Following the monster, and surprising, success of their 1991 debut album ‘Ten,’ Pearl Jam capped two years of constant touring by returning to the studio with a handful of violently raw new songs. They learned some lessons during ‘Ten’’s long, slow climb. They were going to make the next record their way, with minimal record-company interference. And they weren’t going to give fans, radio or MTV what they expected.

From the start, ‘Vs.’ – which celebrates its 20th anniversary today -- was a hostile reaction to ‘Ten’’s commercial victories. All that time on the road made the Seattle quintet a tough, lean band. For three months in early 1993, the group, along with producer Brendan O’Brien, worked on a follow-up record that would mirror the band’s aggressive live shows and shatter whatever notions people had of them.

But something happened as they lifted their middle fingers to the music establishment: ‘Vs.’ made them even bigger. It debuted at No.1, breaking a sales record for the number of copies sold the first week, and it stayed there for five weeks. It’s still the biggest-charting album of Pearl Jam’s career.

More than that, though, ‘Vs.’ established the band as one of the ‘90s most vital. From the opening one-two punk punches of ‘Go’ and ‘Animal’ to the pensive ‘Daughter’ and ‘Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,’ ‘Vs.’ remains Pearl Jam’s best album, a work that blends brains and brawn. It tapped into alternative nation’s fears, hopes and desires just as the music was punching its way into the mainstream. And it forever shaped the band’s relationship to its music, fans and legacy.

Listen to Pearl Jam's 'Go'

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