November 27, 2013


There is a trend forming here. One that is becoming abundantly clear to anyone who has been reading these Pearl Jam posts. I have spoken often and repeatedly about a nagging sense of anger and angst. Post after post, song after song writing about a yearning to lash out and be heard. Songs like Why Go, Alive, Porch, and Blood were all carved from the same scars caused by the painful events described in my Rearview Mirror post. Each of these songs speaks directly to the transformation of victim to healer. Abused to savior. Each song an anthem of angst and rage. And ultimately hope.

While the album Versus, begins to explore new sound-scapes unheard on Ten, the song Leash both in sound and content, is from that earlier era. Leash could easily have been a track from Ten, as is evidenced my footage of the band playing the song as early as 1991. And like the songs mentioned above, Leash was another prayer in my hymnal in the early days of my twenties. One to which I often turned in times of confusion and hope.

The song Leash is a cocktail of emotional tension and release, and so warrants a line-by-line breakdown. I have always understood the opening line as a call! A gathering of tribes.

Troubled souls unite we got ourselves tonight

There is no salvation beyond suffering. No help beyond our own tribe. Only those who are broken and have faced pain can mend and heal that pain. But there is power in healing. Because our pain is not our own to bare alone-- it is a tool we can use to help others. As we, the troubled souls, share the weight of our suffering and make clear to others that we too have been there, our own load lightens at the same time as those whom we are trying to help.

I am fuel you are friends we got the means to make amends

This song is the ultimate in self-sacrifice. The singer confused as to whether he is the saved or the savior. I often felt Vedder singing these lines to me, but on those occasions, alone in a car or a dark room, when I was the singer of these lines, I felt invincible. Empowered to use my scars to mend others.

I am lost I'm no guide but I'm by your side
I am right by your side

I have always loved the humility of that line. Keep in mind that by this time Vedder was seen as the spokesperson of a generation. A sort of messiah for the disenfranchised, but here he is saying that he  doesn't have any more answers than those who have placed him on a pedestal. It is in his vulnerability and ability to stand by us that we should find comfort, not by any answers he may have. Again, when singing this song, I find his humility empowering. To this day, I feel the notion of being a lost guide in everything I do. In my writing, teaching, and parenting. I don't know where I am going, but I will stand with anyone who is willing to move forward.

Young lover I stand
It was their idea I proved to be a man

This is one of my favorite Pearl Jam lines of all time. It so perfectly highlights the tenacity of survival. The ambiguity of "their" is perfectly situated to separate them from us. Society and the troubled souls. The abusers and the abused. The dead from the living.

Take my fucking hand
It was their idea I proved to be a man 

And then to repeat it! Building that tension both in speed and tone, the song heads toward climax. But then suddenly the melody softens and takes flight. Adding a layer of complexity to the crescendo which begin on the first note.

Will myself to find a home a home within myself
We will find a way we will find our place 

Back to the theme of self-reliance and community. Vedder reminding us that only we can help ourselves. And only then can we help others. That if we band together and cherish our youth, we will find our place. All we must do is to demand from those that control us to:

Drop the leash drop the leash
Get outta' my fuckin' face

Drop the leash, we are young
Oh, get outta' my fuckin' face
Drop the leash, drop the leash
Get outta' my, my

The song finally breaks into a hopeful lift, a chant, a calling for release. A demand to be set free! Weaving guitar solos usher in an ending filled with howls to:

Delight, delight, delight in our youth

Leash has got to be one of my top five Pearl Jam songs of all time. Where does Leash take you? What stories or lessons have you dug out of this song?

No comments:

Post a Comment