Why, you ask, did I choose “Aye Davanita” as the first track from Vitalogy to explore? Fair enough question, particularly because it’s commonly regarded that if that record was released without “Aye Davanita”, “Bugs”, “Pry, To”, and “Stupidmop”, it would likely stand as the most consistently great Pearl Jam album. Every one of the other ten tracks is a qualified classic. But I love the bizarre experiments, largely the work of Vedder, inserted throughout the raw, turbulent Vitalogy. Many fans skip tunes like “Aye Davanita” routinely, hate them, can’t understand them. I can’t claim to understand them either, as an act of deliberate career/artistic sabotage or anything else. But I do think the years have been kind to these oddities, which punctuated Pearl Jam’s record with moments of levity, dread, anxiety, and in the case of “Aye Davanita”, calm.
It’s also a much needed bridge between “Betterman” and “Immortality”. The latter is a profoundly dark riddle. And for all of the mother-son strife and bitterness built into “Betterman”, the music is at least heroic, if not buoyant. “Aye Davanita” is the palate cleanser between the two, wiping almost the entire record clean prior to “Immortality”, which is enough of a song to almost warrant an entire side unto itself. “Aye Davanita” achieves this by fading both in and out as if the listener is only witnessing one cycle of a much longer piece. It’s repetitive, nonsensical, vaguely Eastern, and full of all sorts of weird vocal (brrrrrd bop, brrrrrrl beep!) and instrumental sounds that reveal themselves after repeated listens. I’m willing to bet that out of the four strange tracks on Vitalogy, “Aye Davanita” gave record execs at Epic the most cause for concern–because it was the only one that suggested a viable direction Pearl Jam could continue to travel (and would to some extent on No Code). Used as intro music to Pearl Jam shows much the same way as “Master/Slave” and “The Color Red”, “Aye Davanita” is like funky wallpaper in the basement of the house of Pearl Jam.