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A Guided Tour of No Code: Around the Bend
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Author:  stip [ Sat June 22, 2013 7:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Smile

A lot of pearl jam’s music is about the balance between independence and interdependence--how much space do we need to make for other people in our lives, and how much do we need to surrender to them. When is love a shackle and when is it emancipatory? When we are forced to confront our own powerless in the larger world how much can we look to others to make up the difference? It is an important question, and pearl jam’s music has been asking it from the very beginning.

No Code spends a bit more time on the solitary inner journey than the shared outer one. Maybe this makes sense. Perhaps you need your own house in order before you can make space for guests. Having said that, Smile is one of the principle songs that comes back to this idea of self-worth being found with other people (Hail Hail and Around the Bend being the other two). And although it is a simple song, it is worth remembering that a simple presentation does not necessarily preclude complex ideas.

Just as there is a balance between head and heart in Hail Hail, Smile draws a balance between masculinity and femininity. The music is tough, muddy, crunchy, dusty, road weary (the harmonica was an inspired touch). It churns up the road it travels down. It swaggers. The piano gives it faint overtones of a grungy western bar

The vocals and the sentiment, on the other hand, are quite feminine. Eddie’s singing is gentle, and even the points where he screams the voice is still subdued, demure, almost like it’s not proper--a far cry from the ferocious abandon we’ll get on songs like Habit and Lukin.

The lyrics are pretty simple. Intimate personal reminiscences and longing for what is gone for now, the kind of celebratory heartache that comes from requited love that you expect to return. Relief at being able to confidently proclaim out loud that you love someone and not have to keep it inside you.

A complete human being is not someone who lives solely within themselves. We are social animals. And Smile comes at this in two directions. One is the simple declaration that we need the people we love, and that we are diminished in their absence (which is why we long for them). The other is the more subtle masculine/feminine interplay between the music and the vocals/lyrical imagery (like the hearts and swirls). A complete person has masculine and feminine qualities, and the separation into two distinct ideals (a social construction) does us a disservice as a person (recall the ‘are you woman enough to be my man’ lyric in hail hail). We need to learn to be strong and submissive, to think and to feel, to be dependent and independent, to be hard and to nurture. Some of this we can find by binding ourselves to someone else who adds the missing pieces to our puzzle, but some of this (in the spirit of No Code) can also be understood internally--a matter of learning how to strike the right sort of balance within yourself. And although it doesn’t come at this in masculine/feminine terms, that balance (and the failure to achieve it) is at the heart of Off He Goes.

Author:  Dr. Van Nostrand [ Sat June 22, 2013 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Smile is my favorite from no code, love everything about it

Author:  Blenheim Augustine [ Sat June 22, 2013 8:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.

Musically, I like how the verse chord progression just substitutes the relative minor of each of chorus chords, it is a classic trick to do that with the first chord but it was the first time I'd heard it pulled off like that and sound great. Stone's super stripped back bass grove is perfect and I like the nice low end riff that Jeff plays at the end.

Author:  Lament [ Sat June 22, 2013 8:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

They should close shows with Smile instead of Yellow Ledbetter on a far more regular basis.

Author:  Dr. Van Nostrand [ Sat June 22, 2013 8:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Lament wrote:
They should close shows with Smile instead of Yellow Ledbetter on a far more regular basis.

It closed my first show and just seemed perfect, i didn't follow setlists back then so i figured it was something they regularly did, i was surprised when i found out they didn't

Author:  Lament [ Sat June 22, 2013 9:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Dr. Van Nostrand wrote:
Lament wrote:
They should close shows with Smile instead of Yellow Ledbetter on a far more regular basis.

It closed my first show and just seemed perfect, i didn't follow setlists back then so i figured it was something they regularly did, i was surprised when i found out they didn't


It's the perfect blend of sweet, sad, fun, and simple. Was your first show the second night at Alpine Valley in 98?

Author:  Dr. Van Nostrand [ Sat June 22, 2013 9:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Lament wrote:
Dr. Van Nostrand wrote:
Lament wrote:
They should close shows with Smile instead of Yellow Ledbetter on a far more regular basis.

It closed my first show and just seemed perfect, i didn't follow setlists back then so i figured it was something they regularly did, i was surprised when i found out they didn't


It's the perfect blend of sweet, sad, fun, and simple. Was your first show the second night at Alpine Valley in 98?

No, i didn't make it to my first show until greensboro nc in 00

Author:  Kevin Davis [ Sat June 22, 2013 9:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

One of the very few Pearl Jam songs that I am never not in the mood for.

Author:  stip [ Sat June 22, 2013 9:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Blenheim Augustine wrote:
I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.


I miss you is a pretty simple sentiment but there is a lot underneath it, especially when you set the words to music.

Author:  Dr. Van Nostrand [ Sat June 22, 2013 10:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Kevin Davis wrote:
One of the very few Pearl Jam songs that I am never not in the mood for.

Very true for me too, always good and one i am always happy to hear come up on shuffle.
I think im gonna have to give it a listen when we run out in a few minutes

Author:  VinylGuy [ Sat June 22, 2013 11:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Smile is a weird song for sure...i really like the playfulness of it. As the lyrics, i dont think they are more than what it seems; and that simplicity makes the song stronger.

I remember thinking Smile sounded a lot like some Neil Young song...and yeah, they could close with Smile sometime. Its perfect for that.

Author:  warehouse [ Sat June 22, 2013 11:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Blenheim Augustine wrote:
I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.

u dont hear the AGENCY in the lyrics?

Author:  LetMeSleep [ Sat June 22, 2013 11:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

warehouse wrote:
Blenheim Augustine wrote:
I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.

u dont hear the AGENCY in the lyrics?

I miss you already
I miss you, Agency

Author:  stip [ Mon June 24, 2013 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Off He Goes

Off He Goes

On the surface Off He goes and Who You Are are treading similar ground. Who You Are is a song about accepting yourself for who you are and doesn’t move far beyond that point. Off He Goes, however, which offers us a window into a far more concrete internal debate (externalized through two characters), is not a song about accepting yourself. Instead it is a song about trying to make peace, which implies a current state of war. The song is trying to win a tenuous ceasefire. In that respect, Off He Goes may be closer to In My Tree than Who You Are. Both songs are trying to carve out the space to make self-development possible. And while both are, in certain ways, traveling songs, they are nevertheless grounded in particular places that the subject doesn’t want to remain in for much longer. And so both are uncertain songs, despite the surface confidence--although in My Tree is the more successful of the two in terms of internal resolution.

Musically Off he Goes is beautiful--rich, deep, vibrant, full of weary dignity. But there is also something almost pristine about it. In an odd way the song moves beyond intimacy into something artificial. Off He Goes, more than any other song on No Code, feels like you are watching a character rather than experiencing what they are experiencing. Or, maybe better, the other songs invite you on stage, and Off He Goes asks you to remain in the audience. This is one of the only songs in the catalog without any rough edges or imperfections--there’s nothing here to make this real. Beautiful, but artificial. Crafted. It also (in conjunction with some heavy handed writing) gives the song a narcissistic at worst, self indulgent at best, feel that the rest of the record lacks (this may be because I treat this song as being about coming to grips with being famous, which isn’t very interesting at this point--Vitalogy exhausts this subject).

It may make sense that the music puts up this subtle barrier (although I am sharing it, this is not really for you), since in many ways the lyrics create a space you are asked to observe, rather than participate. We watch our characters from a distance. We are told what to think. We are spectators, rather than actors.

So what are we watching? Off He Goes is a confrontation between the subject and a personification of elements of his personality that need to be more fully integrated into a stable self (wanderlust, passion, judgment, embattlement) Where this confrontation happens is unclear. I picture a living room, late at night, warm, firelit, a room surrounded by pictures, tangible memories. There is a rural, wood paneling feel to the place, presumably coming from the music. The subject is lost in memories, musings, bittersweet regrets. There is someone he cares deeply about who can’t stop running from (or fighting--probably both) the world around them. They are too afraid of stopping to slow down for very long, too busy denying the world to live in it. The imagery of the song is dominated once again (like who you are) by the language of travel and destination. And he has long been showing signs of fatigue and exhaustion. The wear and tear of living in opposition to the world, rather than embracing it. Still, there is a sense that the traveler wants to stop. He wants to come home. He wants to be at peace. The perfectly unkept hope.

And for at least a little while there is a sense he may get there. He comes home. He is reunited with the singer. They are together, whole, and there is the hope that no matter how complex and difficult our context becomes (the surrounding buillshit) the core of that relationship is soft enough to surrender and strong enough to endure.

It is a short lived victory, however. It is an aspirational peace, glimpsed, even grasped, but only for a fleeting moment. The desire to run, the pull of the road, the fear of stopping, the need to confront, the longing for escape. It is all too strong. And so the song ends where it begins. There is a moment of completeness that justifies holding on to hope, but the battle isn’t over. Peace isn’t there. At least not yet.

And so Off He Goes ends on a down note and kicks off a dark 4 song run that marks the low point on No Code’s spiritual journey, a block of songs where we fail to rise above our imperfections the way we do in the records opening run. Unfortunately, these are also some of the weaker songs on the record (with one very notable exception), and when the record itself tries to come full circle the material that is left may not be strong enough to do it.

Author:  Blenheim Augustine [ Tue June 25, 2013 12:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

stip wrote:
Blenheim Augustine wrote:
I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.


I miss you is a pretty simple sentiment but there is a lot underneath it, especially when you set the words to music.


It's more that the analysis just reads as if it is your thoughts on things rather than anything to do with the song Smile by Pearl Jam - they are always well written and constructed but if you took out the song name I'm not sure I'd always guess the song. But I appreciate that people are going to listen to things differently and have different perspectives, which is why I like these threads and read them. But for me I'm more likely to think that Go is about a shitty car rather than an allegory for man's relationship with the earth.

Author:  Blenheim Augustine [ Tue June 25, 2013 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Off He Goes

Off He Goes is the musical representation of Eddie's Johari Window.

Author:  William Bloke [ Tue June 25, 2013 1:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Off He Goes

Fun Fact: Off He Goes is my mobile ringtone.

Author:  stip [ Tue June 25, 2013 2:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Smile

Blenheim Augustine wrote:
stip wrote:
Blenheim Augustine wrote:
I always struggle to relate to these analyses. There's basically four sentences in the song. For me it's just stripping everything back to most simple things in life. What makes you smile and the people you miss when they're not around. The chorus vocal is great.


I miss you is a pretty simple sentiment but there is a lot underneath it, especially when you set the words to music.


It's more that the analysis just reads as if it is your thoughts on things rather than anything to do with the song Smile by Pearl Jam - they are always well written and constructed but if you took out the song name I'm not sure I'd always guess the song. But I appreciate that people are going to listen to things differently and have different perspectives, which is why I like these threads and read them. But for me I'm more likely to think that Go is about a shitty car rather than an allegory for man's relationship with the earth.


that'd be an interesting test (interesting to me anyway)

And I agree with you to a point. In a lot of ways these are little essays inspired by the music. It's what I think these songs are about, at their heart, but they are obviously going much deeper than the songs themselves usually do. Still, I think most of what I talk about in these write ups is implied in the songs, even if not always explicitly stated (Smile is maybe the most extreme example of this since it is such a bare bones song--at least lyrically)

Author:  stip [ Tue June 25, 2013 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Off He Goes

Blenheim Augustine wrote:
Off He Goes is the musical representation of Eddie's Johari Window.


i had to look that up.

Author:  durdencommatyler [ Tue June 25, 2013 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Guided Tour of No Code: Off He Goes

stip wrote:
Blenheim Augustine wrote:
Off He Goes is the musical representation of Eddie's Johari Window.


i had to look that up.

And....

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