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 Post subject: A Guided Tour of Yield
PostPosted: Fri December 28, 2012 12:32 pm 
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Digster wrote:

A Guided Tour of Yield

So, first of all, thanks to stip for helping me get this whole thing together. Reading through the past album threads, there was so much I had never even come close to considering about hidden themes, lyrics, etc. from all the posters. Reading the previous album threads were also really helpful in terms of figuring out how to write this kind of thing, cause I had never done anything like it before. I’ll also warn everyone that I love this album, and can tend to ramble about it at times, so if it goes on too long, I’m sorry. Hopefully some semblance of sense finds its way through. I’m going to try to do a song every few days. Hopefully some good discussion happens.

So, here goes nothing....

One thing I’ll mention; I have read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and it’s clear that Pearl Jam, and particularly Eddie took thematic inspiration from it. But only having read it once, I don’t feel familiar enough with it to base all of my thoughts regarding this album on it. Also, considering I know that there are quite a few people on the board much more well-versed with Quinn’s stuff than I am, I’ll leave most of the heavy lifting in regards to the connections to them.

Following the events of 1994, when Pearl Jam took an unprecedented step back from the spotlight, they continued their streak with No Code, a willfully independent album that despite opening at number one was not considered a massive commercial success in comparison to their previous albums. While I wasn’t in the fan base at the time, I can only imagine the types of discussions that must have gone on as news about Yield was trickling out. First of all, there's the title itself; people maybe viewed it as a statement of surrender to Ticketmaster, to the music industry, to the entire struggle between commerce and idealism that had been documented extraordinarily on Vitalogy. Of course, it’s not that simple; Yield in no way signaled a retreat from who Pearl Jam was as a band or individuals. I listen to it and hear no hint that they sacrificed their desired direction as a panic move in response to No Code’s mixed reception. Also, while there is certainly truth to the idea that the title pertains to the band’s attitudes, I think it would diminish the album if people thought it was only about Pearl Jam’s professional trials. There’s a lot more going on here.

Nevertheless, it is one of the band’s most immediately accessible albums. Ten may have been a sales juggernaut, but despite the fact that it was a massive success, it didn’t exactly scream commercial viability at the time it was released; it’s songs and solos went on too long, and you couldn’t even hear what the lead singer was saying part of the time. Pearl Jam had the fortune of both being in Seattle, where the music industry and press had aimed its’ sights, and had crafted a sound that despite it’s uncommercial nature appealed to a huge potential (and relatively untapped) fan base. Yield relies less on studio experimentation than the albums that precede and follow it (although it’s certainly there). What do people take from Yield? The gorgeous melodies; the warm-sounding guitars. The optimism. (if Backspacer’s emphasis on hooks and hope have any predecessor in the PJ catalog, it’s to be found on this album).

A lot of people have questioned if Yield could be considered a concept album. I’d say that it depends on the definition. If you define a concept album solely as being something like Quadrophenia, where a story is (more or less) coherently told, then certainly not. However, Yield is by no means a grab-bag of themes in the way that Binaural was. Yield is not necessarily a narrative, but it is like examining a painting from many different angles and describing what you see. The descriptions will differ but the identical foundation remains, and when you are done the painting makes far more sense than the individual analyses would have led you to believe. I’ll go further into this in the individual song descriptions, but I think this metaphor also explains why (for this album at least) it was essential for different lyrical voices to enter the fold. The examination of the themes from different angles demands different viewpoints. Obviously, Eddie is a talented enough writer to put himself in different situations and characters, but when I listen to the songs not written by Eddie on this album, songs that are essential to conveying the themes, I wonder if he would have decided to go in those directions. I will try to make the argument that, at least in the case of this album, they made the right decision in enabling Jeff and Stone to pen lyrics and to put those lyrics on the album.

There are two stories unfolding in Yield. One is a fantastic story of how a band reacts to pressures from both commercialism and expectations, most of them not of its’ own making, and how a band can healthily progress and continue to uphold their integrity and ideals when confronted with a system that can make getting away clean an impossibility. It ends in triumph, the band emerging not unscathed but victorious, with a devoted fanbase and ther idealism intact.

The larger story at work here is an examination of all the different means of coping with the realities of a world that can be a soul-crushing experience at times, without passing judgment on (almost) any of those methods. In addition to being one of the most optimistic albums in their catalog, Yield is also arguably the most inclusive and least judgmental. If you consider the songs on Yield the narrators’ means of coping, then you have songs that propose political and/or social engagement (Brain of J, Given To Fly), outright escape (In Hiding), romantic love (Wishlist), comfort in material goods (MFC), spirituality (Low Light), and cynicism (No Way, parts of Faithfull). Take the last example, where the narrators in the song respond with cynicism and even sarcasm. There’s no self-righteousness present in either the lyric or in Eddie‘s vocal. They view it, on this album, as a legitimate method of dealing. It was only five years between Glorified G and the first blast of Yield, and besides Do The Evolution, the righteous attitude that colors the former song simply does not exist on this album.

Basically, I feel Yield’s “statement” is this; it’s okay to escape, or to engage politically, or to drive a fast car into the sunset, or commit yourself to a relationship. As long as you’re not part of the problem, even if you’re someone the band might not necessarily get along or agree with, no one’s judgments of you have worth. In a world as confusing, violent and depressing as this one can be sometimes, people will have many different ways of making sense of the impossible horrors and tiny tragedies they see in their own lives, on the news, etc. People respond to pain with different methods, and Pearl Jam is telling us that they now understand that most of those methods are legitimate. So follow your own calling. It’s no crime to escape. To engage. To love. Even to hide. I’m going to expand on that, but that’s what I hear when I hear Yield.

I’ll try to have Brain of J up later tonight or tomorrow. Hope you guys enjoy reading it cause I've enjoyed writing it so far, and I look forward to talking more about Yield.

BRAIN OF J

So where else to start but with the first sound you hear from Yield; Pearl Jam fucking up. I’m thinking about how this album starts in comparison to the introductions of previous albums. There was the atmospheric noodling of Master/Slave on Ten, the ominous beginnings to Vs. and Vitalogy, and the tentative guitar scrapes that began “Sometimes” on No Code. All of these beginnings manage to be indicative of the moods of the albums that followed them. So how does Yield begin? With a countoff going awry. I don’t think the meaning taken from this is that Yield is meant to be a lightweight album, but nevertheless it’s important to note the changes that enabled the band to open their fifth studio album, their next grand artistic statement, with a bit of comedy.

Of all the songs on the album, Brain Of J does seem distinct from the others, both in terms of sound (for the most part), and theme (certainly). The only other song that comes close to spewing the same amount of vitriol as Eddie does here is Do The Evolution, and even that’s not a song meant to be taken at face value. This is the only time on this record where the Pearl Jam that offered righteous anger in spades, illuistrated by songs like Why Go, Blood, Whipping, Habit, Lukin and others will show its’ face. Considering the many songs they had written in this manner prior to Yield, that’s a somewhat significant break from the past, and therefore I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that they decided to place it at the start of the album.

The first verse begins with a conspiracy theory, the lost brain of JFK symbolizing the misdeeds and lies that governments (presumably the U.S. government) have sold to the people under its’ ward and direction. Eddie continues by assuring his listeners that despite the fact that his claims are unbelievable, they are not a lie.

The first sign that something is different this time around comes with the chorus…

“The whole world will be different soon. The whole world will be relieved.”

So many Pearl Jam songs before this one find the thrust and weight of their anthemic choruses in the conflict of the difficult situation before the narrator. Rearviewmirror, Alive, and others all affirm the need for the struggle and attempt to console the narrator (or listener) in the journey they face (or at least, that’s how Alive came to be heard, regardless of the original intent of the lyric). Here, there is a struggle that is ongoing between good and evil, and the battle is by no means won, but according to Eddie the outcome is already decided. I can’t remember a song before this one (at least in the style of Brain of J) that was not only committed to the worth of the struggle being described, but was already so certain of an inevitable positive conclusion. Eddie’s outlook on this album, even on the song most overtly reminiscent of their earlier raveups, is already different. During Brain of J, he’s invested in the fight ahead of him, but he’s less tortured because he knows he’ll eventually emerge victorious.

The second verse reverts back to contempt and righteous anger, further describing the antagonists and what they have done to their populations. The chorus returns, and afterwards the defiance and optimism that is such a vital part of the chorus reveals itself again in the bridge, when Eddie tells us about the name he was given, now the one he is letting go. In a sense, if one were to think of Brain of J as a narrative, the verse is describing the past atrocities of the powers that be, the chorus describes the future, and the solitude of the bridge exists in the present, where the narrator makes the fateful decision that will lead to the chorus becoming a reality. The act of letting the name go in the bridge also signifies what will occur throughout the course of the album. During Yield, Eddie will shed the skin that others have placed upon him. The band will shed its’ skin of expectations and pre-conceptions, both exterior and interior. And hopefully, and just as importantly, the listener will do the same, and realize that it is OK for him or her to be, simply, themselves. The hopeful chorus of “Who You Are” extended, sung, questioned, disbelieved and eventually re-affirmed throughout the course of an album.

Despite the optimistic look forward that defines the chorus, the fact remains that this song stands a bit apart from the others that follow. Of all the songs, could any other have opened the album? Any later in the album and the rage that this song stews in would stick out like a sore thumb. The fact that it is reminiscent of their earlier music works in its’ favor; it acts as a necessary bridge for the distinct shifts in viewpoint and approach that are going to come, and this is the reason it is first on the album. Many albums have an opening song that intends to define the parameters and goals of the songs that follow(think “Thunder Road” or “Baba O’Riley”). Pearl Jam make an interesting decision here, choosing the song most reminiscent of their earlier work to state the claim that they have made as significant a progression as they did from Vs. to Vitalogy or Vitalogy to No Code.

Even the ending of the song attempts to erect a barrier between this song and the ones that followed. The indescribable sound after the last chord, what I call the “sonic boom” because I just don’t know what to call it ends the tune in as definitive a manner as possible. In some ways, this is the hardest song to discuss in regards to the overall themes playing out throughout Yield, because it’s role in the discussion that takes place throughout the album (and I realized when writing this section that one of the most accurate ways to view Yield for me is to view it as a “discussion”) is to act as an antithesis to that theme. It works like the prologue of a novel, by relaying the information necessary to understand what has already happened while teasing and hinting at what will occur. Brain Of J tells us where Pearl Jam has been and where it is going, and with the opening drum hits of “Faithfull”, Pearl Jam gets to telling us where they are.

FAITHFULL

A steady Irons beat, and we‘re off. “Faithfull” is similar to “Brain Of J” in several ways that separate both tunes from the majority of the songs on the Yield albums. Look at the songs that follow “Faithfull” for a moment; viewing them as a conversation on the various journeys available to both the band and humanity, the majority of them stress a “commitment to” something, whether it’s a romantic partner, the feeling of riding the car into the sunset, and the trials and triumphs of a temporary enforced separation from the world. “Brain Of J”, however, finds it’s strength and purpose in the “rejection of” something (in the case of that song, the rejection of the oppression a government has forced upon its’ people). Eddie drops the name he’s been given, and whether you think he’s committing to change the world or going to hide away from it, no one can deny that this is a defiant act, and he refuses to accept the legitimacy of the powers that be. He commits to the same action here, although the song has a far different antagonist.

I’ve always viewed “Faithfull” as a brave song, and not solely because it’s a song that describes athiesm. The stance of athiesm is often defined in passive terms; critics view it as a belief in nothing, so it can only be understood as the negative reaction to a positive belief in a creator. This grants an athiest no agency, no possibility for pride in his decisions or choices. It becomes a passive refusal of an option, as opposed to a viable option in its’ own right. Eddie frames the choice here as a choice to commit to something, as opposed to athiesm simply being a form of rejection. It is an active, positive decision.

If that sounds like I just completely contradicted the previous paragraph, I did in a sense. “Faithfull” is still a song that describes a commitment to an ideal. It’s just that both “Brain Of J” and “Faithfull” are the only songs on the album that take a significant amount of time to describe what exactly it is that is being rejected (I.e singling out specific institutions, forms of belief, etc. as the subject of the narrator‘s disapproval).

The first verse opens with a startling piece of imagery, Eddie noting that it’s “rare to come upon a bridge that has not been around or been stepped on.” The second half of the verse further explains the reasoning behind the action the narrator is about to take. Whatever “notions” are encased in our pleas to the Almighty are inconsequential, because the details are irrelevant. It is all white noise to our Father, with no prayers escaping his disinterest in our plights. Seeing the futility in screaming at the heavens for answers when it only serves to provide consternation and confusion, the narrator takes the decisive action and stops the conversation. I still believe, despite the fact that God is made a character in the song (“the man upstairs”), that the narrator discontinues his pleas because he believes that there is no man upstairs, but I don’t think the analysis of the song suffers whether you believe he thinks there is no God or an uncaring God.

Notice how the music increases in volume and intensity once Eddie proclaims that he is “through with screaming.” The change suggests that despite the fact that Eddie will become quiet, this rejection is actually a very loud response. If you define the act of screaming as an expression of unbridled emotion or sensation , the rise in temperature after that line suggests that his decision to reject God is the real outburst.

The “echoes” of the pre-chorus are the multitude of prayers being offered by God’s children to a God that has seemingly not answered. What does an echo do? It reverberates and returns one’s own speech back towards them. When I hear Eddie describe the “echoes that nobody hears” I’m reminded of screaming in a massive, empty room, with only your own bellowing to serve as your companion. What is doubly difficult about this notion is that those who pray do not seem to hear their own echoes coming back at them; they do not acknowledge that their prayers go unanswered, and are therefore caught in an endless loop (“now they’ve got you in line”, indeed).

Although some consider the chorus uninspired, I think the first repetition of it is quite clever, in addition to being a fantastic sing-along. It’s certainly sarcastic in tone, Eddie personifying those who do not hear the echoes of their unanswered prayers and continue to give up their lives and even thought processes to a concept that does not return the favor of needed counsel. The fact that it’s such a sing-along reinforces the ease of belief. The band even bring the point home in the vocal (“it goes LIKE THIS”). I don’t recall a PJ song before this when they so purposefully framed a chorus as a ‘pop hook’. When an arena sings that in unison, they engage in an act of indoctrination, just like those who do not hear the echoes. Eddie likely considers a concert a more healthy example of community, but it still does not change the definition. It shows how easy it is to succumb to this mode of living, in facets of life beyond the reaches of the church.

A great bridge and a re-iteration of the chorus. I’d agree with those who are thinking that, thus far, “Faithfull” is a pretty dire song. The narrator has taken the positive action of removing himself from the shackles of such a belief, but there are still many who have been left behind. What is there to say to them? The last verse acts as a coda, with the first few lines expounding on the arguments that led him to this point. The belief system that revolves around the notion of a God functions as “a box of fear” that silences the voice inside all of us that advocates independence, self-reliance, and a journey with passions of our own choosing. However, the last few lines say so much with so little. The narrator suggests that he has found his belief system in the joy and mystery of a romantic relationship, and he promises to be “faithful” to his partner so the union perseveres. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that Eddie uses the exact same word to describe his bond with his partner as he did to question the religious during the chorus. The use of the same word expresses a commonality between himself and “the flock” that had not yet appeared in the song. While some read the phrase “me you, you me, it’s all related” as being between the narrator and his partner, I hear it as being between the narrator and those who do not hear the echo of their prayers. Despite the tangibility of love, faith and belief are still required to keep it afloat, for love, although it can be expressed physically, is not in and of itself physical. It requires faith in your partner to be honest about their intentions towards you. It requires faith in yourself that you can overcome challenges that may hinder your union. So much of love requires a removal from reason similar to what “the flock“ must engage in to keep their belief system intact. I don’t think by the end of the song that the narrator views himself as being like that flock, but he sees similarities that remove the judgment inherent in his earlier diatribes. Instead of mocking the religious, he expresses sadness that the box of fear drowns out their inner voices. There is empathy and commonality whereas there was little, if any, earlier. Through this lens you can even view the second repetition of the chorus as a less cynical posture. It is the narrator yielding to the realization that we are all faithful in our own ways, and therefore our thought processes do not divide as violently as we may have thought.

As I write about it, I no longer think “Brain of J” is the transition piece into Yield. I think many of the posters such as durdencommatyler were right about it being a bit more dire and negative. I think it still works as a prologue, but the real transition into the heart of Yield happens during “Faithfull.” Cynicism gives way to finding common ground. Shouting at the rails gives way to finding your own path, trying to find a way to better the world while (and by) bettering yourself. Anger leads to empathy. The judgments that were prevalent in “Brain Of J” and the early section of “Faithfull” will not appear on the album again, except for a brief moment in “Given To Fly.” This is not to say that Yield is a “happy” album from here on out, but it does ease up significantly on the contempt (for those of you ask, “what about ‘Evolution’, I agree, in a sense; I’ll write about it when I get there, but I do view the anger in that song as being different then what’s happening in Brain of J and here).

Something I noticed about the music; “Faithfull” strikes me as being the song that is most reminiscent of the riffing style employed on Ten and Vs. (which is really interesting, considering that most of those were Stone compositions, and this is a McCready track). Although I do play guitar, my ability to express myself coherently on these kinds of things is extremely limited. When I hear the riffs on the earlier albums, there’s a fluidity to them, consistently moving despite the fact that there are no abrupt shifts. I don’t say this to the detriment of the later, Eddie-on-guitar dominated work; I think many of those songs would not work as well without the emphasis on power and open chords and flirtations with abrasiveness that he brought to the table. However, when the pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge of “Faithfull” take flight (especially the bridge), I’m reminded of the guitar interplay on songs like “Even Flow” and it had been a while since that dynamic of the band had been explored on record.

NO WAY

We now come to Stone’s first contribution to Yield, and the first song on the album with lyrics not written by Vedder. It’s important that these songs contribute to the overall arc of Yield as one of the constant arguments against it being a thematically connected album is that there are different lyrical voices involved. As I mentioned in my intro post, Eddie is an incredibly talented and capable writer who often places himself in the shoes of characters different from himself. However, he tends to write typically sympathetic portrayals; even if they are characters different than himself, they are usually expressing emotions or opinions similar to the opinions expressed in other songs that seem to stem from a more autobiographical viewpoint. When Eddie attempts to write from a point of view far different from his own, particularly one he may strenuously disapprove of, he does not tend to write it ‘straight’ but approaches it with a degree of cynicism or sarcasm, as if he is uncomfortable with writing from that viewpoint on the off chance someone may identify the values illustrated in these songs as being Eddie’s own values (think Glorified G or Do The Evolution). The character of “No Way” is not a character as contemptuous as the narrator in those lyrics, but I’d say this is one of the characters most separate from all those that had come before. The song lacks the typical empathy and earnestness of a Vedder-penned lyric. If this was a thematic album from the point of view of a single narrator’s trials and journeys (ala Vitalogy), such a shift in personality might lead to incoherence. Since I consider Yield to be less like a narrative (even in the loosest possible terms) and more like a conversation, it has it’s necessary place and enhances the coherence of the complete work.

It’s also notable to consider how the album begins in regards to the songwriting dynamics. One of the most significant changes between No Code and Yield was a more ‘democratic’ approach to the songwriting. Think of how this album begins, with three tunes with the music penned by Mike McCready and one tune with lyrics and music by Stone Gossard. As far as I know, Mike had never solely penned any music for the band before, and to have three of them lead off the album, along with a song that features lyrics by someone other than Eddie, is a small statement in its’ own right.

“No Way” begins by marking itself as “a token of my openness;” since the narrator feels he needs to clarify is upcoming ‘openness’, it’s fair to assume that this kind of vulnerability is a rare occurrence when it comes to his personality. As I said, the song has a sarcastic bent; the narrator does strike me as being a bit of a smartass (something that I’m sure is influenced by the lanky feel of the music), but when the smartass opens up to you, it’s that much more of a revelation. The narrator’s need to “not disappear” strikes me as meaning that he still does have the desire to make a difference, to make his mark despite the upcoming chorus. As the second verse will clarify further, he has come to the conclusion that his current pursuit will render him invisible in both history and in his own life. The second half of the first verse sets the moment, like moments in the earlier songs, as the moment of clarity; “I found my mind too clear” serves the same function as the bridge in Brain of J or “I’m through with screaming” in Faithfull. It is the shift in perception that will define what follows.

I love the second verse in this song. The narrator discusses how his acts of engagement (I‘d go as far to say that it had become his profession as well) turned from passion into muscle movement and rote terminology, as his commitment was drained from him. Maybe this character had wanted to depart from this way of life for a significant period of time, but had no idea what the next step could be. The knowledge he has in his area of expertise is signified by the static in his attic (the attic being the mind, a striking and somewhat sobering image for such a powerful tool). The “static” could be global warming statistics, or an in-depth knowledge with guitar pedals, or the latest count on dead U.S. soldiers in a foreign war. All this ‘stuff’ for lack of a better term is floating around the narrator’s head, still a vital part of him, and even can be employed at will for arguments, rebuttals, and other acts of engagement, but these facts and figures that for so long defined this individual’s life no longer resonate. He then notes that the static shoots down his sciatic nerve, a nerve that runs from your lower back all the way to your feet. It is the largest nerve found in the entire human body. The entire sentiment suggests the feeling of someone going through the motions. “The ocean of platitudes” is the constant give-and-take, the glad-handing and small talk that such a job or passion would typically entail. Many pursuits over time will develop into a sapping loop, a Groundhog’s Day-esque nightmare that demands the same thing of you, day in and day out, to achieve some distant objective that does not seem to approach fruition any quicker. Such constant repetition can understandably diminish a passion previously exhibited by anyone, and this narrator is no different. He’s worked for an unspecified amount of time trying to achieve this unstated objective, but he’s seen how the sausage is made.

“Longitudes and latitudes” is an interesting choice here. Here, we address terminology, small words for big situations that ultimately leave the narrator disenchanted. They conjure thoughts of direction and navigation, but when placed in the context of the song (particularly the following line), I immediately think of misdirection, a fruitless course set for an objective that no longer seems so clear or desirable. The final nail on the coffin is “it’s so absurd.” The static that has for so long consumed his life and the tiny victories and tragedies that used to be everything to him and now leave him cold; it’s absurd. There’s no need to continuously live a futile life due to a desire to achieve this unspoken objective, however noble it may be. There has to be another way to commit yourself to a better world while achieving satisfaction and peace of mind.

Thus far, like “Faithfull” and “Brain Of J”, “No Way” exists primarily as a “rejection of” song. Whereas in those earlier songs, the narrator rejected the legitimacy of his government and the spiritual sustenance of belief in God, here the narrator rejects the shackles and stereotypes of a struggle for social change (finding illegitimacy in the fight against a dominant institution as opposed to solely illegitimacy in the institution itself). I was wrong in my “Faithfull” post when I noted that that song would see the last of the need on Yield to specify what was being rejected, for it happens here as well. And it’s just as important, because it notes that it is not uncommon or unthinkable to find problems in the fight against the status quo, and not only in the status quo itself.

So we understand what is being rejected; what is being accepted? Yield is never, ever a disengagement from everything (even in songs like In Hiding and All Those Yesterdays, which I’ll get to). Yield suggests a change in approach and methodology, a new lens through which to live life. The entire album stresses the need for a wide definition of what it means to “make a difference”, for if the definition is narrow, everyone’s life experience must be embarked upon with a very conservative set of guidelines to achieve meaning. In the pre-chorus, “No Way” reveals itself not as a song of escape, but as a song which creates a foundation upon a different type of engagement. Stone presents a desire for commitment as opposed to a desire solely for someone to desire you. “I just want someone to be there for me” is a relatively clichéd sentiment in popular music, but when Stone contrasts that with “I just want someone to be there for,” both sentiments are elevated. The narrator endeavors to take on not only the revelations of love and desire for another, but also the difficult work of commitment and co-dependency. It’s a very simple but creative approach to introducing the narrator’s intentions, and I believe it’s this striving for a romantic connection that informs the sentiment of the chorus.

Considering what precedes it, I think the chorus of “No Way” is directed at someone as a reassurance, that the shouting at the rails that had consumed the narrator for years is no longer the only thing granting meaning to his existence. Take this quote from Eddie, from around the release of Vitalogy; “Relationships can be tough. There are times—I end up putting a lot of time into this music thing. I don't sleep at night.” In the realm of art, for obvious reasons we usually consider the viewpoints and trials of the artist, because it is what most likely informs the art. Rarely do we consider those on the margins, those in the artists’ life that may have a more difficult journey due to the eccentricities and obsessions that come with being an artist (in the case of Pearl Jam, musicians). So the chorus is the narrator’s assurance that he is done; at least, he is done putting his artistic/political pursuits ahead of other vital aspects of his life which have likely gone undeveloped due to his single-minded obsessions. He’s no longer “trying to make a difference,” and he’s learned that he must commit to other pursuits as well.

The “let’s call in an angel” line is a little bizarre, and certainly sarcastic in my opinion when framed in context with the rest of the song. On face value, it seems to be a call for outside parties (whether litterally angels or otherwise; I think the latter) to repair the narrator’s shifting life. Think about the challenge he has come upon. His entire life, particularly the profession and/or passion he built that life around no longer has the weight to act as a foundation for his fulfillment. That’s a scary prospect, especially to someone who has invested significant time and sacrificed much to make his passion his center. Rebuilding your life after such a momentous moment will take a strenuous amount of investment and work, and the bridge acts as the narrator’s last moment of weakness, hoping someone can rescue him from the task he now has to undertake. The fact that the bridge sounds a bit sarcastic suggests that even he knows that this is a fruitless hope, and that to enact the change in his own life he seeks he needs to roll up his sleeves and move the stones himself.

So, the question stands; “I’ll stop trying to make a difference;” is this a repudiation of everything Pearl Jam had stood for to that point? I don’t think this is the case. When listening to “No Way”, as well as both songs that precede it, I realized how they all attempt to “set the stage” for further development that is to follow, even if it’s not necessarily from this particular character’s point of view. Here, the narrator rejects the “traditional” notion of what it means to make a difference in the world. However, we cannot accuse him of disengagement, for he has stressed the desire for commitment to another person. Is this not engagement as well? Much more time on Yield, certainly more than I remembered, is spent on adjusting this common perception, refuting the idea that the only way you’re capable of making a difference is through political and social engagement. The narrator has not stopped trying to make a difference. He’s stopped trying to make a difference in the only way he previously thought mattered. He spent so much time protesting at the barricades (or staying up late in the studio working on that guitar part) that he willfully ignored the fact that there was a struggle happening on the home front, and that in that struggle there is the opportunity to co-design a miracle (the joy of being in a successful relationship). Some would say it’s as powerful as a triumph of social/political engagement, and many would also say it’s as hard. The narrator is realizing that he can no longer overlook such struggles. A re-calibration of priorities is necessary.

I’ll talk a little bit about the music; it’s one of the songs where the musical backdrop perfectly fits the personality of the narrator. The character of this song is not the die-hard, idealistic zealot of many of Eddie’s compositions, but rather a sly, sarcastic individual who slowly comes to his realization. Note that the riff Stone employs does not change throughout the entire song; it’s reminiscent of funk or hip-hop, where the basic foundation remains static with other instruments and vocals providing the progression. It’s different from typical pop music, where the chord movement dictates the thrust of the music. The structure, therefore, doesn’t allow it the grand ambition of a song like Given To Fly or Insignificance, but it affords the song a slinky ebb-and-flow that’s relatively unique in Pearl Jam’s catalog. It’s a nice reminder that although the songs on Yield are not always as “out there” as some songs on the preceding two albums, they were not content in rehashing old sounds and styles.

“No Way” is an important song on Yield due to what it introduces. It suggests the inherent problems with the fights for social change, a theme previously untouched in Pearl Jam’s catalog. It introduces the notion of romantic love as an alternate journey to find fulfillment and make a positive stamp upon the world. Finally, it is the first song on the album that definitively changes the perspective of the lyric (the character in Brain Of J and Faithfull could conceivably be the same person, but considering the differences in context and feel, I think it’s hard to imagine that character being the same one in No Way). These issues, but particularly the latter, will increase as the album continues, when Yield has to maintain its’ coherence when more voices enter the fray.

GIVEN TO FLY

So, when we last left the thread and the album we were at No Way, a notable song in several ways. It’s the first song not written by Eddie here, on an album in which he gave up a substantial amount of lyrical control. I believe that song also sets up the character of Given To Fly quite well. It’s important to remember that Yield is a conversation, IMO, rather than anything resembling a narrative. We just finished the album tour of Binaural, and like that album (and unlike an album such as Vitalogy), the songs on this album shift viewpoint, and we’re meant to be concisious of the change in character. The character of the previous song realized his acts of engagement, whatever they were (the static in his attic) were poisoning other aspects of his life, and he took action to commit more time to what mattered most and had gone neglected for far too long. Given To Fly, however, takes a different approach, and it, along with In Hiding, illustrates what may be the central theme of the album.

On one level, you could read this pretty easily as a song about Eddie. If you place him (or at least the Eddie that appeared on Vitalogy) in as the lead character of this song, it acts as a fitting conclusion to the arc that had been developing for the previous four albums, but most notably on Vs. and Vitalogy. The love that “Eddie” gives away is obviously his art, but he is confronted by faceless men (critics) who attempt to strike him down. In the thread for Vitalogy, a lot was made about the purity of Eddie’s art in contrast to the crass corruption that the industry imposed upon it. What better metaphor than men who have no face? It brings to mind the old cliché (I’m paraphrasing), that a critic is just a failed/frustrated artist. These critics who demean Eddie’s pure expression (and the desire to conduct a career based on values) have not earned personality or recognition because they have not staked their claim in an art form they speak of so derisively. However, having come out the other end of this ordeal, Eddie has survived (unlike others) and has in fact thrived. Eddie, during the writing Given To Fly was in the midst of creating the most optimistic album of his career to that point, and his most momentous triumph is that in spite the critiques of faceless men, he has earned his wings and can continue to give his love away.

It certainly works that way, but it need not be limited only to the story of “Eddie”; it works completely independent of that saga, in a way that some of their previous songs may not have. Now, Stip throughout the thread has made an argument that I personally disagree with, although it’s a powerful argument and did make me see the album in a new light (and if I’m not eloquent about this maybe he can expand on it). Stip sees the album as a paean to escape, to disengagement. Here, Pearl Jam stresses the need to leave it all behind and never look back, to never fight because really, what’s the point? And, in context of the albums that preceded and followed it, it is a ‘lie’ in the sense that it runs contrary to PJ’s ideals and larger career.

Stip’s argument definitely proved one thing to me; escape and ‘leaving it all behind’ is certainly a bigger part of the album than I gave it credit for. And if that were where the story ended it would run contrary to the ideals we associate with the band; they’ve stressed personal fulfillment, but never willful ignorance. So, if the story ended there, I’d agree; but it doesn’t end there.

The lead character certainly escapes during the first verse; he runs to the ocean, far from the rest of humanity, to cleanse himself, and enjoy his smoke in a tree. He revels in nature, in the beauty of the environment, and it gives him metaphorical wings to marvel at the beauty. But in the very next verse, “he floated back down” because he wanted to share the wisdom he attained. That’s vital; he escapes, but he comes back. Despite the vicious taunts and slanders of faceless men, he continues to stand, and continues to engage by spreading the love he has garnered. And this act of generosity, of engagement, has given him the power to fly. And in it’s music, vocal, and lyric, the song inspires us to do the same.

And in that second verse and second chorus, Eddie’s deftly defines what IMO is Yield’s central concept. It is not solely about escape. It’s about attempting to achieve contentment and solace outside of engagement with the world, and using that solace to rejuvenate your ability to engage. From here until the end of the album, the majority of songs will detail specific means to find such peace and solace (romantic love in Wishlist, spiritual fulfillment in Low Light, etc.). It’s important to note that this album is not stating that such contentment has been found. But it’s an album that is committed to the struggle to achieve such contentment (you can argue that they detail that contentment, already achieved, on Backspacer). So Yield marks the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one. They’ve realized how they want to live their life, and the albums beyond here are going to mark how they go about achieving it (however, there’s no doubt the massive political upheavals of the early 2000’s made the records that followed different. It’s likely we would have seen more personal, and maybe more optimistic work, had the country and world not endured Bush/ 9/11/ Iraq. But we’ll never know that for sure).

I feel like I don’t give the music enough credit, because I always blabber on about the lyric and realize the post is too damn long. But something needs to be said about the music here; it’s one of the best musical creations this band has recorded. If I had a dollar for every time a PJ song was connected to a wave metaphor, I’d be extremely rich, but here it really fits. You can feel the ebb and flow of the verse, serenely plodding along at an even keel, until the chorus. Eddie’s melody during the chorus is notable both in its power and in how static it is; throughout most of the chorus, he’s maybe hitting three or four notes at most. In a way, it’s similar to riding the crest that the chorus music generates.

I’ll admit I’m a little rusty at these posts, but I hope you got something out of it. It was such a great discussion for Binaural, so if we can even get a little bit of that in here, I'd consider it a success. Sorry it took so long to get this off the ground again.

WISHLIST

So we’re back, and while listening to this song and thinking about it’s place on the album while writing this, I was really impressed by it’s quality. I feel like Wishlist often gets the short end of the stick around here, at least from the albums before Binaural, but it was always a good song to me. It’s definitely more than that now.

I’m going to start by talking about the music of Wishlist. There’s maybe no other song on the album that better personifies the warmth and beauty of it’s production, particularly on the guitars. The ebb-and-flow that the three interlocking guitars (and this seems to me to be one of those songs that needs three) invokes a feeling of wistfulness, of a chance not taken, but other chances that could still be in your grasp. I respect how restrained the song allows itself to be; most previous Pearl Jam songs, even the quieter ones, had usually worked up a fair amount of, for lack of a better term, bombast by their end to punctuate the emotional impact, but this song doesn’t take that approach. It’s restraint also makes Mike’s solo that much more powerful. The rest of song is like walking outside right before dawn, but Mike’s solo is a full Technicolor sunrise. It’s a beautiful moment.

Wishlist is unique among Pearl Jam songs, certainly at the time it was conceived and released. Before this, besides possibly Oceans on their debut, had Pearl Jam written a “straightforward” love song? I put ‘straightforward’ in quotations because the method the song uses to express it’s theme is a little unorthodox, but that emotion expressed is a simple one of love, not in the midst of heartbreak. We’re not approaching “Just Breathe” territory here in terms of the lyric laying bare the hopes and intentions of the character in the songs, but this nevertheless a milestone for the lyrical maturation of the band. Here, the desires and hopes of the character is illustrated in a series of evocative and gorgeous ‘wishes’ that act as extended metaphors. It’s a bit more opaque and interesting than a song like Just Breathe, but in choosing to frame it’s desires in such a manner, it illustrates the tentative nature of an early romance very well; the character doesn’t want to let too much of his true feelings show, either to the object of his affection or us, the listener, but in hiding himself behind these metaphors, we actually learn just as much about his hopes and fears regarding this relationship than if he had just told us outright; maybe we even learn more.

The individual wishes that are great are too many to go one-by-one through, but I’ll pick out one or two favorites.

“I wish I was the evidence, I wish I was the grounds, for 50 million hands upraised and open towards the sky,” is a remarkable image for me. I love how Eddie doesn’t want to personify himself as a cause of the adulation (i.e. turning himself into a Jesus figure), but he wants to be the reason they do so. He wishes to be the expression of love and joy, rather than the one who is receiving the joy from the amassed crowd he dreams of.

“I wish I was a sailor with someone who waited for me.” I’m impressed by how simply Eddie turns what could potentially be a disquieting realization into a source of comfort and strength. Whereas a more pessimistic moment may focus on the distance between the lovers, Eddie notes that despite that distance, the fact that the connection exists is miraculous enough. It shows maturity to wish to be in such a situation that could potentially be difficult and even heartbreaking, to be willing to accept such heartbreak for the larger implication; that someone waits for you who loves you.

Wishlist is the first of several songs on this album (MFC and Low Light being others) whose very specific focus is enhanced by the context of the songs surrounding it. If Yield is about striving to find peace in the parts of your life that have gone neglected, about being able to find respite from the weighty forces that press down upon you politically, socially, professionally and personally, the focus of these songs could show what the characters have been missing and what they now seek to better. But it’s really important to note the longing quality of this song that is prevalent throughout the majority of Yield. This is not like the character in “Just Breathe”, who is content with the love and family he has attained, and now writes from the position of someone who fears losing the ground that’s been gained. The character in Wishlist hopes to achieve that dream, but he’s still on the road towards it. He hasn’t arrived to anything resembling the finish line yet. Just as importantly (maybe even more importantly), he’s decided to run the race in the first place. That’s what separates the optimism on this album vs. the optimism we’d hear eleven years later on Backspacer.

PILATE

“Pilate” is one of the more divisive songs in the PJ canon. I think one of the reasons it presents so much division is the lyrical style of Jeff Ament in the lyrical realm. Ed’s typical lyrics usually seem to follow a linear, if not, narrative arc from the beginning to end of songs. Although sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain what the subject of the song may be, it’s usually able to understand the narrator’s position and conflicts. Jeff’s songs often don’t offer any such anchors to grasp to.

Of all the songs on Yield, “Pilate” would be the sore thumb. This actually isn’t a knock on the song; I think it does fit. It speaks more to the cohesion of the albums’ thematic elements. When it comes to the music, Pilate seems designed to throw off it’s listeners. It’s not abrasive in it’s production; in fact, it’s one of the most beautifully captured and warmest songs on the album, in terms of it’s sonics. However, it is designed to be abrasive in its’ composition. The serene, tumbling beauty of the verses gives way to the jagged chords of the chorus; why? I think the point of the musical composition is to evoke an enormous realization; in the chorus, the narrator finds a truth previously unknown that stops him cold. An example from my own life; today as I was going about my business, heading to dinner with friends and thinking about my folks, when I had the sudden realization that my parents are gaining in years, and that soon I will have to start thinking about what life would be like without them. I don’t think that’s what this song is about, but I’m offering it as an example of the type of experience the narrator is going through; it’s a realization that envelops his entire intellectual capacity; therefore, an insane chorus that completely upends your engagement with the verses.

Lyrically, I think what’s going on in this song is a callback to what was going on in “Faithfull.” When I wrote about that song, I showed how I thought Eddie attempted to find commonality with those he despises and likewise despise him. As someone who disbelieves, he realized that he was subject to the same desires, hopes, fears and faith that the believer was. He has simply chosen a different path. So therefore, though he found their behavior troublesome and their views misguided, he understands that there was a commonality, and therefore, there was empathy. A similar attempt to connect occurs here.

In the first verse Jeff “talks of circles”, and punching out of them. The circle can illustrate the humdrum repetition of life, and his desire to obliterate that meandering cycle shows that he’s aware enough to realize there is more to life than what he’s doing. In some ways, that line can summarize the journey taken by the character in “No Way” (I see this happening a lot as Yield continues on; entire songs begin to encapsulate specific verses/lines of previous songs, or vice versa; In Hiding is a great example in how it relates to Given To Fly). As the verse concludes, the constraints that previously debilitated him and “kept him in line” (Brain of J) begin to falter; for one, he talks “out of turn.” And what is his realization?

The realization comes in the chorus. It’s basically a metaphor; Pontinus Pilate, for those who may not be aware of his significance, was a Prefect for the Roman Empire, the judge at the trial of Jesus and the man who sentenced him to death. Now, taken in a historical context, Pilate can be viewed as a man who authorized the death of a radical, peaceful historical figure. Viewed in religious terms (and I think “Low Light” makes clear that this is an aspect of the writer’s personality that should be considered), Pilate killed the Son of God. Either way, he is a difficult man to understand. His actions seem so horrific that it seems better that he be viewed through the objective lens of history; how do you begin to deal with him as a man with flaws and attributes? Jeff, however, seeks to do that; he realizes that despite the gulf of time, circumstance, and crime between him and Pilate, the commonality of human experience and desires (desire for love, friendship, family, faith, etc. pick your poision) should remind Jeff that the gulf between them is not as large as he may have previously believed. Like Pilate, he has a dog; there are similarities between the men.

Now, stating the obvious; employing a dog as the connection between the narrator and Pilate is absolutely ridiculous. Considering that I’m giving Jeff, and any other writer, the benefit of the doubt, it shows me that he is willing to have a little fun with this awesome realization. He’s gained empathy, but he hasn’t lost a sense of humor.

The following verse can be viewed as a conversation with himself; he walks himself out of town, perhaps the newly enlightened individual parting ways with the ignorant one. “Making angels in the dirt” refers to the drive of unfathomable opportunity enlightenment offers us; I think it’s a more evocative illustration of the cliché, “when life gives you lemonade, make lemonade.” The world has not given Jeff snow (or life, purity, clarity, etc.) to make his angels. But he’ll find transcendence, spirituality, and beauty in the dirt; he’ll build power from whatever he can find. The bridge acts a reminder; he remembers the ignorance he once personified through the drought of empathy he experience, and he swears to “never go there again.”

Pilate, surprisingly to me, does fit into the Yield portrait. It speaks to the common attributes and hopes of all men and women, and therefore personifies the album’s theme of inclusiveness. If it’s message and theme can be relayed to Pontius Pilate, then it can reach you, too.

However, Eddie has some words for people who may not want to hear the message of empathy, of an individuality fused with common purpose, of those who pervert everything he and the band hold dear. He deals with them in the following song.

DO THE EVOLUTION


Looking back, I wrote a bit on how the differing lyrical voices on this record address similar themes from different perspectives, so the resulting feeling is one of dialogue and conversation, as opposed to a statement formed in the mind of one individual, like Vitalogy. But here, Eddie steps outside himself on his own lyric. It’s hard to listen to Eddie’s voice and not identify it as Eddie the character we’ve grown to know in PJ songs. Even something like “Better Man”, which is clearly a character sketch, is imbued with Eddie’s empathy as a performer and lyricist. But not for one second when listening to this do I believe that it’s “Eddie” singing this, or that he believes one word of it. It’s his most successful example, thus far, of completely stepping outside himself on a lyric and vocal. That’s important, cause I don’t think Yield makes much sense if you believe that he’s taking the idea of this lyric seriously.

The music is a demented amalgamation of garage rock and dance music, a riff-based composition immediately identifiable as Stone, yet a powerful and bizarre progression from his earlier work. For a band considered by the media to be as self-serious as Pearl Jam, this is a pretty significant statement. The hand-claps, the woo-hoos, the Hallelujah choir; it’s not only inspired, but it demonstrates a willingness to sound ridiculous that was not present on any album prior to this. This emancipation from a role and a pre-detemined mood pressed upon them by outside forces is all over Yield and is a large contributor to the ramshackle wonderment and joy that permeates the record, even in it’s darker moments.

The character in the song is basically a demented funhouse mirror version of someone who believes that his stature is due solely to his talent, and that all those who have not achieved his “status” are doomed by their own laziness and inferiority. Humanity and nature itself are made subservient to his narcissism (“all the rolling hills, I’ll flatten ‘em out). What gives him the right? Evolution, obviously. The way the song mkes sense in the context of Yield is the way Eddie chooses to skew this character. Perhaps on Vs. he would have raged at such an egregious attitude, but here he turns him into a bad joke. It’s extremely dark humor, but humor nonetheless. In doing so, he doesn’t downplay the threat posed by this line of thinking, nor does he mask the hatred he feels for this type of person (if anything, the humor emphasizes it), but he de-legitimizes the character, and therefore his ideology.

This is really the only song on Yield that is not designed to be inclusive towards the subject of the particular song. Think back to Vitalogy, where almost every cornerstone of the album (Not For You, Corduroy), focused on who was not allowed to partake in the communal experience between listener and artist and why. On Yield, even on songs such as Brain of J or Faithfull there is either the promise of an invitation to a brighter future despite the worrisome present (the former song), or an attempt to build bridges with a community you fail to understand (the latter). There’s no such inclusion here. Those who would sell out humanity to advance their own standing are the only ones not invited to the party. If you acknowledge that Yield is an album that celebrates nurturing personal relationships in an maddening world, and also advocates a respect for the power and mystery of that world, this sole exclusion is not that surprising.

I always consider this song to be the half-way point of Yield; the musical framework and atmosphere has been established, and the central themes are being fleshed out.

But first….

Red Dot

Pearl Jam’s best song.

No, not quite, but it’s a fun minute of performance. I never gave much critical thought to Red Dot, because I think it’s a song performing a function, rather than asking for any interpretation. We know Pearl Jam are vinyl junkies, and something that has been lost in the ensuing decades when CDS and now digital media are the norm is the notion of a Side A and B that splits the album into two distinct sections. I think Pearl Jam has always been successful at keeping that feeling alive; for example, for whatever reason, I always feel that Whipping is the conclusion of the first part of Vitalogy, with Pry, To acting as a bridge and Corduroy leading us into the home stretch. I feel the same idea is at work here. I’ve always considered “Side A” of Yield to end with Do The Evolution, and Red Dot is the proverbial flipping over of the record, which begins with MFC.

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 Post subject: Re: A Guided Tour of Yield
PostPosted: Fri December 28, 2012 12:33 pm 
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Digster wrote:
MFC

So, with MFC we begin a progression towards the conclusion of the record. As I mentioned with Red Dot, I always felt like it seemed natural to view Yield as a Side A/Side B, with Evolution concluding the first part and MFC beginning the second. In fact the opening riff of MFC, perfectly captured here in a way it’s never sounded live, could have certainly have opened a record. Thematically, though, it makes more sense later in the album. The songs prior to MFC were primarily about posing questions, and stating intentions. They looked backwards to the consternation and confusion that had plagued the band as a collective and as individuals, and looked forward to finding the way to live more productively and optimistically (often, like Brain of J, in the same song). MFC, along with the next three songs, form a semi-trilogy, detailing the methods that the narrators are utilizing to regain their stability and cement their optimism. It works well, because the fact that now there are answers forming to the questions posed, or at least an examination of the means to find them, in these songs makes the conclusion of the album feel natural rather than tacked-on.

How many times have we heard Eddie utter something along the lines of “this song is about driving away from a problem?” Gone, Rearviewmirror, MFC, etc., but MFC is different than those other songs in that it is not labored by the inherent baggage that comes with focusing on the problem the character is escaping from. The fact that those other two songs come on albums before and after Yield illustrates the intent and spirit the band had in approaching familiar topics on this particular record. Whereas something like Gone is fraught with the danger and depression the singer is trying to escape, MFC is drunk with the optimism of the drive away from the situation. In fact, this song is probably the one that would most support stip’s theory on Yield. This song doesn’t mention any engagement that is to come, in the way Given To Fly or In Hiding do; it’s aim is to celebrate the moment of release, the humanity that is inherent in such pleasure, and advocates the desire to live a happy life, in addition to living a meaningful one. When I hear this song, I don’t necessarily hear contentment, the way I may on something like Just Breathe, but I hear the optimism of a promise wholeheartedly believed by the singer. That feeling sums up Yield quite well for me.

The music, as previously mentioned, is gorgeous and propulsive. The SOTM stip wrote talks about the intro sounding like an engine starting, and I agree; the guitar riff sounds weightless but expectant, the time between the foot hitting the gas and gunning the engine. It’s interesting, but I’d never noticed how much Pearl Jam ignored the punk influences that had been impacting the music since Vs. and this album; this song and Brain of J are the only tracks that retain that emphasis on fast tempos and quick downstrokes on guitar.

So, this song clearly illustrates one of Ed’s methods to gain perspective; Jeff retorts in the following song, with a decidedly more spiritual emphasis.


Low Light

We make our way to Jeff’s second part of the conversation going on in Yield, Low Light. A poster at one point (I forget who did) made a really astute observation about Jeff’s writing style. Whereas Eddie approaches lyrics in a fairly linear way, with an emphasis on imagery and great turns of phrase, and Stone does the same with a more surreal or disjointed bent, Jeff is unconcerned with maintaining a semblance of narrative. He approaches the lyrics in his songs by describing a feeling or moment, exploring it from different angles, and the lyrics always seem to support the atmosphere that the music naturally generates.

In the section for MFC, I noted how the next three songs (including MFC) form a trilogy about how these characters or viewpoints we’ve been following throughout the course of the record (and in some ways, throughout the course of PJ’s career) deal with the burdens placed upon them. Is it possible to strive for happiness and peace of mind with those burdens ever-present? The character in MFC gets in a car, and with the gunning of an engine finds a moment of release, but the character here finds his path in more spiritual approach.

An emphasis on spirituality does not turn Low Light into a religious song, and I think Jeff goes to great pains to not be exclusionary by filtering his spirituality through the lens of any particular denomination. The song opens like Jeff is setting a scene; “Clouds roll by.” That’s really all we get or need in terms of a narrative; the clouds are rolling by and the son afterwards is an examination of the narrator’s thoughts. The first verse describes a conversation between the clouds and the narrator, with the narrator “reeling.” We never learn for sure what he is reeling from. Could it be the car crash in the second chorus? Could it be an unexpected onslaught of fame? A personal relationship? A death? It could be all and none. In the same way that Yield goes to great lengths to be as universally applicable as possible to all listeners, so does Low Light. In the second verse, the narrator makes a plea to reach his home, feeling that he is currently alone. Therefore, he’s not arrived at any location yet; he’s still at the start or in the midst of a longer journey, and he’s searching for a new approach to help him find the way towards its’ conclusion. He’s tried to take comfort in the intellectualism of “books” and given himself to human impulses that emphasize pity and anger (“jealously”), but neither have offered him the calm he now feels. As mentioned, the car crash in the second chorus suggests that this song takes place during or after a dangerous (and deadly?) crash. It’s not hard to view this song as describing a passage into the afterlife, and peeking over the lyrics, I think that works very well as an alternate interpretation. Maybe others feel the song moves in that direction.

The last verse and chorus arrive, the rhythm section drops out, and a warm, resonant piano takes precedence, in my favorite part of the song. “Two birds is what they’ll see, getting lost upon their way.” I’ve always taken the narrator to be one of the two birds, presumably the other being his partner, watched by some other (higher?) power as they get lost. It’s easy to read that as a negative statement, but I see a lot of optimism in the line and in how Eddie delivers it. After all, what is a full life other than roads untaken, blind alleys, stumbling down back roads until, if lucky, you find your home, where you were meant to be from the start? That line illustrates a life being well-lived. Finally, at the conclusion, the narrator realizes that he needs the “light” (which, by now, is being employed as a metaphor for his burgeoning spirituality and optimism), which will help direct him away from the wrong in the world, and he speaks to it as “the dream I see”. This line describes the light as a dream made tangible; if he can see it, it no longer exists solely in his mind, but it is an ascertainable ambition. However, since he can only see it, it is a dream that is not yet reached. The narrator has not achieved the end he seeks, but he is now resolved to find it, and more importantly, with the strength given to him by his belief in his “low light”, he knows the path.

I shouldn’t just paper over the music in this song; this is one of my favorite sounding songs in the PJ catalog, and one of the songs most indicative of the album it’s on. If someone wanted to know what Yield sounded like to me, not necessarily in terms of actual production quality but in the mood it evokes, I’d play them this song. It’s warm but propulsive, optimistic but not ignorant, and above everything else, full of warmth and full of light. More than anything else to me, Yield is a warm and bright album.

As an aside, in photography “low light” can refer to the “magic time”, which occurs in the half-hour between sunset and total darkness (or vice versa at sunrise). It’s considered one of the most productive times for photography, particularly in photographing urban landscapes. Structures that seem grotesque and far removed from beauty throughout the daylight hours become powerful subjects in that low-light half hour. I always felt like “Low Light,” in whatever situation it takes place, is occurring in that magic time, and the act of finding beauty and promise in structures (institutions?) that before had been unattractive and unappealing is a fine metaphor for Low Light, and Yield as a whole. Jeff is very into the artistic aspect of the band and is a photographer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this analogy was purposeful.

In Hiding

So, I may not be able to get another one up over the weekend as I gave into my addiction and will be spending Sunday in Wisconsin, I figured I’d get one step closer to having Yield be a complete tour with “In Hiding.” I mentioned with Low Light that I thought the music and production of that song was emblematic of Yield as a whole, but lyrically, if you want to listen to a song or two and say “thematically, emotionally and spiritually this is where they were on this album,” I’d suggest Given To Fly or In Hiding.

The music to this song shouldn’t go unmentioned; it’s identifiably Stone, but a progression from the more forceful Ten-era riffage. Whereas their earlier anthems stress feelings of anger, steadfast determination, propulsion, rage and community, the word that comes to mind with In Hiding is wonderment. The verse riff itself seems punch-drunk, stumbling along, blissful with new realizations and opportunities. The way Eddie takes off in the chorus is beautiful. Again, he makes the choice of not going to his natural position on the anthemic numbers which is to melodically scream; at no point in the song does he betray any grit or gravel. Instead, he croons. I think he's choosing to preserve that feeling of warmth and invitation that pervades the song, and the record.

Basically, In Hiding works as a distillation of the first verse, chorus, and bit of second verse of Given To Fly:

He could've tuned in, tuned in
But he tuned out
A bad time, nothing could save him
Alone in a corridor, waiting, locked out
He got up outta there, ran for hundreds of miles
He made it to the ocean, had a smoke in a tree
The wind rose up, set him down on his knee

A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw
Delivered him wings, "Hey, look at me now"
Arms wide open with the sea as his floor

He floated back down 'cause he wanted to share
The key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere

Now, more happens after that point in Given To Fly, but In Hiding covers what it took for that character to get to a place where he would want to “share the keys.”

In Hiding begins with a description of the steps the character is about to take, locking the front door, drawing the windows shut, preparing for his voluntary removal from the grinds and pulleys that are an inherent part of our society. Much has been made about how the song is based on Charles Bukowski, and it’s true; Bukowski would stay in his room for days at a time. I don’t have the Yield liner notes with me, but maybe someone who does can let us know what the quote is inside. Something along the lines of the “first person I saw set me back 50%,” the notion being that a temporary seclusion from humanity can remind oneself of the incredibility of its’ mere existence.

The second verse suggests the use of drugs to help him in his quest of enlightenment and reawakening (I think drugs are a detail, rather than the central point of “In Hiding”, but it works from multiple viewpoints). The pre-chorus makes it clear that he is doing this to better himself, to keep himself from lying, and swallowing his "face to keep from biting" (probably the only lyric of the song I’m ‘eh’ about). And then comes the glorious chorus.

The final verse, and maybe the most important one, and it’s self-explanatory.

It's been about three days now
Since I've been aground
No longer overwhelmed and it seems so simple now
It's funny when things change so much
It's all state of mind

I think folks who argue that Yield is all about running away from one’s problems, etc. (looking at you, Stip) point to “In Hiding” as the song that helps prove that point, but it’s important to note that in the song itself, the character comes back to the society. He comes back aground, re-enters, and is a stronger, more determined person for it. Maybe that energy will fade, and maybe he will have to repeat the process. But the point is that it is a process that not only allows him to escape, but to be a better person when he returns. To me, that is Yield in a nutshell. The overwhelming social ills, personal strife, and political barriers are mighty but manageable. There may not be “simple” solutions, but the character, and the band, has a renewed vigor for the path.

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