Of the Girl
Mystery surrounds “Of the Girl”. Rumored to have been attempted for inclusion on 1998’s Yield, it instead debuted two years later on the intense though scatterbrained Binaural. Most of its live appearances have been as show starters; rarely if ever has the song been played mid- or late-set. It seems to be used by the band to set a very specific mood, which may explain it’s careful placement both on record and on stage.
It’s one of my very favorite Pearl Jam songs, and arguably the best in their catalog not to feature a Vedder writing credit for either lyrics or music. “Of the Girl” is Pearl Jam at their most evocative. It’s the song that gives my imagination the greatest freedom to roam within its confines–at least soundwise, since I tend to ignore the lyrics. But musically, the band conjures up dark, beautiful atmosphere through vaguely Eastern melodies and instrumentation. Though it’s nowhere to be found in Stone Gossard’s lyrics, I cannot help but picture a train crossing a desert landscape at night, lantern-lit windows sweeping left to right like film. The lead guitar parts were recorded with a fair amount of roomsound, giving them a lot of texture and space. The song is minor key without sounding dire or gloomy, and the emotional restraint in Vedder’s voice wisely keeps him from overpowering a subtle, intricate, unique tune. With the possible exception of “Strangest Tribe” (another Gossard composition), I can’t think of another Pearl Jam song remotely like it.