("Riot Act" Track-By-Track continued)
"I Am Mine": The album's first single is also arguably its best track, with a sing-along cadence common to such Pearl Jam cornerstones as "Better Man" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town." The lyrics are clearly informed by the events of Sept. 11 ("all the innocence lost at one time") and the myriad uncertainties that followed.
McCready: It touched me immediately. His lyrics: "the in-between is mine." It's kind of a positive affirmation of what to do with one's life. I'm born and I die, but in between that, I can do whatever I want or have an opinion about something. It seems very positive to me. It meant a lot to me and still does when I hear it. Cameron: It seems like it has all the elements this band is known for: strong lyrics, strong hook, and a good sense of melody. It wasn't a really tough decision to have that be the starting point for the record.
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"Thumbing My Way": A largely acoustic ballad previously played live by Vedder on acoustic guitar, with shades of Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" album. The narrator's elusive quest for redemption is manifested by a regret-tinged melody, adorned by banjo and organ.
Gossard: That's a real live performance with lots of room ambience. It's us trying to keep up with the chord changes! There are some nice drums and bass. The sentiment of the song is amazing. Ament: We were out in the room playing the song and learning it. In the process, [producer Adam Kasper] went and re-miked everything very covertly. So all of the sudden when we were ready to play it, it was up and he captured it. Nailed it. That to me was really critical and kind of how the record sounds. A lot of times, there's that cool thing when you don't quite know the song and everybody is really concentrating. It lasts for four or five takes and then it's gone. After that, it's all cerebral.
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"You Are": One of the strangest sounding Pearl Jam songs ever, featuring reverb-soaked guitar riffing and a funky, strutting beat. A middle break finds Vedder in multi-tracked falsetto repeating the title phrase, while McCready's guitar emits psychedelic, seagull-like tones during the outtro.
Gossard: It's a drum pattern, but you plug your guitar into it. So instead of the pattern being the drum sound, the guitar sounds pop up every time something hits. Three different patterns over three different parts. Matt Cameron came up with that and it was a moment of inspiration, for sure. McCready: Perspiration for me! I was blown away by it. It kind of reminded me a little of the Cure maybe, or something that this band has never really experimented with before. I was real excited and proud to play that song to all my friends, you know, "Check this one out! This is a way different kind of vibe." Cameron: I just recorded that at home. I had written just a couple of riffs, stringing them together like I always do. I had gotten a new drum machine that allows you to make up patterns and then they'll play through whatever audio instrument you plug in. It was more of an experiment to use the parameters of this machine as well. It came out really cool and the guys really liked it. I took my machine down to the studio, dumped it into the computer, and did an arrangement. Eddie finished up the small bit of lyrics I had written for it. Ament: You know what that song reminds me of, and not just how when a song is written around an effect? [The Smiths'] "How Soon Is Now." It totally has that kind of vibe to it. Cameron: Yeah. I wasn't planning on that. But after we did, it was like, "Wow. This is my 'How Soon Is Now!' Yes!" They kept all my rhythm guitar parts. I added another rhythm guitar part at the studio. The guitar and drums are me.
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"Get Right": Ament's acrobatic bass lines and twin buzzing guitars drive this no-nonsense rocker, again highlighted by a top-notch McCready solo.
Cameron: Repetition! That's the key! Ament: Isn't that kind of in an odd time signature, too? There's a push ahead.
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"Green Disease": A speedy, head-nodding riff along the lines of the band's own "MFC" slams into a poppy major-key chorus. The main melody gets a good instrumental workout keyed by Ament's throttling bass.
Vedder: It's like, okay, I'm not saying capitalism is what's wrong about this. It's more like corporate responsibility. You can't tell me there's not other ways of making it good for everybody. And I feel like that's what we've done with the group, even. We are a small business in a way. We employ people. Those people have become like a family and are treated really well. We don't allow them to do interviews [laughs]. Just kidding. I'm proud of the way we've done our bit. McCready: I love that song. The chorus is so catchy. Gossard: It has a similar thing to "MFC" [from 1998's "Yield"]. The vocal melody is so awesome. Ament: The whole time I was thinking the first two Joe Jackson records. Playing with a pick, but playing a bassline that is moving. Ed had a very specific sound for the whole thing. He really wanted the drums and the bass to have almost a thinner sound to them. Cameron: We were trying to dry up everything on that track. We tried it as a group, and it wasn't working. Ament: It was just huge. Cameron: Everyone was kind of not really playing together at that tempo. So, we stripped it down to drums, bass, and Eddie, then added the parts on top of that. We tried to keep it really tight. Smallish, but biggish. Ament: We sucked a lot of the low end out of it. You hear the attack of every instrument.
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"helphelp": Nearly as bizarre sounding as "You Are," this song features agitated, unmelodic riffing and several seemingly unrelated musical transitions. Vedder moans "help me" in a disembodied voice as McCready wails away with authority.
Gossard: Jeff had a full-on demo of that we pretty much re-created, except the end got dramatically longer and more exploratory as far as the vocals. Jeff wrote the lyrics and the melody. He was singing it in a high falsetto on his demo. Ed was experimenting with it, but then they brought this vocoder in. All that stuff that sounds like keyboards is actually singing and playing this little keyboard box. I loved that Ed allowed himself to experiment with some really weird vocal sounds. McCready: It gets dark. Jeff Ament will get dark on you, lyrically or musically. I never think he's that way, because he's never that way when you talk to him. Ament: On the demo, the verses were sung in a real falsetto voice. I really did want there to be a dichotomy between the sounds of the chorus and the verse. Ed got ahold of a vocoder and took it to the next level. That's when it's easier for me. If you bring a song in and the band makes it weirder, that's always a treat for me. If the band wants to straighten it out, that's usually when I have a harder time. It became less of a guitar song, which is kind of cool. The guitar part in the chorus was actually originally a pretty prominent part, but it's not as prominent now.