As grunge exploded out of Seattle and into malls and fraternity parties, it was hailed as a revolutionary new form of rock. In retrospect, it's more like album rock energized by varying degrees of punk. Kurt Cobain liked Zeppelin, but wanted to be Black Flag. Pearl Jam liked Black Flag, but wanted to be Neil Young. Pearl Jam got its wish.
In addition to highlights from Pearl Jam's unheralded albums, Rearviewmirror: Greatest Hits 1991-2003 collects half of the band's first four discs. Its 1991 debut, Ten, and 1993's Vs. are perfect and need no abbreviation, but the compilers do you a real favor by skipping most of 1994's very inessential Vitalogy. The band has continued releasing solid albums, like 1996's No Code, since all but walking away from the limelight, though it's never quite matched hits like "Alive" or "Daughter." The two-disc set has just four songs from this century. Its real service, though, is in collecting the accidental singles and between-album cuts, such as the B-side "Yellow Ledbetter" and the fan-club bonus "Last Kiss." Rearviewmirror is no substitute for Ten, but if you don't have the Singles soundtrack, "State of Love and Trust" alone is worth 16 bucks.