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No Code
Studio album by Pearl Jam
Released August 27, 1996
Recorded July 12, 1995 – May 1996 at Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, Illinois; Southern Tracks Recording and Doppler, Atlanta, Georgia; and Studio Litho, Seattle, Washington
Genre Alternative rock, Grunge
Length 49:37
Language English
Label Epic
Producer Brendan O'Brien, Pearl Jam
Professional reviews
Pearl Jam chronology
No Code
Singles from No Code
  1. "Who You Are"
    Released: July 30, 1996
  2. "Hail, Hail"
    Released: 1996
  3. "Off He Goes"
    Released: 1996

No Code is the fourth studio album by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released on August 27, 1996 through Epic Records. Following a troubled tour for its previous album, Vitalogy (1994), in which Pearl Jam engaged in a much-publicized boycott of Ticketmaster, the band went into the studio to record its follow-up. The music on the record was even more diverse than what the band had done on previous releases, incorporating elements of garage rock, worldbeat, and experimentalism.

Although No Code debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, it left a large section of the band’s fanbase unsatisfied and quickly fell down the charts. The album became the first Pearl Jam album to not reach multi-platinum status. The album has been certified platinum by the RIAA in the United States.

No Code would be the band's last album to reach #1 in the US until the 2009 album Backspacer.



For its fourth album, Pearl Jam again worked with producer Brendan O'Brien. No Code was the band's first album with drummer Jack Irons, who had joined the band following the release of Vitalogy. Following the summer U.S. leg of the band's Vitalogy Tour, the band began work on No Code in Chicago, Illinois in July 1995 during the infamous Chicago heat wave. The Chicago session lasted a week. During a break in a string of make-up dates for the 1995 tour the band went into the studio for a week-long session in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the band recorded "Off He Goes".[11][12] The rest of the recording took place in the first half of 1996 in Seattle, Washington at Studio Litho, which is owned by guitarist Stone Gossard. The album was then mixed by O'Brien at his mixing facility at Southern Tracks in Atlanta, Georgia.[13]

The sessions for the album began with strife and tension. Bassist Jeff Ament wasn't made aware that the band was recording until three days into the sessions, and said that he "wasn't super involved with that record on any level."[14] Guitarist Mike McCready said, "I'm sure Jeff was pissed, but it was more about separating, because if we played all together nothing would get done. We'd all just get pissed off at each other."[14] At one point Ament even walked out of the recording sessions,[15] and considered quitting the band due to lead vocalist Eddie Vedder's control of the creation process.[16] Due to Pearl Jam balancing recording and touring, Irons commented that the band was "more on-the-fly during the making of No Code, and some good thing happened out of that, but we were also really tired. It was difficult to tour and play these shows that were two or three hours long and then force ourselves to produce something in a studio."[17]

McCready said that a lot of the songs were developed out of jam sessions, and said "I think we kind of rushed it a little bit."[18] Ament said that the band members would bring in fragments of songs, and it would take hours before Vedder could have music to which he could add vocals.[15] He added that "Ed's typically the guy who finishes off the songs...But by the end of No Code, he was so burnt, it was so much work for him."[19] By the time the album was done the band seemed to have found a calmer place in which to exist, and gave credit for this to Irons. Regarding Irons, O'Brien stated that "everybody was on their best musical behavior around him."[14] McCready said that Irons urged the band members to discuss their problems, and called him "a big spiritual influence, if not the biggest."[15] Vedder said, "Making No Code was all about gaining perspective."[20] Commenting upon the sessions as a whole, O'Brien said, "It was really a transitional record. We had a good time making it."[14]

Music and lyrics

Problems listening to these files? See media help.

While Vitalogy had shifted away from the earlier albums' accessible compositions and polished production, No Code represented a deliberate break from Ten's anthemic stadium sound, favoring experimental ballads and noisy garage rockers. It stood out with its emphasis on subtle harmony ("Off He Goes"), Eastern influences ("Who You Are"), and spoken word ("I'm Open"). Irons lends a tribal drum sound on the songs "Who You Are" and "In My Tree". Irons stated, "To turn my drum music into a song is pretty challenging, but the guys have been really supportive of me doing it, and we've worked some things into a few songs."[17] Vedder said, "We realized that we had an opportunity to experiment."[20] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly stated that "No Code displays a wider range of moods and instrumentation than on any previous Pearl Jam album."[3]

The lyrical themes on the album deal with issues of spirituality, morality, and self-examination.[1][21] Vedder said, "I think there's a little self-examination in those songs, something that a lot of my friends are going through too, as they approach 30."[21] Ament said, "In some ways, it's like the band's story. It's about growing up."[21] The lyrics of "Hail, Hail" refer to two people in a troubled relationship struggling to hold it together.[4] Vedder has said that he wrote the song "Off He Goes" about himself and how he is a "shit friend," adding, "I'll show up and everything's great and then all of the sudden I'm outta there..."[14] During the mid-1990s, Vedder faced what he called a "pretty intense stalker problem,"[14] and the issue is referred to in the song "Lukin".[22] "Around the Bend" was written by Vedder as a lullaby that Irons could sing to his son.[14]

The lyrics to "Smile" are taken from a note that Dennis Flemion of The Frogs hid inside Vedder's notebook while he was onstage performing.[23] The words used in the note are taken from the Frogs songs "This Is How I Feel" and "Now I Wanna Be Dead". Flemion is given credit in the "No Code" vinyl, but the credit is inexplicably absent from the CD version. The lyrics to "Red Mosquito" were inspired by the events surrounding Pearl Jam's June 24, 1995 concert at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, which included Vedder's stay at a hospital due to food poisoning and his attempt to perform at the band's concert the same day at Golden Gate Park in front of 50,000 people.[24][25] Vedder only made it through seven songs and the band was forced to cancel the remaining dates of the short tour that it was on.[21] For the first time on a Pearl Jam album a band member other than Vedder contributed lyrics, with Gossard writing the lyrics to "Mankind". Gossard also sang lead vocals on the track.

Release and reception

No Code was Pearl Jam's last album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart until Backspacer was released in 2009. It stayed at number one for two weeks. No Code sold 366,000 copies in its first week of release.[26] This was significantly less than what the band's previous two albums sold in their respective first weeks of release. It was, however, the biggest-selling debut of what was a slow year for the industry. No Code was the band's first album to not reach multi-platinum status. No Code has been certified platinum by the RIAA,[27] and, as of March 2007, has sold 1.4 million copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.[28]

Rolling Stone staff writer David Fricke gave No Code four out of five stars, saying that the album "is abrupt in its mood swings almost to the point of vertigo." He praised the album as "the kind of impulsive, quixotic, provocative ruckus that has become rare in a modern-rock mainstream" and added that "No Code basically means no rule books, no limits and, above all, no fear."[8] Q gave the album four out of five stars. The review said that the album "constantly adds unexpected and facinating [sic] details....A solid attraction amid intriguing oddities is the powerful array of guitar sounds."[7] Critic Robert Christgau described the album as "slowly winning a heartwarming battle against constitutional melancholia."[2] Allmusic staff writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album three and a half out of five stars, saying, "While a bit too incoherent, No Code is Pearl Jam's richest and most rewarding album to date as well as their most human."[1] NME gave No Code a seven out of ten. In the review, it is stated that "Vedder is still preoccupied with his own mortality, but now he appears more quasi-mystical than miserable....for all its relative placidity, No Code is still a difficult beast."[5]

Referring to the songs on the album, Jon Pareles of The New York Times said "about half are worth the effort." He observed that "too often, [Vedder] falls into American culture's Disney syndrome, idealizing childhood innocence above all."[4] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a C, saying that while No Code "cracks open their sound," it "becomes a collection of fragments that don't add up to much of anything, except a portrait of a musically disjointed band." On the change in mood compared with the band’s previous releases, he said that "the album leaves you with the vaguely unsettling feeling that Pearl Jam without pain are like a pretzel without salt, or Seattle without rain."[3] Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork Media called it "a nice listen," but stated that "there's a ton of filler here. In fact, it's almost all filler."[6] Time reviewer Christopher John Farley said that the album "makes it sound as if they're having a midlife crisis." Farley added that "too few of the songs on the Pearl Jam CD explore the musical possibilities they suggest in any kind of definitive or provocative manner."[9]

Three singles were released from No Code. The lead single "Who You Are" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 31, and reached number one on the Modern Rock charts and number five on the Mainstream Rock charts. Neither of the album's other singles, "Hail, Hail" and "Off He Goes", charted on the Hot 100, but both placed on the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. Album track "Red Mosquito" also charted.


The album cover unfolded, creating the No Code logo
A set of No Code Polaroids

The album package consists of 144 Polaroid photos that unfold into a 2x2 square. The Polaroid photos are seemingly random. One of the photos featured on the front cover is the eyeball of former Chicago Bulls player, as well as fan and friend of Pearl Jam, Dennis Rodman,[11][29] while another photo is of Vedder's foot after he had been stung by a stingray.[30] The pictures, when viewed from afar, blend to form the No Code triangle/eyeball logo that is the theme throughout the album. Later pressings of the album fold into a 1x4 strip, thus losing the 'hidden message' effect. These later pressings also include the band name and album title printed directly onto the album cover—the original release contained this information on a removable sticker. Hidden allusions to the central packaging concept are a common trait among many Pearl Jam albums. There were nine different covers for the cassette, each one a different Polaroid found on the CD and vinyl.

The CD and vinyl came with lyrics printed on the back of replica Polaroids. Only nine Polaroids came in a set, leaving one to have to obtain another set to accumulate all thirteen songs. Even for the same songs, there were different pictures on some of the Polaroids between the different sets. The sets are divided into four groups: set C, set O, set D and set E.

When discussing the album's title, Vedder said "it's called No Code because it's full of code. It's misinformation."[31] In medical terminology, a "no code" order is a medical order to withhold CPR on a patient. It is also known as a "do not resuscitate" order. In another interview, Vedder 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'."[32]


Pearl Jam promoted the album with tours in North America and Europe in the fall of 1996.[33] The short tour of North America focused on the East Coast of the United States. As with Vitalogy, very little touring was done in the United States to promote No Code because of the band's refusal to play in Ticketmaster's venues.[34] The band chose to use alternate ticketing companies for the shows. A European tour followed in the fall of 1996, of which the band's November 3, 1996 show in Berlin, Germany at Deutschlandhalle was broadcast on many radio stations worldwide.[35]

During the North American tour fans complained about the difficulty in obtaining tickets and the use of non-Ticketmaster venues, which were judged to be out-of-the-way and impersonal.[36] Gossard stated that there was "a lot of stress associated with trying to tour at that time" and that "it was growing more and more difficult to be excited about being part of the band." He added, "Ticketmaster, as monopolistic as it may be, is very efficient so we weren't playing the venues we wanted to play."[14]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Eddie Vedder, except where noted. 

# Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Sometimes"     Vedder 2:40
2. "Hail, Hail"     Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready 3:41
3. "Who You Are"     Gossard, Jack Irons 3:50
4. "In My Tree"     Gossard, Irons, Vedder 3:59
5. "Smile"     Ament 3:52
6. "Off He Goes"     Vedder 6:02
7. "Habit"     Vedder 3:35
8. "Red Mosquito"     Ament, Gossard, Irons, McCready 4:03
9. "Lukin"     Vedder 1:02
10. "Present Tense"     McCready 5:46
11. "Mankind"   Gossard Gossard 3:28
12. "I'm Open"     Irons, Vedder 2:57
13. "Around the Bend"     Vedder 4:35


The album's singles featured two B-sides from the No Code recording sessions that weren't included on the album, "Black, Red, Yellow" and "Dead Man", the latter of which was originally intended for the 1996 Dead Man Walking soundtrack. "Black, Red, Yellow" was a B-side on the "Hail, Hail" single and "Dead Man" featured on the "Off He Goes" single. Both songs were included on the 2003 Lost Dogs collection of rarities, although "Black, Red, Yellow" appears as an extended version. Both "Leaving Here", which appeared on the 1996 Home Alive compilation, and "Gremmie Out of Control", which appeared on the 1996 Music for Our Mother Ocean Vol. 1 compilation, were also recorded during the No Code sessions. Both songs were included on Lost Dogs as well. Other songs rejected from the album but included on Lost Dogs are "All Night" and "Don't Gimme No Lip".[11] "Olympic Platinum", written by the album's mixer Nick DiDia around the time of the 1996 Summer Olympics, was recorded by the band and released on its 1996 fan club Christmas single.


Pearl Jam

Chart positions


Chart (1996) Position
US Billboard 200[37] 1
Australian Albums Chart[38 ] 1
Canadian Albums Chart[39] 1
New Zealand Albums Chart[40] 1
Swedish Albums Chart[41] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[42] 3
Norwegian Albums Chart[43] 3
UK Albums Chart[44] 3
Finnish Albums Chart[45] 4
Belgian Albums Chart (Wa)[46] 5
Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[46] 6
Dutch Albums Chart[47] 5
German Albums Chart[48] 6
Swiss Albums Chart[49] 13
Hungarian Albums Chart[50] 17
French Albums Chart[51] 28


Year Single Peak chart positions
US Main
US Mod
[38 ]
1996 "Who You Are" 31 5 1 5 4 2 19 47 7 17 26 18
"Hail, Hail" 9 9 31
"Red Mosquito" 37
"Off He Goes" 34 31 46 36
"—" denotes singles that did not chart.


  1. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "allmusic ((( No Code > Review )))". Allmusic. Retrieved March 21, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Pearl Jam". Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Browne, David (1996-08-23). "Northwest Passage". Entertainment Weekly.,,293849,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  4. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (1996-08-25). "Pearl Jam Is Tired of the Pearl Jam Sound". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-27.  
  5. ^ a b (August 24, 1996). "Review: No Code". NME (p. 50).
  6. ^ a b Schreiber, Ryan. "Pearl Jam: No Code". Pitchfork Media. September 1, 1996. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b (October 1996). "Review: No Code". Q (p. 158).
  8. ^ a b Fricke, David (1996-09-05). "Pearl Jam: No Code". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  9. ^ a b Farley, Christopher John. "Identity Crisis" (No Code review). Time. September 2, 1996. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  10. ^ Gundersen, Edna. "Review: No Code". USA Today: 01.D. August 23, 1996.
  11. ^ a b c (2003) Album notes for Lost Dogs by Pearl Jam, [CD booklet]. New York: Sony Music.
  12. ^ Vedder, Eddie. (Speaker). (2000). 8/14/00, New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana [Audio Recording]. Epic Records.
  13. ^ (1996) Album notes for No Code by Pearl Jam, [CD booklet]. New York: Sony Music.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Weisbard, Eric, et al. "Ten Past Ten". Spin. August 2001.
  15. ^ a b c Garbarini, Vic. "All For One: Pearl Jam Yield to the Notion That United They Stand and Divided They Fall". Guitar World. March 1998.
  16. ^ Sculley, Alan. "Kick Out The Jams: Seattle sound gears up for Rupp". ACE Weekly. 2003.
  17. ^ a b Peiken, Matt. "Jack Irons: This Inner Life". Modern Drummer. June 1998.
  18. ^ Engleheart, Murray. "Interview with Mike McCready". Massive!. February/March 1998.
  19. ^ Moon, Tom. "Calling Off the Crusades". The Philadelphia Inquirer. February 8, 1998.
  20. ^ a b Marks, Craig. "The Road Less Traveled". Spin. February 1997.
  21. ^ a b c d Hilburn, Robert. "Working Their Way Out of a Jam". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 1996.
  22. ^ Hiatt, Brian (2006-06-16). "The Second Coming of Pearl Jam". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-22.  
  23. ^ "Pearl Jam Concert Chronology: 2006".
  24. ^ Vedder, Eddie. (Speaker). (2006). 7/18/06, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco California [Audio Recording]. Ten Club.
  25. ^ Kava, Brad. "'I'm Just looking to make it right.' --- E.V.". November 3, 1995.
  26. ^ Harris, Chris. "Tool, Pearl Jam Claim Billboard Chart In The Name Of Rock". May 10, 2006. Retrieved on May 28, 2008.
  27. ^ Gold and Platinum Database Search. RIAA. Retrieved on May 28, 2008.
  28. ^ Barnes, Ken (2007-03-23). "Sales questions: Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-07-25.  
  29. ^ Pearl Jam references in Dennis Rodman's book (July 1, 1997). Retrieved on 4-11-09.
  30. ^ "Pearl Jam: Rumor Pit Issue #24". June 10, 1997.
  31. ^ Vedder, Eddie. "Fritz, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll - Eddie Vedder Radio Show". Radio Fritz, Berlin, Germany. November 3, 1996.
  32. ^ Dwyer, Michael. "Steady Eddie". Rolling Stone. August 2000.
  33. ^ Pearl Jam: Set Lists.
  34. ^ Philips, Chuck. "Pearl Jam to Tour on Own Terms Again". Los Angeles Times. July 25, 1996.
  35. ^ "Pearl Jam: Rumor Pit Issue #20". October 21, 1996.
  36. ^ Symonds, Jeff (1998-02-14). "Pearl Jam Yields to Ticketmaster". E! Online. Retrieved 2007-06-27.  
  37. ^ "Pearl Jam – Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-11.  
  38. ^ a b Pearl Jam in Australian Charts. Retrieved on May 28, 2008.
  39. ^ "Canadian Charts". RPM. Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  40. ^ a b Pearl Jam in New Zealand Charts. Charts.Org.NZ. Retrieved on May 28, 2008.
  41. ^ "Swedish Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  42. ^ "Austrian Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  43. ^ "Norwegian Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  44. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2007-02-16.  
  45. ^ "Finnish Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  46. ^ a b "Belgian Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  47. ^ "Dutch Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  48. ^ "Chartverfolgung / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2007-06-11.  
  49. ^ "Schweizer Hitparade". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  50. ^ Pearl Jam in Hungarian Charts. Hungarian chart Retrieved on June 4, 2008.
  51. ^ "French Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  52. ^ a b c "Pearl Jam – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-11.  
  53. ^ "Canadian Charts - "Who You Are"". RPM. Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  54. ^ "Canadian Charts - "Off He Goes"". RPM. Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  55. ^ "Finnish Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  56. ^ "The Irish Charts — All there is to know". Retrieved 2007-04-29.  
  57. ^ "Dutch Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  58. ^ "Norwegian Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  59. ^ "Swedish Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  

External links

Preceded by
Forgiven, Not Forgotten by The Corrs
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
September 1–14, 1996
Succeeded by
New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M.
Preceded by
Recurring Dream by Crowded House
RIANZ number-one album
September 8–21, 1996
Succeeded by
New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M.
Preceded by
Beats, Rhymes and Life by A Tribe Called Quest
Billboard 200 number-one album
September 14–27, 1996
Succeeded by
Home Again by New Edition

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