I’ve received much indignation regarding my scathing review of “I’m Still Here” (which is great, keep it coming). So what about “Evacuation”, one of the most feared/loathed Pearl Jam songs at live shows, the Pearl Jam song PJ fanatics love to hate? Well now it’s my turn to be righteously indignant: “Evacuation” is a great song. I try to put myself in other listeners’ shoes, but I still can’t figure out why all the hate. But I’ll try to play devil’s advocate:
1. Fatigue. After an 11th hour tracklisting change that replaced “Insignificance” with “Gods’ Dice” in the Binaural two-spot, the resulting opening 3 tunes to the album were all terse, under-3 minute rockers with similar energy. As the third track in that salvo, “Evacuation” was perhaps bound to be the third wheel, with listeners saying “Enough already!” But while track order can definitely be a factor in how one enjoys or doesn’t enjoy a song in context with its album, you’d think that the song by itself, or part of varied live sets, would eventually woo people to its charms. It hasn’t yet. When the band finally bust it out for the first time on the 2003 tour in Columbus, I was probably one of the few for whom its appearance made the bootleg impossible to resist.
2. It’s weird. For a short song, “Evacuation” pulls together several musical sections that differ in tone, tempo, and signature. Matt Cameron’s love for odd rhythm and meter is on full display here, belying his talent and ability for multiple percussion styles, from heavy metal to straight-up jazz. A musician’s musician, the inventive twists and turns he wrote into “Evacuation” can be disorienting. For me, it sounds like a cross between Cameron’s former band, Soundgarden, and the Police. Really, what could be better than that?
3. I can’t think of a third reason not to love “Evacuation”. Someone out there in internetland will have to pony up and explain themselves. I’m looking forward to it.