Is Pearl Jam still relevant? I don't know. Depends on your definition, and who you ask. But if you Google "Pearl Jam relevant" you'll find a lot of opinions ... which means they're at least sorta relevant, doesn't it? I mean, we're not going to have the discussion about Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones, other gods who haven't been remotely interesting for some decades.
Anyway, I don't really care if Pearl Jam's relevant. I care if I like them. There's a new album, Lightning Bolt. And, as usual, I really like some songs and really don't like some others. I've never liked Pearl Jam as much as I used to like REM, or Wilco. But if I'm making a list of my 100 favorite songs, there will be some Pearl Jam in there for sure. Even today.
Anyway, I didn't mean to tell you about my old-fashioned musical preferences. Like them or not, you're going to be hearing a lot of Pearl Jam over the next week or so. If you're watching the World Series on Fox, anyway. Or anything else on Fox next month. From Billboard:
Pearl Jam's epic, rain-delayed set at Chicago's Wrigley Field in July won't be the only time the band connects with baseball in 2013. A partnership with Fox Sports will include extensive use of 48 Pearl Jam songs across the promotional and music beds for this month's World Series coverage, set to air Oct. 23-31 on Fox, and feature the group's music throughout November as Artist of the Month across all Fox Sports properties.
So which 48 Pearl Jam songs? Hey, you never know. "Better Man" is a terribly sad song about a woman stuck in a one-sided, possibly abusive relationship. But what if we snip just a bit of the chorus?
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can't find a better man
Can't find a better man, can't find a better man, yeah
Carlos Beltrán does something else wonderful. Cut to smitten Cardinals fan in the stands. Cue music. Boom. We're all a-tingle.
But I think we can probably find a few Pearl Jam songs that won't be heard during the World Series, no way, no how. Here are six that I'll be pretty shocked to hear during the World Series. On Fox.
See it happen to a couple of friends
See it happen and the message it sends
Taking off for what's an obvious fall
Just to see what all the fuss is about
Speaking as a child of the nineties
Never thought you'd habit (x3)
Gee, does that remind you of a certain power-hitting shortstop who joined the Seattle club in the 1990s and became addicted to the fast life and the easy availability of certain (supposedly) performance-enhancing drugs? I'm pretty sure Commissioner Bud drew a red line through this one with hardly a thought. You know, during his week-long listening party.
(And along the same lines, there's also "Gonna See My Friend" ...
Do you want to hear something sad?
We are but victims of desire
I'm gonna shake this day
I wanna shake this day before I retire
I'm gonna see my friend
I'm gonna see my friend, make it go away
I'm sick of everything
I'm gonna see my friend, make it go away
Now, if anybody ever makes a movie about Mark McGwire ...)
Two problem with this one. One, it's about some psycho stalking Eddie Vedder, and loaded with f-bombs. Two, it's only 63 seconds long; that's barely two Buchholzes, with not enough time for a catchy hook. (Also, this song's not, you know, good).
4. "I Got Shit"
Pretty much what it sounds like. But just in case you haven't already listened to it six thousand times like some people I know ...
An empty shell seems so easy to crack.
Got all these questions / Don't know who I could even ask.
So I'll just lie alone and wait for the dream /
where I'm not ugly and you're looking at me.
I don't know. Maybe if FOX uses the Walmart-friendly title ("I Got Id") and grabs just a few bars ... I mean, it's one hell of a catchy tune. But Neil Young's presence might be a deal-breaker.
Just another poppy little ditty inspired by a high-school sophomore who went to his locker, grabbed a .357 Magnum, and blew out his brains in front of his English class.
Clearly I remember pickin' on the boy /
Seemed a harmless little fuck /
Ooo, but we unleashed a lion /
Gnashed his teeth and bit the recess lady's breast
Tim McCarver's a brilliant extemporaneous thinker, but I'm not sure that even he would know what to say after that one.
2. "Army Reserve"
Yeah, this one's about repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the toll it takes on the families back home. Heavy, heavy stuff, and with a political twist ...
Her son's slanted / Always giving her the sideways eye
An empty chair where Dad sits / How loud can silence get?
And Mom, she reassures to contain him / But it's becoming a lie
She tells herself / and everyone else
Father is risking his life for our freedoms
Yeah. No. But that's absolutely nothing compared to ...
Here's how this song about young baseball players begins:
How does he do it /
How do they do it /
Uncanny and immutable
That's perfect, right? For playing over a montage of Michael Wacha and the Cardinals' other rookie pitchers?
Uh, no. Here's another bit of lyrics:
He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer
Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike
Drilling for fear, makes the job simple
Born on third, thinks he got a triple
Great baseball references! But Ann Richards should have gotten a residual for that last line.
Of course this was a protest song, and included on Riot Act, which was released almost exactly two years after 43 was elected to his first term. We are talking about FOX, so maybe it's not so surprising that we won't hear "Bu$hleaguer" this week. But I'm afraid FOX is taking this prohibition many steps too far. Because it's not just "Bu$hleaguer" ...
The deal includes all 12 tracks from Lightning Bolt, plus 36 songs from the Pearl Jam catalog, spanning all the band's albums (with the exception of 2002's politically charged Riot Act). Catalog highlights include "Animal," "Better Man," "Black," "Blood," "Corduroy," "Daughter," "Even Flow" and "even goes as far as 'State of Love and Trust,'" says Christian Fresco, product manager for Pearl Jam's Monkeywrench label. Fox Sports Music VP Janine Kerr, an avid PJ fan, adds: "They said, 'What songs would you want?' I said, 'How many can I have?' So we gave them a wish list and they said 'yes' to all."
Wait a minute? You can have anything you like, and you don't even ask for "I Am Mine" because it happens to share album space with "Bu$hleaguer"? Won't even ask for "Love Boat Captain"?
First comes love, then comes pain / Let the games begin
Questions rise and answers fall, insurmountable.
Love boat captain / Take the reigns and steer us towards the clear, here
It's already been sung, but it can't be said enough
All you need is love
Wouldn't that be perfect over a montage of John Farrell and Mike Matheny? Isn't love all a manager really needs? Well, plus some pop psychology and really good players?
Really, I am completely flummoxed. It's difficult for me to believe that even one person in America is crazy enough to call the FOX switchboard to complain about a perfectly innocuous song that happens to be on the wrong album. Who would even know? I mean, sure, the Internet is powerful. But sheesh.
I'm not so worried about Pearl Jam's relevance. They'll be fine. Over-the-air broadcast television, on the other hand...
My thanks to Tim Hagerty, David Lipman, Scott Ham, Tom Rathkamp, and Sabra Anckner for their assistance in putting this list together. I just wish I could have written up another dozen or so tracks.