Green Disease

I didn’t save “Green Disease” as the last of the Riot Act tracks on purpose, but I have to admit I’m more fond of it than most from that record. It’s like a champion welterweight, even a flyweight (balsaweight? croutonweight?), punchy and upbeat but swift, with a trademark Vedder guitar riff but a few surprises as well. The biggest draw for me is subtle: the insertion of little series of three notes in the second half of the first verse. “Green Disease” is pretty much in standard 4/4 time, so the slight rhythmic play of three picked notes within that framework adds both quirk and propulsion, as well as more melodic and tonal dimension. For such a brief song that is relatively uncluttered by heavy instrumentation, there’s a lot of variety from start to finish. After the intro, the verses kick in and sound almost in a different key. The verses in turn never culminate in traditional choruses. The sections that begin “Well, I guess” are more like a second series of different verses. It’s an odd structure for a poppy little song, and one that I believe is unique to Pearl Jam’s catalog.

As far as the lyrical concept of the song is concerned, I’m less convinced. Purposeful, ideologically driven greed is indisputably a huge concern in contemporary business and politics (when isn’t it?), and Vedder keeps his rhetoric appropriate concise for his quick tune, but the language is still mostly flat and uninteresting. The best imagery in the song is of “weeds with big leaves / stealing light from what’s beneath” which neatly defines the idea of “green disease”, providing a visual foothold for listeners’ imaginations and an apt comparison to corporate leeches that become inordinately rich off of the work of others while still maintaining the delusion that they’re somehow pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Had the song continued along those lines, or kept some consistency even across its musical and structural leaps, “Green Disease” might have been even better. Oh, and could someone please explain the fat man’s dream about “choking Ti leaves”?

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~ by Michael on October 19, 2007.

3 Responses to “Green Disease”

  1. This is my favorite song on Riot Act. Of course, that’s not saying too much, but I give credit where credit is due…this is a great little punk song with those sometimes indecipherable Vedder sentiments that we’ve come to know and love. I wish I could explain the fat man’s dream, but I’m going to have to leave that up to those with a little more analytical prowess than I.

  2. Musically, this is a great tune. It’s got a great riff, terrific melody, and I love the chorus. This is one of the tunes not recorded live. The band couldn’t learn the tune during the original sessions, so all of the guitar parts are overdubs. I’ve wondered if Eddie just sat down and played all the guitar parts himself because the interesting three note picked counterpoint that C13 mentioned is not played live, and I, for one, miss it.

    Lyrically, it has many of the same problems that I have with BUSHLEAGER. What are are some of these verses about?

  3. i guess there’s nothing wrong with what you say…but I absolutely dig lyrics like this…deciphering what ed might be tryng to get at…brings me back to those glory days of listening to Evenflow over and over…trying to figure out what the hell he was going on about…Yellow Ledbetterishness is a wonderful thing…and choking Ti leaves clearly refers to that tea shop near the studio ed used to go to that got bought up by Starbucks…

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