On their first three albums, Pearl Jam sounded like a band that had something to prove. More than that, they sounded like they wanted to conquer the world. When they got around to their fourth LP, 1996’s ‘No Code,’ they were global stars who had helped lead thoughtful, punk-inspired rock into the mainstream, so they began turning away from whatever obligations they felt they owed fans. By the time they started recording ‘Yield,’ their fifth album, they were no longer making records for their fans – they were making records for themselves.

And they totally embraced this new position. Songwriting became more democratic, as other members stepped into the role largely held by singer Eddie Vedder in the past. Songs took a decidedly more mature route, turning down the rage and replacing it with introspection. And the group relaxed the stranglehold they had on alt-rock habits.

But ‘Yield’ didn’t have an instantly relatable set of songs, like those found on ‘Ten,’ ‘Vs.’ and ‘Vitalogy.’ A handful of cuts managed to carve out some sort of identity: the album’s first single, ‘Given to Fly,’ which borrowed its melody from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going to California’; the hopeful ‘Wishlist’; ‘Do the Evolution,’ ‘Yield’’s toughest song; and the mind-cleaning ‘In Hiding.’

Mostly, though, ‘Yield’ was a challenge. This is who we are, the album seemed to declare, and if you don’t like it, there are plenty of other bands willing to fill our spot. Casual fans turned away. The album, which celebrates its 15th anniversary today, debuted at No. 2. (The previous three albums had all reached No. 1.) Like ‘No Code,’ ‘Yield’ eventually went platinum, but it achieved nowhere near the multiplatinum sales of ‘Ten,’ ‘Vs.’ and ‘Vitalogy.’

‘Given to Fly’ and ‘Wishlist’ both hit the modern-rock Top 10, but there was no turning back at this point. The next four Pearl Jam albums, while Top 5 debuts, all fell short of selling a million copies. ‘Yield’ effectively put an end to Pearl Jam’s most commercial period and marked the start of a new era, one of occasionally rewarding creativity and sometimes frustrating perseverance.

Watch Pearl Jam's Video for 'Do the Evolution'

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