Get Right

As longtime drummer for Soundgarden, Matt Cameron was responsible for some of their heaviest (“Mailman”), strangest (“Applebite”) and best (“Fresh Tendrils”) songs. It’s no surprise that his contributions to Pearl Jam’s canon have been much the same.  “Get Right” falls squarely in the “strangest” category.  A two-and-a-half minute garage-rock number, the song hasn’t quite endeared itself to the fanbase since its inclusion on 2002’s Riot Act. Played only 17 times during the 2003 tour, “Get Right” has yet to reappear live since the penultimate show in Mexico City.  As a quirky, almost slight bit of songwriting, it must have proven hard to place within any given night’s setlist.

The song’s chorus of “I wanted to get right” is supposed to be code for getting high, and certain phrases in the verses would appear to bear that theory out (“Bakers dozen”, “the fire is made now”), not to mention a big ole illustrated spliff in the liner notes. Still, the cut-and-paste language sticks out of the song awkwardly over the sparse instrumentation between choruses. The music is dominated by the rhythmic interplay between Ament and Cameron, with choppy, pulsing guitar.  The chorus is by far the best part of the brief “Get Right”, as Vedder brings his voice up an octave for a catchy singalong augmented by rapid-fire handclaps. I always wonder if it wouldn’t have been more successful if Vedder had sung its entirety in his upper register.  As it stands, the full, rounded tone of his lower voice on a word like “underbelly” draws too much attention to the silliness of the lyric.  Will we ever hear this song again at a Pearl Jam concert?

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~ by Michael on April 29, 2007.

10 Responses to “Get Right”

  1. I really like the guitar solo in this song and how it shifts so tragically vocal wise from verse to choros.

  2. It is kind of neat how the solo leads the way out of the song.

  3. I thought that your comment about Ed singing the entire song in his upper register was an interesting one. His lower register does draw attention to the fact that the lyrics are ridiculous; however, I also think that doing that would have made an already very weak song even weaker. Ed’s voice is the only thing that gives this song any substance.

    That said, despite the fact that the songwriting here is very weak, the arrangement makes this a light listen on a very weighty album. I actually enjoy the relief when GET RIGHT comes on.

  4. Great point about “Get Right” lightening the mood of Riot Act somewhat in the middle of the record. Do you think “Down” or “Undone” could have done the same thing, or would either of those songs been too different tonally or style-wise?

  5. That question opens up a whole series of issues. Is GET RIGHT actually a song?

    It used to be that listening to an album was viewed as a very different experience than it is today. It was a journey that you took with the artist as your guide. In the iTunes-oriented world of today, every album is listened to as though it were a mix-tape. No one understands this better than a group like Fall Out Boy, but Pearl Jam are like dinosaurs in the current pop world. It’s pretty clear to me that GET RIGHT was never meant to be a stand-alone song. It’s less than three minutes long, its percussive style fits right into where it’s positioned, and it provides a break between the true love theme of YOU ARE and the greed theme of GREEN DISEASE.

    DOWN and UNDONE are both better songs that GET RIGHT, and I love their current arrangements, but remembering the LIGHT YEARS demo vs. LIGHT YEARS album version, what is the likelihood that we would know DOWN and UNDONE in their current forms if either had appeared on Riot Act?

  6. Great point Susan. One would then want to examine exactly when, where, and how the band tried to incorporate “Get Right” into their live show for the few times they did.

    You’re absolutely right about the current view of albums as mix tapes, but I don’t think Pearl Jam are completely alone in creating albums as albums. There are plenty of younger bands and artists, from Magnolia Electric Co. to Wilco (not really that much younger than PJ), to Sufjan Stevens etc. etc. who put together solid records. Even some pop artists like Amy Winehouse seem more concerned with crafting 40 some odd quality minutes, even though her singles more than stand on their own.

    I’m not a huge advocate of swapping songs in and out of records, making my own “perfect” ten by throwing in “Footsteps” or “Wash” for example. But it is interesting to consider why bands make the choices they do w/r/t certain material over others. I think you hit the nail on the head with “Get Right”. It was what was needed.

  7. You are right, of course. And we still have Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, but it seems much more the norm to produce albums that have the dance tune, the ballad, the hip-hop number, etc. with all the proper producers. Those albums also seem to be much more heavily marketed. It is so discouraging.

    Your reviews of the songs are really interesting and thoughtful, and I enjoy reading them. Do you plan on looking at the albums as a whole as well?

  8. I haven’t until now! I write record reviews for an online magazine, and I’ve covered Lost Dogs and Pearl Jam for that site already. Since there are so many record review sites out there, the only way I’d do it is from some other angle. Perhaps tying in where I was when each of the records (except “Ten”) came out, since I was probably in six different states on various record release dates. I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews, as I’m enjoying your insight and comments as well.

  9. I’m not a fan of this song. It is better than some bands entire catalogs, don’t get me wrong, but I have higher expectations for pj than I do…. lets say My Chemical Romance or whatever crap may be playing at the time.

    Corduroy13, I never really looked at ‘Get Right’ as a stoner tune, rather a political one, but I think you may have swayed my interpretation.

  10. One of their weakest songs

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