Why Robin Pecknold's Clean-Cut Pearl Jam 'Fallon' Cover Speaks Volumes

Fleet Foxes frontman's take on 'Vitalogy' hit "Corduroy" addresses relationship with mass culture

Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Gotta hand it to Robin Pecknold for using his participation in a late-night TV show's theme week to make a broader artistic statement. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon is in the midst of its "Pearl Jam Week," promoting the grunge giants' new Lightning Bolt. The Fleet Foxes main man's turn came after Chris Cornell covered 1992 "Jeremy" B-side "Footsteps" with the Avett Brothers, and Pecknold brought along some heavy hitters of his own: lead guitarist Daniel Rossen, of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles renown, and drummer Neal Morgan, who has played with Joanna Newsom and Bill Callahan. But what was more striking was Pecknold's appearance — and choice of cover.

A photo of Pecknold without his famous beard has been circulating since not long after Fleet Foxes' tour wrapped in January 2012. Technically, he did still have one last night, but going-electric moments are more defined by the impression they leave, and Pecknold's first TV performance in almost two years found the singer with his hair cut short and his facial brambles trimmed to near-invisibility. It was apposite, considering he, Rossen, and Morgan were giving a blistering take on "Corduroy," a 1994 Vitalogy hit that Eddie Vedder once said was about seeing a cheap jacket he wore now selling for $650. Good thing you can't buy beards, but still. "I figure I'll be damned, all alone like I began," Pecknold concludes, his ever-angelic voice belying the righteous acidity of the words. He's just a boy with a new haircut. And that's a pretty nice haircut.

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