Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meet Your Blogger: This All Encompassing Trip



Jason's blog isn't limited to Pearl Jam topics, but his book is.  You can purchase This All Encompassing Trip by Jason Leung, starting today at his website.

REAL NAME: Jason Leung

LOCATION: Vancouver, BC, Canada (Currently in London, UK)

DAY JOB: Traveller, Writer, Graphic/Web Designer, Videographer, (formerly a Civil Engineer/Construction Manager)

It depends on the weather, but most of the time it's Yield. 

Present Tense 

Vedder, because he surfs.


I can relate to the lyrics, I enjoy their music and I respect the ethics that they stand for. That is why I love the band so much. On top of that, their shows serve as a meeting point where extraordinary people (the fans) gather, people whom I might not have had the honour of meeting in the first place if it weren't for Pearl Jam. These fans have become great friends and inspirations for me and they come from all over the world. So the shows are a way for me to keep in touch with people and see friends every year.

There isn't one experience that is the greatest, but the most significant is that drive across Canada in the Touring Van and starting this whole thing, meeting and becoming great friends with many of the fans. I have not looked back since.

Not much of a collector, but I do have every poster from the 2005 Canadian tour and a few from the 2006 world tour.

Oh and I have a "White" Backspacer Vinyl.

"How I choose to feel is how I am."  [Inside Job]
"Run away my son, see it all, oh see the world"  [Breath]

Don't have an iPod. But other bands I see live are Nine Inch Nails, White Stripes, Arcade Fire, Decemberists, Zeppelin, The Doors, The Frames, Wintersleep, Built To Spill, Gogol Bordello, Ladies Who Lunch, Jake Shimabukuro, Hey Rosetta!, Metric, NoRey, Ocean Roots.

Travelling. Keeping active. Enjoying life to the fullest.

Travelling, film making, surfing, boxing, hockey, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Flyers, mexican food, the ocean and ocean related causes such as Ocean Roots.

Haha! :} Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I hope both the show and book are very successful and can help support one another.

Donny, All That's Sacred
Jason Leung, This All Encompassing Trip
Stip, The
Victor Nogales,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guided Tour of Backspacer: Johnny Guitar

by stip

Johnny Guitar

Although it’s another fast moving, high energy song , Johnny Guitar explores a different aspect of Backspacer’s emotional and thematic space. Johnny Guitar celebrates not taking yourself so seriously, and in that respect it’s one of the more mature songs in their catalog—despite , or possibly because of, the juvenile lyrics.

With a handful of exceptions Pearl Jam’s approach to fun could probably best be summed up as FUN=SERIOUS BUSINESS. It’s like they were people who looked the word fun up in the dictionary, were aware of its technical definition, and were going to attempt to reproduce it without actually ever having had experienced it. There were moments in the past that came close. Who You Are becomes a much better song if it’s not meant to be taken so seriously. Black Red Yellow and All Night want to let themselves go, but they can’t quite manage it. It’s like there is a part of themselves that’s watching them, prepared to judge if they enjoy themselves too much . And the No Code attempts were probably the best of the bunch. They’re clearly having a great time with Johnny Guitar, and like a few other places on Backspacer the apparent simplicity in the crude lyrics and the puerile story told can make it easy to miss that the song has something important to say, critical to the overall message of the record.

Although this may not be obvious at first, Johnny Guitar is a companion piece to a song like I Got Shit—the opposite side of the same coin. The subject matter in both songs are the same—the main character’s response to a heart breaking, life shattering, unrequited love. I Got Shit plays it straight (there’s no way Pearl Jam could have played it any other way in 1995, and it’s not a problem that they did. These are emotions and experiences that demand voice), and so we’re left with this devastatingly sad portrait of a wasted, pathetic life thrown away in pursuit of someone who has no idea how this person feels, or even that they exist. It’s a totally emo song in the hands of someone else, but the sincerity of the delivery and the credibility earned from the previous records turn it into something more moving and profound.

Johnny Guitar takes this same set of circumstances and goes in an entirely different direction. It tells the story of a life long obsession about a girl—a fantasy in the most literal sense since she’s not even anyone real. She’s just an image on a poster, and so the subject can basically make her be whatever it is he wants her to be. This guy focuses on her innocence—the fantasy is about all the things he’s going to do to her when he awakens her sexuality—Sleeping Beauty being awoken by her handsome prince but filtered through ZZ Top instead of Disney.

He’s jealous of Johnny Guitar, who possesses the woman (any woman he wants it would seem—this guy is in awe of Johnny’s secret, seemingly forbidden knowledge—the ability to get a girl to sleep with you) and he’s envious of the ease with which he does so, but he has faith that someday she’ll be his. He hopes for the future even as he despairs in a present that extends on for decades. The little details in this song are sharp, like the image in the bridge of the guy sleeping with the lights on. Ostensibly it’s so she can find him (although what kind of fantasy can’t navigate the dark), but it’s probably more that he just falls asleep starring at the poster. And the bridge transitions into his dream (I picture him nodding off to sleep as he extends the second ‘in case she…’ going out of the bridge.

But finally, after thirty years of failing to even dream about this girl (that’s how pathetic this guy is) he has the moment he’s waiting for. Like the subject in I Got Shit the dreams are more real (or more important, anyway) than the reality since this is the one place their love isn’t unrequited. And his moment finally comes—after thirty years of patient devotion he has his reward. She slinks over to the bed in her red dress, leans over…and asks (almost certainly in a husky voice) if he’s seen Johnny Guitar. This guy is such a loser he can’t even win in his dreams.

But what makes the song work is that there’s no judgment here. There’s no warning. Johnny Guitar is not the cautionary tale that I Got Shit is. Instead it’s playful and celebratory, full of double entendres and filthy innuendo delivered in a rapid fire and extremely accomplished vocal melody that doesn’t give us time to take any of this very seriously (and without the awkwardness in a song like soon forget when Eddie trips himself up over the word horny). The faux desperation in Eddie’s voice gives the song a ridiculous sense of self-importance that’s poking fun of itself at the same time.

Musically they set the scene perfectly, with the muscular swagger of the guitar the soundtrack for how this guy no doubt WANTS to see himself. If the mournful guitars in I Got Shit sound like a heart breaking here we have the sound of guy trying frantically to strut since that seems to be what gets Johnny Guitar his ladies. The filthy guitar in the bridge encapsulates this best, but it’s present throughout the whole song.

Pearl Jam often ends their emotionally intense songs with a cathartic breakdown, and like everything else in this song Johnny Guitar ends by spoofing this tendency within their music. The singer is trying to stay strong “I hide my disappointment” but he can’t quite manage it and loses it at the end. But the music can’t keep a straight face and instead of suffering with him it affectionately cheers on this pathetic loser and his hopeless fantasy.

The song is ridiculous (or as ridiculous as Pearl Jam can ever really get) and that is in part the point. It celebrates our silly dreams and recognizes that a life without play, without nonsensical ambitions, one that cannot laugh at itself and its occasional ridiculousness, is not a life that’s really worth living. One of the key milestones in really growing up, really maturing, is learning how to be able to take life seriously and laugh at yourself at the same time. Pearl Jam knew how to take life seriously from the very beginning. It’s nice to see them get comfortable enough in their own skin that they’re able to laugh too.

Other songs in this series:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All That's Sacred, Episode #73

Episode #73 is now available.

They say that the one constant in life is change. If that’s true, then we best be aware and active to affect the change we want to see in our lives and in the world around us. With the US elections around the corner, we take time out on ATS #73 to recognize Pearl Jam’s activism over the years with some incredible, politically-relevant cover tunes. Irrespective of your own personal political beliefs, I think we can all agree that it’s imperative to remain educated and engaged and not succumb to apathy and inertia. I think that fostering that type of involvement is the ultimate goal of the band and it’s also what we’re striving for on today’s podcast.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Given To Cast, 10/25/2010

The October 25th episode of Given To Cast is up, featuring an interview with Jason Leung, author of This All Encompassing Trip.

The latest podcast is up. It includes an interview with Jason Leung of and author of the book "This All Encompassing Trip". Don't forget, listen to the podcast for the Trivia Question that Jason asks, send in the correct answer to me at and you could WIN an autographed copy of Jason's book, chronicling his adventures following Pearl Jam around the world!

Then head to our forums to discuss it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy 20th, Pearl Jam!

Twenty years ago today, Mookie Blalock hit the stage at the Off Ramp Cafe in Seattle with an eight-song set, thereby giving birth to all that is ... Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam - 7.1.10 - Gdynia

Pearl Jam - 10/31/09 - Philadelphia

Pearl Jam - 10/31/09 - Philadelphia

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guided Tour of Backspacer: The Fixer

by stip

The Fixer

Since there’s no narrative to Backspacer it’s hard to call The Fixer is the centerpiece of the record. Each song on Backspacer explores a different aspect of the same moment in time, so it’s not like The Fixer is the end point of a particular journey. But it is probably the high point of the record in a literal sense—it’s a pure and unaffected moment of joy—if Backspacer is a triangle, this is its apex. Songs like Got Some, Unthought Known, GSMF all recall in some tangible way where the subject was coming from. But The Fixer has a perpetual immediacy to it. Even though The Fixer references its own memories, its low places, the song exists purely in the now. I can’t think of another Pearl Jam song where this is the case, and it might be what is off putting about it to some people. All of Pearl Jam’s music is burdened by their past. The force that runs through and lifts up their music is the struggle to overcome that past. It’s muted on Backspacer (the past is actually the past here, rather than the usual past as present), but nowhere more than on The Fixer, and this gives the song a strangeness that may not be for everyone. The fact that it’s such an accessible song makes this feeling even more disconcerting. This also makes The Fixer dependent on the band’s back catalog. The freedom celebrated in this song isn’t earned within the song itself, but in the 8 records and 150 songs that preceded it.

Musically The Fixer is compelling, with a deceptive level of depth (recall its origins). It starts out strong with another great ‘get up and move’ opening sequence (the first 3 songs on Backspacer are all similar in that regard). The fuzzy guitars and the bass give the song a warm, blanket like feeling; the tinkling guitar remind me of the end of Inside Job—the sound of peace and freedom; the guitar accents in the second verse have this cool wistful daydream sound to them; and the occasional sharp drum cracks (softened on occasion by the handclaps) and the main riff have enough bite to them to ensure the whole thing isn’t syrupy sweet. The bridge has this circular sense of movement to it, like it’s orbiting something really important. Hopefully someday we’ll hear what the 7 minutes sideways art piece would have sounded like, but I love what Eddie and Brendan turned this into. The Fixer sounds like mature, unaffected (or innocent, to use McP’s term), freedom.

For the most part Eddie sounds really good here. The opening yeahs and uh huhs do sound overly processed, almost insincere, and I can’t quite figure out where they’re going with it. I wonder if this is the same part of O’Brien’s brain that saturated the Jeremy remix with unnecessary ‘spokens.’ But from there forward it’s a strong performance (except for the repetition of the opening vocals coming out of the bridge). The Fixer has another winning vocal melody (overall this is probably Eddie’s finest record on that score) and Eddie manages to make the vocals sound just lived in and weathered enough to give the song a spark of triumph—like The Fixer is a reward for a hard fought struggle that, in this moment, is behind you. There’s a slight sense of wonder to it as well, not only at the gift of freedom, but the shock at finding it again after so long. The way the vocals are layered also gives the song the sensation that there’s multiple people signing along—it makes The Fixer less intimate and more inviting—it welcomes the listener in and asks them to sing along, rather than just bare witness (which most pearl jam songs do in the studio—they usually don’t live, which is why the live versions almost always turn into celebrations).

Backspacer is a political record, only insofar as the absence of any overt politics is kind of shocking given the content of the rest of Pearl Jam’s output this decade. I can easily imagine the band sitting down to write this song after hearing that Obama was elected. It reflects the sense of new beginnings and new possibilities, of a bright and clear dawn emerging suddenly after a long and dark night. The politics in The Fixer, and Backspacer in general, are found in the freedom of, after so long, not having to be political.

I always found the way The Fixer’s lyrics were structured interesting, barring one or two particular couplets I didn’t care for. I wondered if there was a name for the style they were written in (it seemed like there should be), so I asked a colleague in the English department. I sent him the lyrics and this was his response.

This is interesting -- the form, I mean, is interesting. I don't know of any term to describe what's happening, but what's happening is interesting. The second line of each stanza gives a kind of verbal antonym (opposite) to the adjective in the first line.

I am mentioning this just because I don’t think The Fixer has casual, throw away lyrics. Instead we have 10 lyrical couplets that together present, through their stylistic repetition, this overwhelming desire to repent the past, to put it behind you, to move forward. Eddie could certainly have picked some better antonyms in a few cases, but just because something is simple doesn’t mean it is unintelligent. In fact, if these lines were more involved it’s possible they would have tripped up the momentum of the song and taken the listener out of the immediate moment The Fixer explores. It also might have taken away some of the fun the song wants to have (the exciting couplet doesn’t work but he’s clearly being playful with that lyric and the ‘put a bit of fixing on it’ which I like). Regardless, it’s clear, through the resolution of these simple yet serious conflicts, that there’s a rejection of what’s come before, a desire to look ahead, and above all else an overpowering need to act and celebrate the ability to do so—all culminating with the promise and declaration that when something’s gone or lost we need to fight to get it back again. The fact that there is such a serious message in such an upbeat presentation is also striking, and after years of saying this in songs like Alive, Given To Fly, Grievance, and Present Tense (all songs that are better than The Fixer to be sure) it’s nice to see that they found another way to articulate Pearl Jam’s mission statement.

In another unusual move for the band, the song culminates in its bridge, with its ringing promise to free us from our burdens, to do whatever needs to be done, provided we find a way to make the most of what we have right now. The problem is that the song continues for another minute without giving us anything new—just asking us to live in this singular moment. That is not necessarily a problem, but the quick musical restart (and the over processed uh huhs) both undermine the moment and lead the listener to expect the song to go into a final verse. When it doesn’t we’re left wondering what happened. I’m not sure a verse NEEDS to be there, but if there isn’t one The Fixer would have been better served with a different transition out of the bridge. So interestingly enough, The Fixer’s weakest moments are its end and its beginning, two places where Pearl Jam is usually at its best. I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that The Fixer was adapted from a much longer song. Hopefully we’ll find out someday.

Other songs on Backspacer will explore the part of ourselves that looks back on where we came, or the part of ourselves that fears the future because it is afraid of losing what it has right now. Some songs will explore the promise of our newfound freedom, or celebrate being liberated from our burdens. But The Fixer inhabits a singular moment, one where we breathe clean air, cleanse ourselves in pure water, and know that we can do anything.

Other songs in this series:

Lil' Wayne to Remix Betterman

On November 4th, Lil' Wayne will release Weezy's 90's Ball, Volume One, an album of remixs and mashups album that pairs Lil' Wayne with 90s rock hits from Nirvana, Radiohead, Stone Temple Pilots, and opens with some Pearl Jam!  

"Because Lil Wayne's flow is so melodic, it sits incredibly well on top of rock tracks," says Alexei. "And while I loved Rebirth, many fans will probably enjoy this 'rock album' a bit more because Wayne is rapping, rather than singing with the help of auto-tune."

On the album, Alexei both reinterprets old Lil Wayne hits and combines Weezy's numerous -- and, in some cases, obscure -- feature verses to create new songs. Musically, the album is divided into tracks that retain the rock sensibility of the source material and hip-hop-influenced tracks on which Alexei combines samples of 90s rock with hip-hop drums. In both cases, the resulting songs stand out in their intensity and impact.


1. Betterman (Pearl Jam Remix)

2. Wayne's World (feat. Nirvana, Ciara, Justin Timberlake)

3. Fireman (Give It Away Remix)

4. Plush Weatherman (Stone Temple Pilots Remix)

5. Wake Up, Barry Bonds (feat. Kanye West)

6. Bring Back That Raspy Shit (feat. Pharrell)

7. Transform Ya (Bittersweet SympCourier Newhony Remix)

8. Fly (Sugar Ray Remix)

9. Lollipop (Glycerine Acoustic Remix)

10. Forever Come Around (feat. Kanye West)

11. Speakers (feat. Akon) (Today Remix)

12. Screwed Up Love Song (Stone Temple Pilots Remix)

13. Comfortable #41 (Dave Matthews Band Remix)

14. Karma Police (Radiohead Remix)

15. Zombie Musik (Cranberries Remix)

16. Gimme That, Rude Boy (feat. Rihanna)

17. A Milli In Bloom (Nirvana Remix)

18. Weezy's Teen Spirit (Nirvana Remix)

19. Killing In The Name Of (feat. Eminem) (Early Days Remix)

20. Lil Girl Got A Gun

21. The Eyes of Mrs. Officer (feat. Shakira)

22. No Rain for Shooters (Blind Melon Remix)

SiriusXM to Introduce Pearl Jam Radio

When you wake up tomorrow, tune your satellite radio to Sirius 17 or XM 39!  (Emphasis below is mine)

SIRIUS XM Radio announced today that it will introduce Pearl Jam Radio, a commercial-free music channel devoted to the music of Pearl Jam on Friday, October 22, the 20th anniversary of the band's first public performance.

Pearl Jam Radio will launch with a special airing of the band's 10th anniversary concert recorded in Las Vegas on October 22, 2000. The concert will be heard in its entirety on Friday, October 22 at 6:00 pm ET. The first day of Pearl Jam Radio on SIRIUS XM will also feature rarely heard highlights from the band's very first concert performance on October 22, 1990 at Off Ramp Cafe in Seattle, Washington.

In addition to these launch day specials, Pearl Jam Radio will feature archival concerts from throughout the band's celebrated 20-year career, rarities, unreleased material from the band's personal music library and music from the band's side projects, including solo and pre-Pearl Jam music.

Additionally, Pearl Jam Radio will offer listeners a unique, interactive experience with the weekly show The All Encompassing Trip, a fan roundtable hosted by Tim Bierman, Manager of Ten Club, Pearl Jam's official fan club, and long-time Pearl Jam enthusiast and radio veteran Rob Bleetstein. Pearl Jam fans will be invited to participate in conversations on a different theme each week pertaining to the music, news and touring world of Pearl Jam.

"Pearl Jam is unique in the history of the American music scene and has released some of the most influential music of the past two decades," said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer, SIRIUS XM Radio. "From their love of vinyl to their respect for their fans to their dedication to social causes, the band's continuing legacy is something we're thrilled to celebrate with Pearl Jam Radio." Pearl Jam Radio will be available on SIRIUS channel 17 and XM channel 39; it will also be available on SIRIUS Internet Radio, XM Radio Online and through the SIRIUS XM App for the Apple iPhone, iPod touch and several BlackBerry and Android-powered smartphone devices.

Pearl Jam Radio joins SIRIUS XM's pioneering line-up of channels dedicated to music icons, including Bruce Springsteen's E Street Radio, the Grateful Dead Channel, Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville, Eminem's Shade 45, Elvis Radio, B.B. King's Bluesville and Siriusly Sinatra.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All That's Sacred, Episode #72

Episode #72 is now available.

The 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam's first show is this Friday on October 22, 2010. Many fans will be making the pilgrimage to Shoreline Amphiteatre this weekend to celebrate with the band and friends at the Bridge School Benefit Concert. To mark the occasion, there are a number of fan-run endeavors to entertain and educate. The Wishlist Foundation will be in and around Mountain View, CA all weekend with a series of pre-party fundraisers. Pearl Jam Radio is planning a sonic marathon Friday featuring complete shows from that date in years past along with exclusive interviews with Stone Gossard and Rick Friel. Two Feet Thick maybe tops them all with the production of a decade-in-the-making epic mini-book detailing the origins of the band.

And here on ATS? Well, we're keeping it low key and celebrating with a few libations and meandering commentary as we continue our theme from last week playing one song from each year in the band's storied career. I hope you find ATS #72 to be a fun and informative addition as you commemorate this landmark in Pearl Jam history.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TwoFeetThick: Music For Rhinos

Wow!  TwoFeetThick editor, Jessica Letkemann, has turned out a quintessential early history of Pearl Jam studded with awesome band quotes and rare memorabilia that she has collected over the years.  Check out her new 23-page mini-book, entitled Music For Rhinos: The making of Pearl Jam.

  • Ed’s long-lost band with a member of Rage Against The Machine
  • The Mother Love Bone riffs that survived to become Pearl Jam classics
  • Eddie explains making “Momma-Son”
  • The true story of Ed’s TWO “first weeks” in Seattle with Mookie Blaylock in October 1990
  • Cornell talks Temple of the Dog, and Stone divulges the Pearl Jam fan-favorite that almost had lyrics by Cornell
  • Stone, Jeff, and Eddie recalling the first show, first song, and first weeks

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Believe In Yourself Video

Brad has turned out a video for fan favorite, Believe in Yourself.  It's a gem of a song.  Now it's a gem of a video.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meet Your Blogger: All That's Sacred



All That's Sacred is an unofficial Pearl Jam podcast playing live and rare Pearl Jam music interspersed with commentary from a passionate fan.

REAL NAME: Donny Anderson

LOCATION: North Bend, Washington (east of Seattle in the Cascade foothills)

DAY JOB: Outside Sales

I like them all but my favorite is probably Yield. I just like everything about that album from the artwork to the music and lyrics to the overall theme. It’s a real growth record and marked a pretty big turning point for the band. Before that time, things with the band seemed tenuous and often on the verge of implosion but after its release you just had a sense that everything was going to be ok. 

Another tough one… It really kind of revolves relative to what’s going on in my life at the moment. One more recent tune that was a favorite from the first time I heard it was Life Wasted. It’s a great jam and I strongly connected to the lyrics. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever struggled with depression or anything like that in the clinical sense but I definitely have a negative and cynical side that I’m not too proud of. This song serves as a great reminder that I am not a victim to these tendencies and that I can choose to live a more positive and productive life in rejecting them. 

I think it’s around 35 or so. 

The music had an immediate resonance with me unlike anything I had ever heard before – or since. I was 16 when Ten was released and the band’s music was the soundtrack to my formative years. As I grew and matured and changed, so did the band and their musical output. I really appreciate that evolution of the band. And, weirdly, often times I would find their albums to be the perfect complement to where I was in my life at the time. Other times it would take a while to totally connect, but it’s kind of amazing and surprising how immediate it generally was. I think that’s why it’s been an intense 20 year relationship with the music: the ability of the band to process the world around them and reflect that back to their audience. Then the live experience really just elevates everything. It’s such a special, communal thing. It’s like coming home.

Probably getting tickets and seeing the band for the first time in Atlanta on April 3, 1994. As everyone knows from the bootleg, that show was transcendental and exceeded every expectation I had after waiting years to finally see the guys. Adding to the drama was the ticket-getting, which was also an experience in itself considering the band was at the height of its popularity and still only playing smaller venues. I tell a rambling story all about it during the latter part of ATS #38 if people want to hear it recounted in all its glory.

 Lots of people would probably be surprised to know that I am not a collector at all anymore and that my collection of Pearl Jam stuff is pretty meager compared to most hardcore fans. I used to save damn near everything but found it overwhelming and unsustainable. I have a few treasures from over the years and still pick up the occasional collectible that catches my eye but, by and large, I’m usually content with my memories and having access to the music.

“It’s not the world that’s heavy, just the things that you save…” [Drifting]

Lots of other podcasts… I have to give a shout-out to the podcast Too Beautiful To Live. It’s a hipster-ish show about lifestyle and entertainment and hugely influential to me – it’s not a stretch to say ATS would not exist without TBTL. Ironically, they are no big fans of the band and are probably mortified to know that their show inspired a podcast for the Pearl Jam fan.

If I hit shuffle you’ll likely hear a variety of things including but not limited to Band Of Horses, My Morning Jacket, Brandi Carlile, The Black Keys, Explosions In The Sky, Paul Simon, The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen, Sleigh Bells, Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, REM, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, NIN, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Shins, The Strokes, Visqueen, anything that Jack White does, old country, old R&B…

Probably checking my BlackBerry!

Travel. Going to live shows. Hiking. College football. Drinking good beer. Finding good and unique places to grab a bite. Reading. Spending time with my family and friends. Making my wife laugh.

I can watch the shit out of Teen Mom on MTV! :D

To steal a line from Nike: JUST DO IT.

Donny, All That's Sacred
Jason Leung, This All Encompassing Trip
Stip, The
Victor Nogales,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guided Tour of Backspacer: Got Some

by stip

Got Some

Got Some picks up right where Gonna See My Friend leaves off. When Eddie sings that he’s ‘got some’, he’s referring to the charged sense of purpose and electrifying sense of personal satisfaction discovered at the start of the record. Got Some tries to make public what was, for all its energy and intensity, the private moment documented in GSMF. It’s pretty successful overall, but it’s not perfect.

Musically they nail it. The song rockets out the gate with a sense of frenzied commitment that matches GSMF, and is fitting for the pleading urgency of the song (they cut it off suddenly, but this makes sense given what the song is trying to do). The brassy sound of the guitars give the start of the song an aura of self-importance, and the way the music rises and falls between its puzzled verses (reflecting the confused and lost state of the person the song is being sung to) and the urgent declarations to lean on the singer, to find within him the strength to carry on, is pretty masterfully done (with quick, well done transitions between the two that reflect the emotional journey in the song). Other than the initial start there is an understated quality to Got Some that is designed to both create a kind of interpersonal intimacy that is unusual for a song like this, and of course to build up to and highlight the explosive climax (starting with the foreboding bridge and moving into the extra energy during the final verses and climax, and the terrific outro. My only issue with the music is that given how the song holds itself back for so long its final thoughts deserve to be longer—another 20 seconds of music after Eddie’s final Let’s Go would have been perfect.

Had Eddie been a bit stronger here vocally the ending might not have felt like such a tease, but after the fire and fury of GSMF he sounds flat here, almost weak. I think he’s going for weathered survivor, but it’s a little too weak to work here (it’s more effective in Force of Nature). Maybe he has trouble mixing that approach with the fact that he’s essentially begging here, but regardless I was hoping for something that hit harder. In a lot of Ways Got Some is a sister song to Save You, and it has some of the same vocal problems. In Save You Eddie sounds weary—like he’s had this conversation a million times before and can barely be troubled to have it again (one of the things that makes that song interesting is the tension between the understated vocals and the more aggressive music). He doesn’t sound weary in Got Some, but he does sound thin—exhausted even. It’s possible, even probable that this was a deliberate choice (I’d assume it was given the energy in the 3 songs that surround it)—as if his commitment is measured in how much of himself he’s given (the return of the martyr Eddie of Given To Fly). Given the pleading tone of the song this choice is understandable. The singer in Save You spends much of the song singing to himself, steeling himself for what is likely to be yet another fruitless confrontation. The singer in Got Some is clearly addressing the song to someone else—they’re there in the room with him, and he’s gripping them by the arm begging them to be strong, and to find that strength from within him if need be. The subtle backing vocal harmonies nicely color in the sense that there’s someone there, someone listening, and that they’re in this together.

But while this approach makes sense artistically it’s also somewhat underwhelming. Save you has the same problem. Though the vocal choices are what the song may need they’re just not as much fun to listen to. Had he really gone for broke vocally during the final moments of Got Some (as he does at the end of Save You ) it would have been worth it—the restraint pays off with the release of the bottle up intensity—but that doesn’t really happen here. At least not as much as I’d prefer. When Eddie screams ‘Please let me help you help yourself!’ through gritted teeth you celebrate him finally breaking through his own reluctance. The ‘carry on, lets go!’ at the end of Got Some just doesn’t hit as hard, especially coming on the heels of GSMF.

If Got Some was more interesting lyrically this might not be a problem, but the lyrics to Got Some are probably the weakest Eddie’s ever written (and a noticeable step down on an album that is otherwise pretty solid in that department). Part of the lyrical simplicity is to keep drawing attention to the offer and promise ‘got some if you need it’ but the stuff that surrounds it is just not that interesting. I could probably try and dig some deeper analysis out of the ‘precipitation verses, but it’s hardly worth it. Fortunately this isn’t a song that pauses long enough for the lyrics to ever really matter. Some songs need to be well written and this is not one of them, but it’s still a little disappointing, especially since Eddie’s performance could use the boost that a well crafted line provides.

Having said that, Got Some is still an effective song—my criticism is that while Got Some is a good song, it could have and should have been a great song. The music is strong the message is clear, and this forms an important part of the initial trilogy of songs that define the mood and tone of the record—finding peace and satisfaction within yourself and turning it outwards—using it as fuel for a fire rather than a blanket against the cold.

Other songs in this series:
Overview/Gonna See My Friend
Got Some
The Fixer
Johnny Guitar
Just Breathe
Amongst The Waves
Unthought Known
Speed of Sound
Force of Nature
The End

Other Guided Tour Series:

Checking In: Jeff Ament

Well, we know what Stone is doing with his time off from touring with Pearl Jam.  We've even seen Mike and Ed pop up on the radar since the last tour ended.  How about Jeff?

Turns out, he has headed back to his hometown of Big Sandy, a town where the roads match the name, to construct a skate park.

Jeff told the Great Falls Tribune:

As small towns get smaller and smaller, I think it becomes more important for kids to have something to do outside of just school sports. My dad helped me build ramps, now I can give kids around here something else to do.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

all that's sacred, Episode #71

Episode #71 is now available.

We are just weeks away from the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam's first-ever gig on October 22, 1990 at the Off Ramp in Seattle. To commemorate in some small way, we are playing one track from each year in the band's history - covering the 90's today and finishing up the naughts next week. It's been enlightening to take a step back from our usual themes and take a broader look at the band's massive live catalog. Picking out a snapshot from each year was an impossible task so I just went with a few listener recommendations, a couple of new finds, and some personal favorites. Despite everything we've already featured on the podcast, I think there will still be a few here that will be new to many of you.

Thanks for the continued support week after week - not just in terms of listenership, but even on a more personal level. I feel like I've gained hundreds of new friends over the life of this podcast. It's a very cool thing and so much appreciated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brad on Jimmy Fallon!

Don't forget to check out Brad on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon tonight!  12:35pm ET

Also, if you missed Friday's WXPN show, you can also stream it.  Actually, you can stream it even if you didn't miss it.

Vedder and Tucker at Showbox

Did you catch the Corrin Tucker show at the Showbox on Friday?  Eddie did.  And he joined her on stage for Golden State.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guided Tour of Backspacer: Gonna See My Friend

Continuing our Guided Tour series, which takes us song-by-song through Pearl Jam's studio albums in no particular order whatsoever, we move to Backspacer.  As of this posting, Stip is only part way through the album, so you can follow his musing in real time on our Red Mosquito Forum.

Keep Jammin',

by stip


It’s been over a year. The ‘new album’ buzz has long since faded, and so I think it’s safe to take a serious look at Backspacer--at what the album tried to do, and whether or not it was successful.

Although the songs on Backspacer are comparatively simple (and certainly shorter) than a number of the more artsy moments in their catalog, this is not a simple record, and its simplicity is deceptive. The songs feel light, but not because they are devoid of substance or good ideas. It’s because Backspacer, more than any other Pearl Jam record (even Yield, which is probably the record that Backspacer most closely resembles) is the first time Pearl Jam ever sounded unburdened. There are scattered moments here and there throughout their catalog that touch on this(most notably Given To Fly) but Backspacer is the first time Pearl Jam ever really dwells for an extended period of time on what it might be like to actually feel free—freedom as something immanent and present, rather than freedom as an aspiration. In that respect Backspacer represents Pearl Jam doing something genuinely new, thematically and even musically.

More than many bands, Pearl Jam albums are in conversation with each other. They tell a continuing story—not a narrative per se, but they chronicle the emotional development of the band, and each album is enhanced by situating it within that larger context. And so before we start to tackle Backspacer it is worth taking a few moments to reprise what’s come before.

Ten, as I’ve argued before, is an album about betrayal—a sense of being robbed or cheated of something you’re entitled to by the people and institutions that should be protecting you: your parents, your partners, your teachers, your society. It responds to that betrayal by finding solidarity in opposition—if we cannot trust everyone else we can at least make common cause with our fellow victims. There is anger on Ten for certain, but it is a bewildered anger, with the hostility cut by the pervading sense of confusion and the desire to rise above it. Vs. and Vitalogy expand these themes, although in different ways. While on its quieter moments (think Daughter, Small town, Indifference) Vs. finds itself in the same emotional space as Ten (more reflective, perhaps,) the rest of that record is pure anger and aggression. Vs, responds to betrayal with rage, although it cuts this with an undercurrent of solidarity that makes the approach more compelling than pure rage, and more substantive than simple angst. But in important ways this approach is a non starter, and Vitalogy marks the first major pivot in the conversation.

Vitalogy lashes out in much the same way Vs. does, but while Vs. swings wildly everywhere (perhaps because it can’t find a suitable target) Vitalogy narrows its focus to the commodification of music and art, not because being famous is such a pain in the ass, but because this commodification cuts off and makes profane one of the few sacred things left to us. Music has always been a means of transcendence for Pearl Jam—a way to rise above and to set yourself free—as well as a way to give voice to solidarity. Close that off and what’s left for us?

There’s never really any official resolution to this question, but Pearl Jam makes their peace with it (to an extent ) on the next two records. There is a line in an R.E.M. song (Ignoreland) that goes “I feel better for having screamed, don’t you?” and that seems to be the case for Pearl Jam, at least for a while. No Code, the most meditative moment in their catalog, dials back the rage and sees the band move away from asking the questions to providing the answers (or trying to). Eddie in particular moves away from a lyrical perspective that privileged solidarity in an uncertain world to one that strives to be a source of wisdom—someone who HAS experienced what you’re going through and knows what to do, rather than someone who has no answers but promises to experience it with you. Yield is a more complicated record. It continues down the path begun on No Code, but there is something slightly unsettling or uneasy about Yield, despite the seemingly sunny disposition on the record. Yield is an album about acceptance and escape, and while they try to make this process as active as possible, there is an element of disengagement to it that runs counter to the previous direction of the band. It probably makes more sense to understand Yield as an aspirational record, one that aims at a target it never quite manages to hit.

I’d argue that absent some clear cut trauma a group of artists that had actually experienced the serenity Yield promises could not have made Binaural two years later, a record that can perhaps best be described as haunted. While there is a placidity to Yield, Binaural is categorized by its claustrophobia—it’s sense that something is wrong, that walls are closing in, and its inability to figure out precisely what is causing it or what to do about it. Binaural is the first time Pearl Jam surrenders the sense of agency that had animated all its previous records (even the escapism of Yield had an active component to it).

It is not surprising that, coming off the sense of creeping, impending doom that runs through Binaural the response to the trauma of 9-11 (or, more concretely, the way 9-11 hijacked the American conscience and the way its moment of transformative desolation was exploited)would be the defeatism of Riot Act, where, despite the occasional glimmers of hope (front ended on the record or consigned to b-sides) Pearl Jam finds itself, if not quite giving up, wondering whether the fight can be won, and whether it is even worth engaging in the first place. Riot Act t is easily the low point in their catalog (thematically, not necessarily artistically), and the place where the process of disengagement that is begun, however subtly on Yield, ends up bottoming out.

If Binaural and Riot Act are the sound of someone drowning, the triumphant harshness of S/T is the sound of that first aggressive breath you take after surfacing. It’s not fair to call S/T a midlife crisis, since it’s far too concrete a record for that (an embattled response to a very real problem), but it certainly sees the return of an anger that hadn’t really been present since the days of Vs( although with a thematic focus the previous record lacked). It’s not necessarily surprising that they chose to self title this record, as it attempts to recapture the fighting spirit that is at the heart of what the band stands for. But the effort is imperfect. There are moments (parachutes and the wasted reprise come to mind) that come close to synthesizing the anger of the younger pearl jam and the wisdom of the old, but they never quite manage to strike the balance, and Inside Job, the track that needs to tie it all together, clearly falls flat (the first time the band ever really failed itself on the critical thematic track of a record). But it certainly signals where the band wants to go—the realization that anger only gets you so far, that solidarity has to be grounded in love, rather than opposition, and that one can simultaneously struggle while still being at peace—that you can accept the world (and yourself) for the way it is while still trying to change it.

Backspacer picks up where Inside Job leaves off, and accomplishes over the course of a record what Inside Job failed to do at the end of S/T. For the first time Pearl Jam doesn’t just glorify struggle—it celebrates life. For the first time we engage not because the struggle grants meaning, but because there is something precious that we need to defend. There is no narrative arc to Backspacer. It doesn’t try to tell a story. Instead it tries to capture a feeling, or even better a moment—that moment of liberation where you realize how blessed you are that you have both something to give and something to lose.

Gonna See My Friend

I cannot listen to Gonna See My Friend without thinking of Breakerfall—in part because of the reckless, loose, go for broke energy, and in part because they are two sides of the same coin. Whereas Breakerfall is in part about pushing away, Gonna See My Friend is about drawing close. I’m drawn to that somewhat awkward but nevertheless striking lyric in Breakerfall “It’s like she’s lost her invitation to the party on earth and she’s standing outside hating everyone in here.” Gonna See My Friend is a song for a person who, after standing outside for so long, finally comes inside—and the cathartic release they find in doing so.

GSMF explodes right out the gate with one of the most joyful and exuberant riffs in their entire catalog, galloping along to Matt’s furious drumming (he’s the real star of this song, and one of the heroes of the entire record). It’s full of celebration and familiar discovery, like we’ve just finally seen for the first time something momentous and wonderful that’s been right in front of us this whole time. I also love the revving up slide around 12 seconds leading into the first verse that gives you the ‘strap yourself in, we’re going for a ride’ feeling that the song manages to sustain for its entirety. I’m not sure there are any Pearl Jam songs that make me want to move quite like this one.

Eddie’s vocals match the fearless energy of the music and it gives the song a sense of importance that doesn’t feel overwrought or affected. Instead Eddie sounds excited, like he’s just experienced something amazing and cannot wait to share it. Despite the raggedness in his voice there is an innocence to the delivery that is quite compelling, and he sustains it for most of the song, with a the notable, but deliberate, exception of the chorus.

A good chunk of Gonna See My Friend is, if not self-parody, satirical. The lyrics sound heavy and freighted, like the singer is struggling with some heavy burden “do you wanna hear something sick, we are all victims of desire” but the delivery is playful and enthusiastic, even optimistic. It’s like he’s exploring dealing with old familiar feelings in a new way, and rather than focus on the burden his emphasis is on its release.

The choruses in this song (with the start/stop cadence and the vocal delivery) are some of the ‘grungiest’ moments in their entire catalog, and if this is appearing 18 years into their career long after they’ve left that sound behind (and on a record that is hardly a grunge revival) there’s something else going on here. If this song was 13 years older and he talked about ‘gonna see my friend , make it go away’ the board would be lit up with thoughts that this was about drugs or alcohol at best, suicide at worst’, especially with the dark, foreboding delivery in that first chorus (or the frantic, desperate intensity of the final chorus). Yet they’ve made clear in interviews (and the overall performance confirms this) that this is a song about confronting your problems—via leaning on actual friends, or music, or whatever—but it’s about finding strength in healthier places, rather than finding strength in your own misery. There’s a rejection of the nihilism that shot through so much of the grunge movement, and even the darkness of their own past. That they convey this by using that old sound, inverting its meaning in the process (turning it into a victory cry of sorts) is a pretty clever move. Gonna See My Friend takes what was always implicit even in Pearl Jam’s darkest moments and finally brings it to the fore.

The second verse picks up where the first left off, with the same playful exhausted energy (but it’s a satisfied exhaustion, the kind you have after an intense and meaningful experience that leaves you bone tired and totally charged at the same time) and the bright guitar parts offsetting the primary riff. Again the lyrics are seemingly dark, with lines about needing to get away, about seeking oblivion, as if the only way we can escape ourselves and our desires is through self-negation (the language of retiring, making things go away, snuffing candles), but the performance clearly rejects the initial, obvious gloss on the lyrics. If the overall tone of the song doesn’t make that clear it certainly comes across in the bridge, with its sloppy, reckless determination and statement of purpose. Unlike previous songs that dwelt in darkness and cried out for release, this time there’s someplace worth going to, someone or something capable of helping. What that thing is vaguely defined (left for the listener to fill in as they see fit, based on their own needs and experiences), but it’s a source of strength and permanence—a rock to ground ourselves on in a sea of uncertainty (a theme he’ll return to in Force of Nature).

This determination runs through the final verse, and while the last chorus returns to the traditional grunginess of the chorus but the exuberance of the outro, and Eddie’s playful little woot makes it clear that this song is in the end an emphatic rejection about the need to retreat to those old dark places when things are rough. We finally have someplace better to go.

Other songs in this series:

The Ultimate Pearl Jam Poster

Got a 50 foot wall that needs artwork?  Will the studs support 200lbs? has the poster for you!  The auction for the October 2009 Spectrum banner begins tomorrow and ends on Sunday, October 17th, at 9pm ET.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All That's Sacred, Episode #70

Episode #70 is now available.

You would think that you'd have heard just about every song in the Pearl Jam catalog over the last year and a half on ATS, having played some 577 tracks over 69 episodes. Well, you'd be mostly right. There are, however, a few that have eluded our weekly playlist for whatever reason and I thought it was high time we feature some of them on the podcast. ATS #70 digs deep and shines a light a few of these tunes that have been overlooked for far too long.

Then head to our forums to discuss it!


Hootenanny for a Healthy Gulf 9.2.10

This morning iTunes released Brad's iTunes Sessions.  It's an 8-cut album currently available for $3.99 (in the US, I don't know about abroad).  Like their current shows, the sessions pull from their four-album catalog pretty evenly.

1. Screen (Shame)

2. Rush Hour (Best Friends?)

3. Bless Me Father (Best Friends?)

4. Never Let Each Other Down (Welcome to Discovery Park)

5. Candles (Interiors)

6. Oh My Goodness (Best Friends?)

7. Buttercup (Shame)

8. Takin' It Easy (Welcome to Discovery Park)

Also, if you RSVP at the WXPN website, you can check out a Brad six-song live set this Friday (October 8th) at noon (presumably Eastern Time, as the station is in Philadelphia).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This All Encompassing Trip by Jason Leung

Pearl Jam blogger
, Jason Leung, is publishing a book chronicling his travels in his now iconic van as he followed Pearl Jam across Canada, the US, and Europe (did the van go to Europe?).  It will available October 31st, which is apropos given that his van kind of looks like a Halloween costume.  Make sure you check it out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Guided Tour of Binaural: The B-Sides and Outtakes

by stip

The B-Sides and Outtakes

I wanted to talk about these a bit before we actually finish Binaural. These were amongst the bands most prolific sessions (that we know about), and only the Ten sessions has produced as many songs perhaps good enough to include on the record itself. But Pearl Jam writes albums, not singles, and being a good song does not mean you necessarily make sense on a particular record.

I’m going to ignore the three instrumental pieces from Touring Band, since we’ve never heard complete songs. Likewise, while Anything in Between has a fun riff, it’s not clear that the band ever got around to finishing that one. Eddie’s vocals in particular feel like they’re placeholders. Had they finished it it does not really sound like it would fit in well on Binaural anyway.

So that leaves us with:

In the Moonlight
Sweet Lew
Puzzles and Games


Not including Sad was a mistake, and the only possible reason to justify leaving it off was the bullshit ‘we don’t want to release songs people would like’ garbage they were spouting back then. In three and a half minutes Sad manages to reproduce the coldness, the loneliness, the isolation, the loss of agency, the feeling of being trapped, and the uncertainty that runs through the rest of the record. That it manages to do all this in a fast song with a great riff is even more remarkable, as songs that make you want to move are empowering due to their speed if nothing else. This is also one of their most atmospheric fast songs they’ve ever written, and it’s impressive that they could duplicate the feelings in a song like Sleight of Hand, Nothing As It Seems, or Of The Girl in a hook laden pop song.

Sad could go anywhere on the record, and any song could be substituted for it. Personally I would have removed one of the first 3 tracks or Thin Air, but removing Thin Air makes an already dark album even darker.


Bracketing whether or not this song is any good [it’s not] it is far too playful and light for a record as weighted down as Binaural is. You could draw some thematic parallels between hitchhiker and the rest of the record but it is far too much of a mood killer to include

In The Moonlight

This is another song that, regardless of its overall quality of the song, doesn’t really belong on Binaural. It’s a bit too relaxed and casual and towards the end too rawk, and would stick out a bit too much on the album. I could see this song replacing evacuation, but Evacuation is doing stuff that’s more interesting lyrically. There’s a fairly interesting atmosphere too the song, but it’s too open. The atmosphere in songs like Of The Girl and NAIS are supposed to speak of closed off possibilities and lost chances. In The Moonlight tries to seduce—it speaks to the things that haven’t happened yet and that’s not really what Binaural is about.


Like Sad, I think Pearl Jam probably made a mistake keeping this one off. The song is about the things we’re taught that make us strangers to each other and ourselves, the ways we’re socialized into alienation. It makes perfect sense to include this in a conversation that includes songs like Grievance, Rival, Insignificance, and Sleight of Hand. The thing is the placement on a song like this matters. The last lyric “I’m a seed wondering why it grows” speaks to all sorts of future possibilities. It’s an optimistic thought set to fairly defiant music. You either need this song to begin the record (which means the rest of the album will largely consist of shooting it down, cataloging all forces that stand between the seed and the light it needs to grow) or end it (even after all this there’s still the chance to start over). It all depends on what kind of story you want to tell.


Like Education and Sad, Fatal fits really well, but I’m not sure it’s doing anything all that different. Does Fatal actually add to the record? Lyrically it’s hitting moments similar to Nothing As It Seems and God’s Dice, and none of these songs have lyrics that are appreciably any better or worse than the others. There’s an atmosphere of uncertain questing to it—it knows what questions to ask even if it has a reason to wonder whether or not it actually wants to receive the answers. It’s also fairly similar to Education (less ‘political’ and more ‘philosophical’ I suppose) but that didn’t make the record either. In the end I’d probably include it over a song like God’s Dice

Sweet Lew

This is really the emotional core of the record and I have no idea why they didn’t include it. Career sabotage I guess.

Puzzles and Games

As much as I like this song (and I think it’s a superior song to Light Years) Light Years is a better fit for the record itself. Puzzles and Games is a song about starting over or getting second chances, and that’s not really what Binaural is about. It would have made more sense on Yield.


I may be wrong about this, but I believe the ukulele songs that Ed wrote are all from this period, and if that’s the case Goodbye belongs on Binaural—certainly over Soon Forget, with its juvenile lyrics and uncomfortable sarcasm. This is simply one of the saddest songs they’ve ever written, and the aimlessness, the sense of loss and longing in the song, fit perfectly.

 So if I was going to retrack Binaural I think I’d want it to look a little something like this (I’m keeping it to 13 songs)

Light Years
Nothing As It Seems
Of The Girl
Sleight of Hand
Parting Ways
(hidden track)

So I'd remove Breakerfall, God's Dice, Thin Air, and Soon Forget for Education, Sad, Fatal, and Goodbye, and resequence the record this way. And I would have been thrilled to discover Breakerfall on Lost Dogs