When I was young (we’re talking 2 or so here) I started having dreams of the moon following me. Fun story, that. I would look onto the porch and see it. I would run upstairs in a panic and hide in my bed. The moon would follow, and its minions would take my bed and try to tip me over the upstairs railing, down the stairs. This was actually less horrifying and bizarre than the other recurring dream I had at this age, and was made all the more ridiculous by my mother recording me, in a childish post-nightmare fervor, describing the current installment. The moon, it appears, talks in a funny-looking voice.
So perhaps it was fated that “I’m Open” would be, in my estimation, one of the best songs on one of my favorite albums, despite being little more than a spoken word piece. This song not only talks about dreams I actually had, though, but also looks forward to maturation, and back to lost aspects of our lives. The sleeplessness of thinking too much about the future and the passage of time. The feeling that something was lost in all of us through aging. All performed through the haze of the night, right before bed, like a prayer. All in aid of a simple concept…a fragility that leaves the narrator’s character, or perhaps Eddie Vedder himself, open to entry. A letting go of the barriers we put up, but not without a palpable fear of what that might lead to. Then, sweeping us into the lullaby-esque “Around the Bend,” from furtive contemplation to, finally, sweet dreams.
Around the Bend
It takes a certain sort of band to set a poem to music and have it be more than a throwaway track, and even Pearl Jam themselves have not pulled it off consistently. In part because of this, this song is indicative of why I will always believe No Code to be their best album. It’s introspective, poetic, and damn thoughtful for a band rooted in the grunge era. It makes sense with the album’s diversity, too: consider that “Who You Are” was the lead single, that the album goes from the quiet “Sometimes” to the rabid “Lukin,” that Stone Gossard is allowed to take lead vox on “Mankind.” Some people cite No Code as Pearl Jam’s descent into irrelevance. I see a band taking steps past their origins. Simply put, when you release three hugely successful albums, you can do one of two things: make another in the same mold, or make the music you feel strongest about making. No Code feels like the latter, and that’s something I respect in any artist.
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