Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guided Tour of Backspacer: Thin Air

by stip

Thin Air

Thin Air is one of the two counterpoints songs on Binaural (Grievance is the other). These songs play a role similar to I Am Mine on Riot Act—they’re reminders of what the record is struggling against, what it hopes to regain. As has already been pointed out, its inclusion on the record serves to draw attention to miasma that covers the rest of the album. It has the same sense of distance and space (even though the music is meant to be warm and inviting it’s easy to imagine this song sounding different had it been recorded for Yield) but it has made its peace with it. There’s a smoky quality to Eddie’s vocals, which fits the mood of the song of the song perfectly. It’s dark and rich, wispy and delicate. Even the song’s outro, the most energetic moment in the song, still sounds a little fragile. It sounds like there’s something of substance that’s slowly dissipating, appropriately enough, in thin air. But it’s hanging in there.

And that’s the point of Thin Air—to remind the listener, at the halfway point of the record and especially after the lost and empty space of Nothing As It Seems, that there’s still someone or something at the core of that space worth preserving. The lyrics manage to convey this despite being pretty unmemorable, even trite (Stone is much more successful on Rival). The most important lyric is found in the bridge. “How to be happy and true is the quest we’re taking on together.” Eddie has the word together circled in the liner notes, just in case we miss the importance of the lyric. Binaural is an intensely lonely album. In almost every song the main character is alone (sometimes by choice, sometimes because they made a mistake, sometimes because it is forced on them) and it is precisely because they’re alone that they’re in the trouble that they’re in. The one message that runs through every pearl jam record is that the only way to confront alienation is in solidarity with other people—that love is the only thing capable of creating light in the empty spaces we find each other. And Thin Air understands that, however imperfectly it expresses it. The important part of the lyric is not that they’re trying to be happy and true, but that they’re trying together. Light Years is a song about a dying light, and wondering how we’ll be able to see once it’s extinguished. Thin Air generates its own light—as long as his baby’s in his arms the light remains.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guided Tour of Binaural: Nothing As It Seems

by stip

Nothing As It Seems

Nothing As It Seems was, in some ways, an excellent choice for the Binaural single, since it encapsulates the essence of the record. I don’t think it’s the best song, but it cuts right to the heart of the record more than any other number on here.

Musically it is stark, cold, lonely, and expansive (as opposed to its sister song All or None, which feels much more narrow and cramped then NAIS). It’s a song that is looking everywhere for answer, for meaning, and finds it nowhere. Stone and Jeff create a bleak, isolated landscape (especially Jeff’s mournful bass) and Mike spends the song railing against it with no conclusion, no moment of catharsis, just a frustrated search for something. There’s not even a sense of there being a journey, just an ever present now. NAIS is also an exhausting song. For a piece that has almost 5 minutes of prominent guitar soloing and feels as open as it does there is surprisingly little movement. The song feels like it is running in place, and sustains itself only because it fears (or doesn’t know how) to stop. There’s a period during the bridge when the music finally changes and you think, even if just for a moment, that there’s something there—catharsis, confrontation, something , but it isn’t quite clear what it is, and the song descends back into the void, neither sustaining itself nor collapsing under its own weight. It’s a pretty impressive soundscape.

Eddie plays this one just right vocally. He sounds distant, removed, not exhausted per se (this isn’t Riot Act) but worn down and strangely empty. This isn’t a song about losing faith (in yourself, in others, in the world). It’s a song about how we go on without it, hoping we’re going to find something but increasingly doubting that we will.

Lyrically it’s a mixed bag. The meaning of the song is clear, but the lyrics are constructed in a way that they aren’t really telling a story. Instead they draw attention to each line, each its own snapshot of the same moment in time (Wishlist and The Fixer are written that way too). It’s just that some are better then others (I particularly like the ‘a scratching voice all alone is nothing like your baritone, but there are some other pretty decent ones in here). They’re all pretty clear though. They describe someone alienated from his life, from himself, from his own ability to even communicate precisely what’s bothering him. All he knows is that everything is not okay, that everything that is supposed to mean something means nothing, everything that is supposed to be rewarding feels empty. There’s a distance between his own life and his experience of it. The lyrics have the same spacey feeling of the music and the artwork—cold, vast, dark, and distant. Even lowering his own expectations seems hollow, his fantasies uncompelling diversions. He hasn’t given up—there’s still that part of him that wants more, demands more, understandings that he in some way is being robbed or cheated of something—but it’s getting increasingly hard for him to care.

This is the darkest moment in the first half of the record, and the next few songs move into a different space, but you definitely hear Pearl Jam laying the groundwork for Sleight of Hand and Parting Ways and the slide into Riot Act.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let The Pearl Jam Hiatus Begin!

Is Pearl Jam really not going to tour for a while?  You know that's bogus, but there's plenty of side project action while we wait.

Just announced by Brad:

We've scheduled a few appearances to kick off the release of Best Friends?

August 4th - KEXP, Seattle - in-studio with Cheryl Waters and live on-air performance at 12.00pm PDT.

August 10th - High Dive, Seattle - album release show. 21+ 9pm with Special Guests. TIX HERE!

August 12th - Easy Street Records, Seattle - in-store performance at 20 Mercer St, Seattle. 6pm start.

And a Facebook post by Seattle insider and Hootenanny for Haiti organizer, Debra Heesch, tells us to get ready for more.  Last time we were treated to Mike, Stone, and Matt.  Who knows who the friends list will include this time.

Into The Wild Vinyl Reissue

It looks like, from this statement by Music on Vinyl, that you may have a renewed chance at getting Eddie Vedder's soundtrack for Into the Wild on vinyl.

We've been working on the Into The Wild soundtrack for a while and have been graced the permission to release it on Music on Vinyl. We've scheduled it for September (not August) and because of the modern techniques, some databases around the globe already list it.

Database entires are always ahead of our site-updates, but we'll properly announce this -and the other September releases- on our site in a couple of weeks.

If you live in the UK you can pre-order it at most indie record stores or sites such as:




You may also find us listed at Amazon (also we have sellers on Amazon marketplace) and HMV.CO.UK

Kind regards,

Angelo Schifano

Best of the Oughts, SAD!

We're quite happy to announce that SAD is the official winner of the Red Mosquito, Best of the Oughts Tournament!  Just think!  This gem was almost left on the cutting room floor!

All the photographs are peeling
And colors turn to gray, he's stayin'
In his room with memories for days, he faced
An undertow of futures laid to waste, embraced
By the loss of one he could not replace
And there's no reason that she'd pass
And there is no god with the plan, it's sad
And his loneliness is proof, it's sad
He could only love you, it's sad
The door swings through a passing fable
A fate we may delay, we say
Holding on, to live within our embrace
Eleven nights, he laid in bed
Hoping that dreams would bring her back, it's sad
And his holiness is proof, it's sad
He could only love you, it's sad
Holding his last breath, believing
He'll make his way
But she's not forgotten
He's haunted
He's searching for escape
If just one wish could bring her back, it's sent
And his loneliness is proof, it's sad
He will always love you, it's sad

Keep your eyes peeled for THE BEST OF THE 90S!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brad: Stone Interview

How about we celebrate Stone's birthday a little belatedly with a new interview about Brad's upcoming album, Best Friends?

All That's Sacred, Episode #60

Episode #60 is now available.

The tour is over and it’s anyone’s guess how the guys will round out 2010. There are a few side project things rumored but nothing confirmed at this point save for Matt playing with Soundgarden at Lollapalooza on 8/8 and Jeff re-forming Deranged Diction for Missoula's Total Fest on 8/21. Speaking of live gigs, southern CA folks should be sure to check out original PJ drummer Dave Krusen’s first gig in 9 years with his band Unified Theory on 8/4 at the King King Hollywood.

A friendly reminder that Brad and Jack Irons have new albums dropping in August! Brad’s “Best Friends?” on 8/10 and Jack Irons’ “No Heads Are Better Than One” on 8/24 – both available through Ten Club.

As for today’s podcast, it’s going to be hard to top #59 which was undoubtedly the most popular episode to date. As such, I’m also kind of battling a cold today and so I kept the rebound with #60 pretty loose. I get a little help rounding out the show from two fellow fans Skyping in to share a story that speaks to the power of music and the connectivity of our fan community.

Thanks for tuning in and I hope you dig #60.

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unthought Known in Berlin

Pearl Jam has uploaded about 30 videos to their YouTube channel, so it's not super rare, but it's not necessarily news when they put one up there either.  Still, it appears as though Neil Young, using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, helped with the concept of this Wes C. Addle directed video.

Looks and sounds damn good!

Best of the Oughts, The Finals!

And then there were two.  Who's it going to be, fans?  Vote now!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Countdown to Zero

Pearl Jam has joined several other bands (Weezer, R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails) in supporting a new documentary called Countdown to Zero, directed by Lucy Walker, which ...

... traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs: nine nations possess nuclear weapons capabilities with others racing to join them, with the world held in a delicate balance that could be shattered by an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, or a simple accident.
Look for The Fixer on the soundtrack.

2010 Poster Sale Details

If you still want a poster from Pearl Jam's 2010 North American and European Tours you still have a chance, but you're going to have to be at the top of your game.  The first poster (New Orleans) goes on sale at 9am PDT (that's 12 noon for you New Yorkers) this Wednesday, July 21st.  I'll try to keep you updated, but this looks to be a mellee, and I have a day job, so watch the Message Pit!


Posters will be sold in random order beginning with New Orleans.

Future sales will be announced in the Message Pit at least 24hrs in advance of sale.

Posters are $30 + shipping ($7.50 US/$11.00 WORLD).


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Best of the Oughts, Final Four

If you're sad to see two teams parting ways and fading into insignificance, you can't file a grievance.   All you can do is vote in the Best of the Oughts Tournament.  We're down to the Final Four, and Binaural is beating up on the rest.  Even the sole holdout from another album (Lost Dogs) is actually a Binaural castaway, Sad, formerly known as Letter to the Dead.

Friday, July 16, 2010

iTunes Update: Amongst The Waves

You can now purchase the Against the Waves video on iTunes for $1.49.  Also, if you haven't purchased the Philly Boxed Set (and you should), you can download the 10/31/2009 version for free by clicking here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Guided Tour of Binaural: Light Years

by stip

As much as I am a booster of the Light Years demo, Light Years fits Binaural better then I think Puzzles and Games would have, and the things that I think detract from Light Years musically help it fit in on Binaural (which is why judging an album is different than judging the collection of songs that make it up (I’ll put something up about the Binaural b-sides and what not after we’ve worked through the record and say more then).

Pearl Jam has dealt with death before this, probably most movingly on Long Road. The music there is simple and beautiful, and even the dramatic swells are peaceful. The song invites us to accept and make our peace with the one thing we cannot change, and it ends (for me) with an image of two people holding hands facing a setting sun, understanding and okay with what is inevitably going to come. Light Years is not that song. We know that primarily from the music. If this was a song about coming to terms with death it would sound very different. There’s something off kilter and discordant, hesitant and resistant, about the music, even as it picks up urgency throughout the song. Eddie’s voice is even a little petulant, like a child (or someone small) railing against what he acknowledges is the basic unfairness of loss. Fitting for this record, the song is cold and isolating rather than warm and inviting, dominated by unfairness and regret rather than a calm, peaceful acceptance.

Lyrically Eddie begins the song shaken—all the things he can do and has done, all the facets of life he has mastered, none of these things are of any use to him in the face of death, they cannot undo the enormity of that kind of permanent loss. The second verse is equally personal, tinged with the regret and guilt that always confronts us with the death of someone we cared about. Did I spend all the time I could with them? Did I get everything out of that relationship I could have? Did I give everything to that person I could have? The answer is always no. It has to be. But knowing the truth of that and feeling the truth of it are two very different things, and where Long Road makes its peace with that tension, the subject of Light Years is (appropriately enough for Binaural) trapped by their guilt, haunted by the time not spent and opportunities lost (he’ll return to these themes a decade later on The End). In Light Years we’re left wondering whether we’ll spend forever in the dark now that we’re deprived of the departed’s light. It’s rare that we fully appreciate how much someone illuminates our life until we have to see things without them.

There are moments of promise in Light Years, just like there was the fleeting hope in Evacuation that worry could be strength with a plan. There’s the plea to make sure you live life now, to make every moment count with the ones that you love, but its advice being given too late, delivered with a plaintive sadness that comes from knowing you’ve missed your chance. It’s followed by the bridge that has its soaring notes and high moments, but the whole thing remains somewhat strangely discordant, almost like it’s too late for this person. Light Years becomes a cautionary tale in the end, the music promising to take us places the singer can’t go (the music elevates Eddie here, rather than Eddie elevating the music or both climbing together) and offering the possibility of salvation and redemption in its warning. One light is extinguished, but not all lights need go out.

As an aside the Light Years/your light made us stars connection is pretty clever (the last time the implications of a title were explored like that in a song was on Tremor Christ). Light years are the distance between stars, the amount of time it takes for light to travel between them. Although we can measure it, it’s a speed, and therefore a distance, that is completely beyond anything we’re capable of. Something that is light years away might as well not even exist, for all practical purposes. At the same time, we discover who we are, what shines best and brightest in us, through our relationships and connections to other people (echoes of Faithful)—we need them discover ourselves. Our own light comes from them. The question becomes whether that light can still illuminate us when the distances between us become impossibly vast.

Grunge Report Radio, 7/15/2010

The July 15th episode of Grunge Report Radio will be talking about Pearl Jam's rumored hiatus/retirement.

On the latest edition of Grunge Report Radio Brett and Duncan talk about Pearl Jam’s future, Soundgarden’s upcoming Lollapalooza performance, and more.  Duncan also has some choice words for Mr. Mustache who bashed Grunge Report Radio’s hosts in the comments section last week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Best of the Oughts, Sweet Sixteen

The Avocado is OUT!  Binaural is clearly on top of this tournament.   The Best of the Oughts Tournament is down to the Sweet Sixteen.

 Will the ten-year anniversary of Roskilde give LBC the edge over fan-favorite Unthought Known?  Can Insignificance prove significant, or will Undone hold it together?  Will Parting Ways deal a deathblow to Fatal?  Only you can decide.  Vote now.

Light Years vs. Can't Keep

Insignificance vs. Undone

Love Boat Captain vs. Unthought Known

Fatal vs. Parting Ways

Nothing As It Seems vs. Down

Just Breathe vs. Grievance

Sleight of Hand vs. I Am Mine

Of The Girl vs. Sad

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just Breathe

Yes, we've all poured over the transcript of Ed's tourtured Portuguese and had a little panic attack at the thought the time between Pearl Jam shows might be measured in months instead of days.

OK, now it's time to calm down a little bit.  Sure, it sounded a little scary, but as TwoFeetThick happily pointed out, we have no idea what "a long time" means, and Tacoma Rock City brings us some good news.  It seems that Pearl Jam's publicist, Nicole Vandenburg, had this to say on the matter:

(It's) nothing serious. He says that at the end of all tours, meaning that the tour is over. I think the remarks got a bit lost in translation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Fond Farewell to Europe

Eddie obviously finished out his time in Europe with a little surfing off the Portugal coast.  God, that water looks nice.

There are rumors that Pearl Jam will be taking some time off so that Matt can tour with Soundgarden (which in turn, spur rumors that we might get more side project tours), but there also rumors that Pearl Jam will be hitting South America before the year is out.

Official sources are pretty quiet right now, but don't lose heart.  Whether it's more touring or the release of an EP or a Vs. reissue, surely there is more great news in our future.  Until then ...

... peace!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guided Tour of Binaural: Evacuation

by stip

Evacuation is the most understated call to arms in Pearl Jam’s catalog. The music starts off sounding fairly urgent, attempting to approximate the sound and energy of a siren (they get this sound right during the fade out of the song—listen for it, and imagine how much different evacuation would sound if this was the dominant note), but not quite reaching it. The whole thing is fairly muted—like it wanted to explode but couldn’t find the powder. That’s the central tension that seems to be running through Evacuation. The song prophesizes some imminent collapse, and the chorus pleads for us to run away, to abandon a sinking ship—yet it sounds like the project is hardly worth it. Why bother? This is one of the things that I suspect puts people off from the song, and one of the things that makes it interesting. Eddie hardly sounds like he cares whether or not we get out. There’s something perfunctory about all this., going through the motions because you know you’re supposed to but not believing in your own agency

The lyrics have the same tension. They call for us to pay attention (to take heed and change direction, to take stock, to plant seeds of reconstruction, no time this time to feign reluctance). Something is definitely wrong. Things are definitely collapsing around us. There’s no time to wait for things to get better, and it would be naive to put off acting until everything is perfect (its like you’re waiting for a diamond shore to wash your way) He encapsulates this nicely in the final verse:

There was a solemn man who watched his twilight disappear (in the sand)
Altered by a fallen eagle, a warning sign
He sensed that worry could be strength with a plan

It sounds like a call to arms. But the problem is there is no sense of what is wrong. No sense of what that plan might be or what it could address. Something is seriously wrong, but there is no sense of what it is, or even who to blame. There may not be a more substance free ‘political’ song in their catalog. The album artwork is revealing here. You have a head surrounded by two bullhorns—the doodles convey the sense of the bullhorns about to blare something right into this guys ears—too close and too loud to be understood. The warning will probably come across as more annoying than helpful.

And so there is something almost tired about Evacuation. It wants to be urgent. It wants to get us on our feet and in the streets, but it doesn’t know how to do it. The screaming is exhausting, and the worry is just enervating because there is no plan, and no strength. Just a sense that we need to get out even though there is no place to go, and nothing to do when we get there.

Best of the Oughts, Round 2

The Best of the Oughts Tournament continues at Red Mosquito.  Each album has been brutalized!  A-sides like The Fixer, World Wide Suicide, and fan-favorite Reign 'Oer Me have been eliminated.  To keep your favorite song in the running, you have to vote!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grunge Report Radio, 7/7/2010

The July 7th episode of Grunge Report Radio probes into some Pearl Jam topics.

On the latest Grunge Report Radio (which was actually taped just last night, rather than a week ago like usual) Brett and Duncan discuss the new Smashing Pumpkins song “Freak,” Pearl Jam’s current tour and new song “Of The Earth,” if they’re still into Stone Temple Pilots’ new album, Nirvana, and much more.  Leave comments!

All That's Sacred, Episode #59

Episode #59 is now available.

The first episode on the new biweekly schedule and it's a special one. Original Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krusen was gracious enough to spend some time with me recently recalling his influences, the early days of the band, and his premature departure. Dave was very thoughtful and candid and a great interview. As a longtime fan, it was enlightening to hear from this little-known band member who was there at the very beginning.

Enjoy #59.

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Best Friends? Promo

 This may get you a little excited about the August 10th release of Brad's Best Friends?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Guided Tour of Binaural: Gods' Dice


Gods' Dice is not the first Pearl Jam song to deal explicitly with the relationship between God and man, but it’s worth looking at the differences between God’s Dice and the two previous songs addressing these themes—Sometimes and Faithful. In all cases the subject is overwhelmed by the gulf between the human and the divine, and each time the singer attempts to bridge that gap. Sometimes is both a celebration of agency in the guise of a prayer, and Faithful condemns God for his silence and finds a true god in love. Both of these are very typical, traditional responses for the band—completely keeping with the ‘find meaning in community and fight because the struggle itself has meaning’ philosophy that is at the core of their message. But that’s not what’s going on here.

Instead God’s Dice surrenders to our own insignificance (we’ll see this later). The opening lyrics recognize the singers basic powerlessness, which he comes back to again and again in each verse. The chorus makes clear how our lives are completely out of our own hands—someone else designating our opportunities, our desires, our expectations, and the singer resigns himself to it (resignate is not a word but that’s okay). There are moments where the singer seems to intimate that this kind of acceptance is a giving in—a form of surrender (especially in the second verse) but he can never seem to follow through on that (interesting that in the actual linear notes the lyric reads MY power rather than THIS power), especially when you get to the overwhelmed third verse before the bridge and the ‘why fight forget it/cannot spend it after I go’ declaration. Struggling against odds like this, a power this significant and totalizing, is just exhausting—as the final verse declares, this sort of life, this sort of struggle, is no life at all, and the song concludes with a celebration of submission.

The argument could be made that the band is simply being sarcastic here, that they’re presenting an argument that they’re dismissive of. The music could lend some credence to this. Certainly this is a fast paced, energetic, active celebration of passivity, and the double tracked vocals give the song a festive feel to it. But at the same time, there’s no real sarcasm here like we find in Breakerfall. And there is basically nothing in the songs that follow that give any indication that this is the case, as the rest of this record (with a handful of notable exceptions) is a story of passivity and loss of agency. If God’s Dice isn’t serious about this message then it really has no business on this record, and should have been replaced with a song like Sad. That’s not a comment on the quality of the song. Undone and Down may be the two best songs to come out of the Riot Act sessions, but they don’t belong on that record. Another possibility is that the song is documenting a breakdown, a person collapsing under the weight of their own insignificance, which would explain the frantic pace of the song. The vocals aren’t unhinged, but the music comes closer. It’s tightly controlled, but if you listen to it sideways you can see it falling apart, and then the double tracked vocals start to sound a little schizophrenic (and then there is the little laugh (more pronounced live) after the monkey driven/call this living lyric. I’m not sure which interpretation to believe.

So in the end, God’s Dice teaches us, it’s not a big deal to surrender to fate, to accept what you cannot control. Except, of course, that it is. Pearl Jam had spent the previous 9 years arguing that escape is never the safest path, that the struggle has meaning, that holding the candle makes a difference. And so there’s something unsatisfying about this conclusion, and the problem with the overall message and theme of Binaural. Or, alternately, God’s Dice is warning, documenting the consequences of embracing this position. The way to answer that is to figure out whether Binaural is a defeatist record or a cautionary tale. Maybe it’s both, but I’m inclined to believe that the band wasn’t sure which. I think they wanted it to be the later but were feeling the former, which was only reinforced by the existential and moral crisis posed by the Bush administration and documented in Riot Act. Either case complicates the peace of Yield, and this only gets more pronounced as we move deeper into the record.