devote this much to this part of the band's history.
Five Against One has some good info for new fans, and even some anecdotes (some ridiculously exaggerated, some not) for the true diehards. However, Neely's obsessiveness with Vedder kills any credibility she had. If you really want to know more about the band, below are some sources you should check out rather than this book (of course, if you must check this book out, I would suggest your local library):
Ten Past Ten: Spin's Ten Year Retrospective, August 2001 issue