Friday, August 9, 2013

A Guided Tour of No Code: Red Mosqutio

[A Guided Tour of No Code]
In many ways Red Mosquito serves as the bridge track between Vitalogy and No Code, looking to reprise the embattled spiritual crisis of the former that the later attempts to resolve. It is a song about being trapped, slowly drained, and powerless to stop it. What’s worse is the subtle implication that this is also all somehow your fault (something that Present Tense will attempt to put to rest). But underneath all this the song pleads for a guide--someone to show the subject a way out. In that respect the song within the album (written before most of it) is pining for the album itself. 

The title and principle image of the song is inspired--one of their best. A mosquito is a parasite. It stalks you. It drains your blood (and a red mosquito will have fed, and red is the color of the devil). The bite itches, and scratching it will drive you mad. It can kill you. Swat one and another takes its place. And for all that it is a small thing, practically invisible--revealing its presence through a high pitched buzzing that whispers in your ear. 

Musically this song is a masterpiece, a cacophonous but somehow melodic s wall of fuzzy guitars (with Mike’s leads buzzing loudly in your ear--the way that a mosquito’s whine blots out all other noise when you’re being harassed by it) occasionally kept at bay by what would be a gentle, even peaceful melody if not for the fact that Mike’s mosquito keeps flitting in and out of it. 

Even though the song gives license for Eddie to really let loose he plays this one restrained--like someone resigned to their fate but whose wounds are still raw enough to feel bitter and indignant (especially the points where Eddie is in his higher register). There is also a sense that he’s pleading for an audience--urging the listener not to make the same mistakes he did--to ensure others know what he knows before it’s too late for them. Before they are bitten. It’s too late for him, but maybe he can save someone else. 

Lyrically this is one of the best songs on the album, probably second only to hail hail. The song is in part about temptation, and being stuck (the forced cessation of movement) by it--a ‘be careful what you wish for’ song. We begin with the singer trapped in a room, staring outside, taunted by the visible freedom that remains closed to him. He pines for something just out of reach, only vaguely aware of the passage of time, his thoughts elsewhere.

He’s not alone--the red mosquito is trapped in there with him. It embodies temptation, or better, the price of it--the lingering costs of getting what you want and discovering that it isn’t really what you want. It’s not that the mosquito is literally the devil. The devil reference is intended instead designed to call up the image of the Faustian bargain. You can have your heart’s desire now, but payment is fast coming due. The entire second verse is full of stalker imagery (a nice segue into Lukin, perhaps)--climbing up hills (already difficult) without any traction. Barely ahead of the inevitable reckoning and slowly being bled. Unable to go back and change things (recall that he’s trapped where he is---locked in his room or incapable of running fast enough/far enough).

Still, despite the presence of the third party tormentor here, one is left with the sense that really the person torturing the singer, the person bleeding him dry, may be himself. His own regrets over poor choices and past decisions that it is seemingly too late to change. If he knew now what I knew then (a line he’ll come back to in I’m Open) things could have been different (a sentiment reprised from Hard to Imagine--he’s been playing with this idea for a while). Payment is due, but it is something he may owe to himself, and if he figures out a way to let go, to forgive himself (he could not have known then what he knows now, and so that’s not a grudge that makes sense to carry--and even if he could have, there’s still no reason not to let go of it--the person who pays the price for your regrets is you) he can move forward. He can leave. Present Tense will pick up where this leaves off, but before we can get there we have to go through Lukin.

Red Mosquito
Present Tense
I'm Open
Around the Bend

No Code 
Riot Act 
Pearl Jam