return to main page

yield cover

Angels. Oceans. Wishes. Hopes. Fear. Love.


This album is, without a doubt, the most honest, the most truthful, the most Pearl Jam of all of their records so far. It's so honest it's frightening -- frightening because it touches nerves, because it reveals, because it tells the truth, because it is so incredibly real. There is no artifice, no guile, no hiding. Raw, exposed, beautifully open, absolutely strong and assured, while at the same time questioning, searching.

Yield is the sound of a band on the run, on the road, of individuals in motion -- not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally. On the one hand, it's nothing more than what they have to say to us right now, take it or leave it; on the other hand it is a stake in the ground, a vivid chronicle of who and where these five people are in their lives right now. People try to say that Ten was "Pearl Jam;" I disagree, I don't even think it was who they were back then: overplayed, over-sung, overproduced, the common errors of a band's first album -- but I have no reservations in saying that Yield is pure Pearl Jam. No Code was a successful experiment, a fork in the road, but Yield gives us the band around the bend, well on the road to the future: their future.

"PJ is pioneering the PJ sound... something borrowed, everything reinvented with 100000 bolts of electricity.

I'm going to go listen to it again."
I reject the claims of rock opera or concept piece, but there are common elements and themes to this record; itís more like a discussion, a presentation, a multi-voiced monologue, with Eddie, Mike, Jack, Stone and Jeff each coming forward, in their own ways, to recite their piece. Thereís true collaboration on this record for the very first time.

the songs

brain of j brain of j photo

We open with a jump start, a false beginning, hear Mike counting it down, Ramones-style, again, as they slam into "Brain of J." It's three minutes of pure sonic assault, and the coolest guitar effects on the album. As much as I love this song it is the one number that just does not fit; then again, it pre-dates the rest of the songs by years, not months, and thematically I can't seem to get it to make sense. Musically, however, it belongs, live it always redeems, and I wouldn't have it off this record for one second, because it's music by McCready, and if there was a star on this album, let me say that it is none other than Mr. Michael McCready; because not only is he playing like a motherfucker, he is writing to match.

faithfull photo faithfull

"Faithfull" and we're off the on ramp and beginning to get into cruising speed. it's the beginning of the introduction of the themes of the album:

The man upstairs is used to all of this noise
I'm through with screaming
Echoes nobody hears, it goes
We're faithful, we all believe
Why the double L? Is it Eddie emphasizing the meaning of the word, stressing how truly full of faith he is?
and our tenacious belief in a game
a box of fear
voice inside so drowned out
no way no way photo

Expressions of faith, of the willingness to believe - just believe, doesn't matter in what. So it makes sense that the next message extends that: "I'll stop trying to make a difference/no way." It's almost the same concept as expressed in "Faithfull," just looking at it from a different angle - Stone's angle. I just want someone to be there for, I just need someone to be there for - he needs to be there for someone and needs someone to be there for him. It's so simple, so artfully constructed. It is the ultimate statement of the reasons for belief, of his "need to not disappear", and the perfect companion to Ed's "Faithfull."

given to fly photo given to fly

"Given To Fly." This is the monumental song on this record, the others are outstanding but this one's nothing short of fucking ETERNAL. Strong, memorable, soaring, anthemic. Be very careful who you are with the first time you hear this song as they, or the circumstances, the setting, will forever be inexorably linked with this song until the end of time. For me, whenever I hear this song I can immediately, effortlessly evoke the first night of the Oakland shows, hearing this song fill up the entire stadium, feeling it fill me up and buoy my spirit skyward. It just possesses that kind of immediate majesty. (And that, to me, is what Mike "ripped off" from Led Zeppelin [if anything] -- Zep were the first and ultimate stadium band. They were too large for anything else, and so is this song.)

Lyrically, GTF is a story of battle and triumph, of defeat and faith. And I can't help but compare it to "Love, Reign O'er Me," that same expression of surrender and triumphant, trumpeting survival.

wish list wish list photo

"Wish List" didn't strike me much the first time I heard it; then again, it was night one, Oakland Coliseum, and it's such an incredibly intimate song that it was impossible that it could make a suitable impression under those circumstances. But here, it's revealed to be one of Eddie's best love songs to date; "Hail Hail" was the most recent one, which was perfect in its practicality and cynicism, but "Wish List" is nothing but tender, truthful, full of symbolism. This isn't "Black," this isn't "Porch" -- those were about people in Eddie's past, we don't know how long ago they were written -- and it seems that only now has he had the courage to write about this aspect of his life, to reveal so much to us. And thanks to Dave Marsh's ATN interview, I will sign all future valentines "I wish I was the full moon shining off your Camaro's hood" or "I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on".

Like many of the songs on this record, it seems to me that Eddie's enforced isolation has resulted in the gift of him reaching out to his audience with his words, instead of being able to do so personally. I for one would have never asked for this trade-off, but it appears that he's comfortable with this - not resigned, not happy, but that he looked for the open window when the door was closed. Ed's songs this time are undeniably about him -- these aren't abstract concepts or archetypes or characters any longer.

jeff on the glacier pilate

The meaning of "Pilate" has to be the most debated topic in PJ fandom since the release of the single. Rather than wade into that murky water -- mostly because I don't have an opinion, and don't want to force myself to create one -- I'd rather talk about how interesting this song is musically; it's probably the most interesting composition on the record, almost a mismatch, but a mismatch that works.

center photo

do the evolution teepee

So, if you look at the "Faithfull"/"No Way" duality, and smushed those unique viewpoints together, of course you'd come up with "Do The Evolution". This was the song that grabbed me in Oakland, was the high point of the three shows I saw, was hands down the live powerhouse, and the time for the guys to totally break loose and wail. The morning the record came out, I was listening to the tape on the way to work, in my walkman; I'd reached the end of the first side by the time I got downtown, and turned it off while I went and got coffee. I flipped the tape, walked away from the espresso stand, hit play and when DTE started I startled passersby as I totally forgot myself and shrieked loudly and openly in delight.

This is the mature successor to "Glorified G" ("I can kill cause in god I trust" vs. "got a gun - fact i got two - that's okay, cuz I love god!"): Ed's talking about the same people, just in a more reasoned, seasoned viewpoint Ė make no mistake, however: he still hates them just as much (Monkeywrench made that point VERY clear, and the vocal delivery here makes his meaning unmistakable ). What they did with Ed's vocals was incredibly brave of them to do and unbelievably effective, with echoes of late-era R.E.M (but I swear, if he ever picks up a megaphone on stage I will throw a shoe at him). The effect is completely appropriate and transforms the song from a live tear-up, straight-ahead rock and roll song into an artfully crafted political statement. It's harsh, biting and the vocal effects do nothing but reinforce that.

On that note, many people seem to be bitching that the album is over produced (there's also an equally vocal camp saying that the album isn't produced ENOUGH), but it seems to me to be perfectly balanced; No Code was stark and unadorned, but on Yield it's not "what does this button do?!" but rather, an intricate layering of small touches. not over-accessorized, not underdressed, they were confident to use what worked and what they thought was appropriate, and not shy away from technology on principle.

the color red the color red photo

Have you recognized "The Color Red" yet? They opened the 96 and 97 shows with that drumming. I played it for my friend Andrea tonight and told her, "Jack wrote this." She thought for a second and then said, "yeah! this could be a chili peppers song!"

mfc photo mfc

Now we're back on the open road again, as the album truly cruises into "MFC." this is their "Going Mobile," the ultimate on-the-road song, completely capturing the feel of traveling and the spirit of movement. Even if you didn't have the lyrics to this one (and I only NOW just looked at them, writing this), the music conveys the theme of the song perfectly, mirrored by the lyrics. and now, look at the cover of the album, and think, "There's a lot to be said for nowhere."

lowlite lowlite photo

"Lowlight" is Jeff's part of the spiritual journey, and the companion piece to "Pilate," but I could also make an equally strong case that this is a love song. but in either case, it's simple, evocative, straightforward, the gently swirling organ in the background gives it an almost waltz-like feel.

in hiding photo in hiding

"I love this song

I put my arms out and just spin in big circles..."

Will I ever be able to listen to "In Hiding" and not cry my eyes out? jesus. this song has so much emotion, so much depth, and is the hidden gem on this album, because none of this is evident at the outset. I listen to this and cannot believe how brave Eddie is. This is about a retreat, a spiritual quest, it's clear it's a familiar ritual that he's sharing with us. I'd even go as far to say that it's devotional in nature. Instead of running away, though, by the end of the song it is clear that what he is doing is running toward - like the protagonist in GTF, instead of tuning in, he's tuning out, to whatever might be out there -- toward what he doesn't know, but he is going to close his eyes, jump off the cliff, and just trust. It's that belief thing again.
"these words i write keep me from total madness"
     --Charles Bukowski ("Buk")
This song frightens me on a personal level; it speaks to something we all have inside, but most of us don't have the courage to face. It's the part of us we'd all prefer to deny or ignore, but the part that catches up with us sooner or later, and we'd be far better off turning and facing it head on. And that's what this song is about, for me.

push me pull me push me pull me photo

"Push Me, Pull Me" nods to Nick Cave and Frank Zappa, with a little U2 thrown in for good measure, Ed's most interesting vocal delivery, deadpan, almost Morrisonian, while the bass line borrows from "Start" by the Jam. Musically this is the match to "Pilate" (thanks again, Jeff). Lyrically, Ed's concept of eternity and the afterlife, perhaps? And did you catch the sample from the Christmas single at the beginning?

all those yesterdays photo all those yesterdays

"All Those Yesterdays" -- what an incredible Beatles tribute. Iím going to have to rethink my whole influences discussion, because this time they make no bones about it. And from Stone of all people! This is the one that surprises me the most. It's a logical extension from "Mankind"'s satirical quality and theme, and part of me is thinking that Stone wanted to try to out-Beatle the dreaded Oasis, just like "Mankind" out-stone-temple-piloted STP and their ilk. But then you look at the lyrics, and you don't want to dismiss this one:

don't you think you oughtta rest?
don't you think you oughtta lay your head down?
don't you think you want to sleep?
don't you think you've done enough?
Sounds like Stone has his own battles with himself; just expresses them, again, with a different perspective than Eddie.

the hidden track

I'll be short: what does this remind me of? "underneath the bunker" by r.e.m. this, too, sounds like it was written in a Greek restaurant. Can't believe it's only on the CD, though...

I've lived with this record for five days now; on the way to work, on the way home, at home. I've walked around at lunch with it, made dinner to it, and tonight I road-tested it for the very first time (HIGHLY recommended; it's a total road record, not to mention the added effect of making every yield sign you pass stand out). If it hasn't been Yield, it's been silence.

I've heard all three formats (and the vinyl pressing is an absolute jewel, even if the packaging disappoints). Iíve read three lyric versions (the albums, and two that were posted on usenet). I've missed the bus twice while listening and scribbling notes.

But even given all of that, I almost feel Ė presumptuous Ė writing about it so soon. I know it well enough to try to re-sequence it, can already sing along Ė but also know very well that it's only just started to reveal itself to me. And I eagerly await for the rest of the layers to rise to the top.

the cover

This is a stunningly beautiful photograph, wonderful use of depth and perspective, and reminds me of this wonderful picture by the great photographer Robert frank, in this legendary book of photography called The Americans: a black and white photo, taken out west, of a road stretching out into the distance, mountains in the background. I think it is simple but effective in conveying a real sense of PJ's "journey" as expressed musically and lyrically on the album.

Also, think about the irony in the photo: there is fucking NOTHING for miles around, so what is that "Yield" sign doing there? Yield to what? And what's on the sides of the road - to me it looks like crops. that's another meaning to "Yield" = harvest.

the artwork

Band on the run again: these appear largely to have been taken on the road last year, with the others undoubtedly chosen for their relevance to the songs. However, having said that, the concentration camp/Jewish cemetery selection and placement makes me think and come up with questions I canít exactly articulate or begin to suggest answers to.

the hidden Yield signs

Tuesday night, I spent an hour and a half on the phone with my friend Andy, going through this. then, the next day, I had a lengthy email correspondence with someone who didn't even know about this - but once I got him started, kept seeing them everywhere.

All I can think is what Mr. Jerome Turner himself told us about No Code: "It's called No Code because it's full of code; it's full of misinformation." A little suggestion goes a long way. We will also admit that it's clear someone learned some new image manipulation software; the yield sign in the ocean (duh!), as well as the photo of Mike and Stone on the race track; that photo appeared in an ad for GTF minus Stone (though if you look REALLY close you can see where his image used to be). So maybe they're just having some fun with us; they've already given a common, everyday icon special significance; tell me you don't get a little buzz when you're driving these days and see a yield sign! I think some of it is there, but I think the rest we're just seeing what we want to see....and a little imagination is never a bad thing.

Photography by Jeff Ament

Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons