How Eddie Vedder Ruined Rock & Roll

There can be only one Eddie Vedder! Photo Courtesy: Frudd
There can be only one Eddie Vedder! Photo Courtesy: Frudd

By Peter Gerstenzang

There is little doubt that Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder probably is the most influential, famous singer of the past 20 years. But that’s a little like saying the best-known disease of the past 20 years is Mad Cow Disease because despite his many fans, Eddie drives me nuts.

See, he speaks normal English, but when he sings, he sounds like a demented Tuvan Throat Singer who’s having a fatal brain aneurysm. In other words, nothing like the way he talks. It’s all a bit like listening to Gomer Pyle who talks like a hayseed one minute, then bellows “The Old Rugged Cross” like Paul Robeson.

Unfortunately, there are now 10,000 Eddie wannabes, mush-mouthed, tongue-tied yowlers. Which means Eddie Vedder has ruined rock radio. My favorites?

Dave Matt hews (Jazz Eddie)
There are several explanations as to why this guy sings like he’s having a psychotic break and needs to be hosed down with Thorazine. One is that Matthews only records when he feels the Holy Spirit and can talk in tongues. The other is, by scatting in that silly voice, it takes a while to realize his lyrics have all the depth and meaning of the ingredients of Special K cereal. There is one great thing about Matthews, though. You can play his stuff backwards and forwards and there’s absolutely no difference.

John Mayer (Singer/Songwriter Eddie)
Mayer’s Eddie-like garbling is all his own. He sounds like he swallowed three Quaaludes an hour before church and then whispers, ‘Hey, can you hand me a prayerbook?’ His mushy diction is bad enough, but he always sounds like he’s trying to seduce some poor, unsuspecting girl who ends up going out with him, because she figured out too late what he just said. Mayer plays the blues, too. And if I’m any indication, he also causes them.

Rob Thomas (Pop Eddie)
The tip-off might be that this guy leads a band with the meaningless name Matchbox Twenty. Still, that’s clear and  straightforward compared to Thomas’s voice, which sounds like a circus performer singing while doing his sword-swallowing act. The only difference between him and Eddie? Thomas wears a hat.

Isaac Slade (MOR Eddie)
Another singer with a deep voice whose phrasing suggests he was having root canal surgery while recording. His band is in the Guinness Book of Records, though, because every song his ‘rock’ band has ever done is a ballad. And each one is about Slade feeling sorry for himself. At least, that’s what I think he’s saying. I can’t really tell. Only difference between him and Eddie? Slade just needs a date.

Chad Kroeger (Canadian Eddie)
Yes, he also yarls and sings incoherently like Vedder while his band, Nickleback, lurches along behind him like a car driven by a kid who can’t use a stick. Worse? Dude gets played on the radio. You just want to slap Kroeger when you hear him. But being Canadian, he’d probably smile and do the worst thing possible: Say thanks. And keep singing.