From page 79 of Classic Rock Magazine March 2001
(Epic 474549 2) ***** While Eddie Vedder, perhaps unwittingly, continued to fuel his uncomfortable mantle of messiah for the dysfunctional masses through his tortured soul lyrics, Pearl Jam set about creating a searing guitar driven rock album. No more, no less, no labels, just an album that was even more vibrant and impassioned than its predecessor, 'Ten'.
Opening track, 'Go', was created astride a driving bass and drum assault with a scratching guitar motif laying a pattern against the machine gun frenzy of Vedder's vocal. The singer's lyrics always a source of intense probing for fans and critics alike were open to much misinterpretation with Vedder hinting that the song was based less around the themes of dependence and insecurity, as was first thought, than they were about his beaten up truck!
As the track from which the album's original title derived, 'Animal' scurries into life, Vedder mumbles his 'One, Two, Three, Four, Five against One' before the main body of the track roars in, leaping over intertwined counterpoint riffs, with an almost funk style guitar lurking over what there is of a chorus. All vastly different from the quieter, darker 'Daughter', which is a brooding but no less intense piece than the opening salvo. Focusing on the repressed and disillusioned trying in vain to gather the disparate threads of life together. Nice song, though!
Meanwhile, 'Dissident' is the strongest acknowledgement of 'Ten' and would not have appeared out of place on the album, strong as it is and easily able to stand alongside the finest moments of the preceding release. While 'W.M.A.' shows how Pearl Jam were willing to push the envelope beyond their status as quintessential Seattle grunge icons basing the song around an insistent bass-drum loop.
Lest however the shock to the system became too much for their ever-growing legion of fans after the wah-wah funk intro to 'Blood', their full uncompromising power is unleashed on 'Rearviewmirror'. A song so punishing that then drummer Dave Abbruzzese, having been pushed again and again to nail a take acceptable to the others, can be heard hurling his sticks against the studio wall having achieved an acceptable performance. It also marked the opening cracks of the fissure that eventually led to him being jettisoned from the band.
Regardless of pigeonholing or posturing, 'VS.' is an outstanding rock album. If, for some bizarre reason, you missed out on it when it was initially released this budget re-issue demands your attention and hard earned.