May 2012 was a bad month. I got evicted–no one’s fault, but still–and was forced to spend half the month living in my friend’s spare bedroom. I got dumped by a girl who, a few weeks earlier, I’d been telling friends made me feel like I’d won the lottery. I was forced to take six weeks off of work; that might not sound awful, but the timing wasn’t great. Meanwhile, in late-April I’d been whacked yet again by OCD, and this time the eventual consequences would include a full-scale meltdown and a leave of absence from my job. And just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, inevitably they did.
Anyway. My love of Pearl Jam has been fairly well-documented, so I won’t dwell on it. But one day in May 2012 I was listening to the band’s SiriusXM channel when two songs, played consecutively, combined to give me hope, real, actual hope, for the first time in what felt like years. They were actually recorded during the same sessions, but unless you’re like me (i.e., obsessed) it’s unlikely you’ve heard one of them. “Hold On” (in particular its stirring acoustic version) is reassuring and quietly defiant. “Rearviewmirror,” which is still one of my favourite Pearl Jam songs, is angry and aggressive and (according to its author, Eddie Vedder) a song about suicide. To me it’s one of the best songs Bruce Springsteen never wrote during the Born to Run era: when Vedder exclaims how “I gather speed from you fucking with me/Once and for all, I’m far away/Hard to believe, finally the shades are raised” the effect is vindicating and empowering and cathartic. (It’s also one hell of a live song, more so since Matt Cameron’s occupied the Pearl Jam drum throne. According to the invaluable PJ Stat Tracker app I’ve heard it sixteen times in thirty-two shows. Seventeen-year-old Steve would’ve been really impressed by that knowledge when he saw his first Pearl Jam concert. But I digress.) I still remember exactly where I was and exactly how I felt as one gave way to the other. And if you doubt the healing power of rock n’ roll, try putting yourself in my headspace and then listen to these songs with the blinds drawn. I dare you not to be moved.
“Hold On” (thanks to donkukis)
“Rearviewmirror” (live at PJ20) (thanks to JeffgardenConcerts)