Performed more often as a tag to its Vs.-mate “Daughter” (and occasionally “Porch”, once “Once”), “W.M.A.” put the jam in Pearl Jam via an insistent tribal drum pattern that no one since Dave Abbruzzese has been eager to replicate.  The repetitive groove of the drums and Jeff Ament’s bass-line provide a platform for the rest of the band to experiment and improvise on top, including Vedder’s echoing vocals about white privilege and police brutality.  I’m of the mindset that Pearl Jam had to slowly grow into its politics.  The band’s early issue-based material, “W.M.A.” included, took a topic and established a stance on it–here, that racial profiling is wrong–but not in particularly thought-provoking ways.  Until the last few lines, “Human devices set me free / All my pieces set me free,” which begin to explore the song’s thesis creatively, “W.M.A.” offers a pretty standard, easy argument, all the way down to white Jesus reference.  As the band evolved, its political songs began (mostly) to weave their concerns with fully-fleshed characters (“Unemployable”) or political philosophy (“Down”).  But while the grim, moody sounds of “W.M.A.” were unique for the time, and a welcome sonic curiosity in the middle of Vs., overall it was wisely broken down into parts to be pulled out during improvisations.


~ by Michael on May 5, 2007.

12 Responses to “W.M.A.”

  1. I think the last time this was played by itself was in 1995 at Sendai, Japan. Jack Irons played a great extended ending to it. The Sendai show is one of my favorites from the 1995 Asia/Aussie tour with WMA being one of the big reasons. I hope Matt C. will have a chance at it soon.

  2. You’re right. I just looked that up. I didn’t realize Jack every took a swing at that song. Sendai seems to be a great place for the band. The 2003 show is one of my very favorites: Of the Girl into Immortality: wow.

  3. Hey if I can play it, I’m sure matt can. It’s really simple. I’ve gotten all but one of PJ’s tough “drum” songs down. In My Tree, W.M.A., Given To fly, and nothingmanwith the brush strokes, but i can’t get Who You Are. I think i would need some cowbells for that anyway.Oh yeah I can’t get Marker down either. I lied. 2. This is a great song.

  4. This song rocks my socks off. I love the (correct me if I’m wrong presenttense) tom-tom playing by Dave “the man” Abbruzesse. Adds a lot to the repetive and looped drums/bass. I especially like the “oh-ah oh-ah” backing vocals that come in near the end. The end itself it pretty stellar. I think the reason they don’t attempt this live is not because of drumming issues, rather it is too difficult vocally.

  5. The oh-ah’s remind me of “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders.

  6. Yeah the tom tom pattern is the basis of this song. I could tab it out but it would be pretty challanging for someone who’s never tab a percussive piece before. Its a parradiddle between the floor tom and an snareless snare drum with the last left hand note being the opening of the hi hat leading straight into the single roll on the toms. He alternates the doubles (on the toms) to the high tom ever third bar.

    Im not much of a great “note” knowing musician but I think I’m right.

    • drum tabs are available online…I dont even play an instrument but WMA’s drum track in particular immediately grabbed my attention as something special

  7. In this one, the band achieves a great performance! Everything is perfect, drums, guitars, bass and of course Eddie’s vocals

  8. Dave Abbruzzese –

    “I laid down this two-measure drum track and we looped it all the way through the song. Eddie and Jeff came in to do vocals and bass on it, and then I went back with some Octobans and a cymbal and just winged it. I also did some tambourine and sleigh bell thing, and then we did some other crazy stuff, like using a slapstick and another tambourine and Stone dancing around the hallway with this freaky “boinging” thing.”

  9. Best song on Vs. Easily.

  10. Pearl jam purists may flame me now, but IMHO Ten was best CD…WMA best track….best drum track ever in my opinion

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