If I were ever stranded on a desert island with no entertainment to keep me going besides the allowance of one single album on my Ipod… it would have to be, without a doubt Pearl Jam’s Vs. That album could put a smile on my face or move me to tears until the day I wound up dead or was rescued. Left to my own devices I would meditate on every single song, attempting to decipher what exactly Vedder might have intended the mesage to invoke beneath the lyrics.
That album managed to get t me through every moment of despair. Each and every song on that album struck a chord within my soul and I found a way to identify my situation with my interpretation of what Eddie Vedder was wailing about. As an adolescent my frustration intertwined with his vocals and allowed me a cathartic release. In Go, when Vedder is pleading and warning “Pleaseeee don’t go on me” I could imagine myself by his side singing along and willing everyone to back off and leave me alone. Pearl Jam had always been my release and offered guidance when I was at a loss and unsure of what my next move should be. Unlike many other bands at the time Pearl Jam seemed quite insightful and not as desensitized and ambivalent as the rest of the grunge world.
When I was confronted by the tragedy of my first relationship ending, Vedder continued to help me overcome any doubts I had about my self worth. These songs reminded me that there is always a way to overcome what may seem like a hopeless situation. Dissident was an inspiring track I used for motivation when I had to change something that was no longer working for me. This song reminded me not to settle and get stuck in a place I no longer needed or wanted to be. In my mind, I was similar to the character he sang about when he intoned, “she had to turn around when she couldn’t hold, she folded, a dissident is here. Escape is never the safest path, a dissident, a dissident is here.”” To me this song was about turning your back on someone you had always loved because of a breach that could never be restored.
When I first fell in love with this track, I admit, I honestly had no idea what dissident meant. I just felt like the song was about a woman who wasted her life away, unhappy with someone she felt she had to take care of, when she knew all along it could never work out. Sure enough, dissident meant a difference in opinion, so it embodied the space between a man and woman who could not see eye to eye, and had created this estranged space between them.
My all time favourite track off the album will forever be Elderly woman behind the counter – this song symbolized everyone I had ever grown apart from in my life that I hoped to see again one day. When Vedder sings “I just want to scream… Hello! My God it’s been so long, never dreamed you’d return” I envisioned reuniting with old friends, acquaintances and family whom I had lost due to a disagreement or relocation. My imagination conjured up heart warming scenes that remained wishful thinking. However I was okay with that, and learned to accept that “hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away.” A melancholy tune perhaps but also reassuring that life goes on and people forget what no longer matters.
Indifference always gave me pause and forced me to reflect on our society. I questioned what difference a solitary person could make in a world full of tragedy, chaos, violence and war. As monumental of a challenge it seemed to do something to benefit those in need this song seemed to say, to me at least, that one should never lose faith and give up on trying to make the world a better place.
The songs on Vs. all have this timeless quality that allows every listener to interpret in their own way. Vedder sings these songs with gut-wrenching, genuine feeling and his pain and joy can be heard loud and clear in every note. The mystery of each message could easily get me through the longest passage of time deserted on any island.