Monday, July 20, 2009

The Fixer: The TSIS Review

by stip

When something’s dark let me shed a little light on it

When something’s cold let me put a little fire on it

If something’s old I wanna put a bit of shine on it

When something’s gone I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Fight to get it back again

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

When something’s broke I wanna put a bit of fixin on it

When something’s bored I wanna put a little excitement on it

If something’s low I wanna put a little high on it

When something’s lost I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Fight to get it back again

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

When signals cross I wanna put a little straight on it

If there’s no love I want to try to love again

I’ll say your prayers I’ll take your side

I'll find us a way to make light

I'll dig your grave

We'll dance and sing

What's saved could be

One last lifetime

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Fight to get it back again

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Pearl Jam has a history of releasing difficult tracks as challenging first singles (who you are, nothing as it seems, I am mine—even given to fly is not instantly catchy). The Fixer is much more in the vein of a Worldwide Suicide or Spin the Black Circle—quick, fun, and catchy as hell.  And in that respect this was an excellent choice.  A first listen on the radio is not the time to challenge listeners.  A single should capture your attention, draw you in, and make you want to hear more, and The Fixer certainly does that. 

Musically this has an 80s new wave meets jangly R.E.M. feel to it (with some unusual flourishes like the piano intro into the bridge).  In fact, I think this sounds like it could have been an R.E.M. song (that’s a good thing to my ears).  The band is perfectly balanced, to the point that it is hard to distinguish any one particular band member or part of the song.  No one is an individual star here.  It’s a little weird, actually, since most Pearl Jam songs usually have a dominant riff and some solos and flourish to color it.  When I listen carefully individual moments and little hidden high spots pop out but (at least on the myspace stream, which granted is not the best way to hear music) they recede when you’re not specifically listening to them. It’s hard to say if that means this song will get old faster or if it’ll be full of little discoveries that will keep it fresh.
Eddie said in an interview earlier this year that writing felt different after Bush. He certainly sounds like a weight has been lifted from him. There is a hope and optimism in the performance that has been missing for a long long time.  Even songs like World Wide Suicide with catchy, upbeat music has an undercurrent of anger to them.  In The Fixer Eddie sounds almost relieved, and there’s an unaffected enthusiasm to his performance.  This has the punch of the vocals on S/T filtered through the expansiveness of Into The Wild.  He makes very smart choices here.  It has energy and punch without any strain.

Lyrically the song is about a returning sense of agency, of feeling that a person can take a broken life or a broken world and put it back together again.  It’s not a very subtle song lyrically (usually this message is implicit in Pearl Jam songs—it’s very in your face here), and while there aren’t many memorable lyrics the repetition, delivery, and vocal melody make the whole much stronger than its parts (and the last lyric in each verse leading into the ‘fight to get it back again’ line work really well).  I think my favourite moment in the song may be the way Eddie delivers the line leading into the bridge (If there’s no love I want to try to love again)—the way his voice drops and sounds almost unsure of himself, as if he’s not sure if this is still okay anymore.  And then the bright piano fill jumps in, answering his question.  Yes, it finally is.

The only two criticisms I’d make of what is otherwise a strong single is the uh huh huhs that start the song (and come out of the bridge).  Normally I love Eddie’s wordless vocalizations but they seem a little too hushed given the energy of the rest of the song.  And for gods sake stop with the fucking fade outs.  Just end your damn songs!

I’d give this 4 stars. Bring on the rest of the record!