Sometime in early 1996, I anxiously flipped through the Pearl Jam section at an independent record store in New Hampshire. Being a high-schooler at the time, without my own car, and the store over an hour from my home, I didn’t have opportunity to shop there often. Nor did I often have 26 bucks with which to purchase a CD bootleg of the kind that the store stocked for countless alternative and hard rock bands. This was right on the cusp of the internet explosion that would eliminate the need for pricey, often suspect bootlegged material on compact disc. Traveling to this store was one of the few chances I had to find rare and even unheard of Pearl Jam material. I couldn’t afford the complete live shows that were for sale, which were usually double-disc sets for $52. My strategy was to pick out the one disc with the most unfamiliar, but plausible, titles. On this particular day I picked up “More Nonsense” because of a few intriguing songs: “Brain of J.F.K.”, “Seven Years Waiting”, and most of all, “Mosquito”.
Recorded in Salt Lake City in November of ’95, what the bootleggers guessed was called “Mosquito” was the live debut of what would be called “Red Mosquito” on No Code. Since then, it’s been played sporadically–not exactly a rarity, but certainly a treat to hear live, a sleeper hit and often a fan favorite. The fact that it’s only song on No Code credited to all five members of the band might point to possible origins as a band improv. The entire intro to the song sounds like it could have been the outro to another, with Mike McCready’s ragged lead guitar evoking the buzzing insect of the title quite well. The song exudes both beauty and menace, with (much the same as the rest of its parent album) a healthy dose of Crazy Horse. The lyrics are all over the place in their approach. Some sections are fragments and non-sequiters, others are bits and pieces of what could be a larger narrative of which we’re only given glimpses. To me they’re most useful because of their evocative qualities, rather than sensical ones, with the “key” to the song’s meaning perhaps being the beautifully harmonizes refrain at the end “If I had known then, what I know now.” Maybe if I’d have known then what I know now, I would have saved my $26 and been patient for both No Code and the internet revolution.