On the surface it as cute, jaunty little jam, seemingly thrown off. But Ed’s call for privacy, muted the entire time, becomes increasingly desperate until this turns into an urgent claustrophobic call for help. The casual air of the music obscures the real sense that the walls are closing in
The liner notes for pry, to are particularly telling in this regard.
In this disease the patient, in time of sleep, imagines he feels an uncommon oppression or weight about his breast or stomach, which he can by no means shake off. He groans, and sometimes cries out though oftener he attempts to speak in vain. Sometimes he imagines himself engaged with an enemy and, in danger of being killed, attempts to run away, but finds he cannot. Sometimes he fancies himself in a house that is on fire, or that he is in danger of being drowned in a river. He often thinks he is falling over a precipice, and the dread of being dashed to pieces suddenly awakens him.
So the call for privacy, for peace and space to clear your head, is speaking to a powerful sense of dread, not just the whining of a famous cry baby. This song helps establish the frame of mind and mood for Immortality, at the climax of the record.
And then of course there is the ‘play pry,to backwards moment, where you can hear Eddie chanting something along the lines of ‘Peter Townsend how you saved my life.’ The fact that this message is hidden is significant. Music, once an immediate form of escape and release, is perverted, taken from him, its healing properties now buried, hidden, difficult to extract
Pry, To is one of the reasons why I have some issues with Whipping’s placement on the record. There is some need to relieve the tension from the Tremor Christ/Nothingman run of songs, but the strides that are made are immediately lost in Pry, to. It cheapens them in a way, especially since Pry, to is such a short piece and it moves immediately into Corduroy. Plus the segue from Nothingman’s sad silence into Pry, To works well musically, and taking out whipping makes Corduroy, the centerpiece and probably the most important song on the record, even more cathartic as it comes without the temporary reprieve granted from Whipping. However, the A Side/B Side division, which does not come up on CD, could be a factor here. It's possible they wanted to end the A-side on a note of defiance, with Pry, to serving as more of a reprise, a 'previously on Vitalogy' moment before Corduroy.
So Pry, to is the first of the ‘filler tracks’. Is that a fair label? I don’t think so—certainly not here at any rate. Pry, to never makes any of my mixes—but I think it is pretty clear that it plays an important role in ratcheting up the tension before Corduroy, a reminder of what is at stake that makes its message of resistance all the more powerful.