Monday, July 03, 2023

This Year: 1996

"This Year" is a series of weekly posts, each about one song from one year of my life. See the introduction for more.

I like songs about things broken and lost, about things that didn't work out, about failure and defeat.

One of the best, most ironic songs in that vein is my pick for 1996: Eddie Vedder by Local H.

This is the song that almost made them famous, almost pushed them over the top. Almost a hit. Almost the brass ring.

And it's a song about not quite getting what you want, maybe not quite being who you want.

If I was Eddie Vedder

Would you like me any better?

I almost picked a song from Local H's next record: two years later, they took another run at that brass ring with Pack Up the Cats, which was even stronger and more consistent - a concept album, actually, in its way - which had another, just as devastating ode to not quite achieving your goals, All the Kids Are Right.

But even if the album As Good as Dead isn't as consistent, I'm writing about songs here - about moments. And Eddie Vedder was Local H's pure crystalline moment...the one that didn't happen.

What I heard - at the time and later - was that they were getting a big record-company push for this record, in those late-grunge years, that all the right people thought they had the right sound at the right moment and were excited about this record. But then...something happened at the record company, a merger or reorg or some other upheaval, and the support the band expected just didn't quite happen and the song didn't quite make it over the top.

Okay I understand

But I don't want to be your friend

I don't need another friend

I've got too many friends

It's a break-up song, or a "we never were" song. But is he singing to some woman, or to the music industry as a whole? At the time, probably the former. In retrospect....

All the Kids Are Right is even more a concept record, even more that paradox: a record about a band that doesn't quite make it, poised to be the record that does make it. It didn't; neither of them did. And Eddie Vedder pinpoints exactly why.

If I was Eddie Vedder

Would you like me any better?

That's the raw question here. Why that guy? Why not me? What's wrong with me? In any context, for any purpose. How come I'm still here on the outside?

You go ahead, as good as dead

It's a loud, clanging song, but the anger is cold. The singer has already realized, somewhere deep inside, that it will always be like this. It's controlled, focused - I said "late-grunge" above, but this is really post-grunge, incorporating earlier hard-rock and metal sounds, without the noodly bits and aimlessness of grunge.

It's one of the best songs about failure I know. And, for all that failure is more common than success - for every winner, there's a dozen losers - songs about failure are rarer.

No comments:

Post a Comment