Even when I was sure that Riot Act was the best damned thing Pearl Jam had released to date (it wasn’t), I had reservations about “Save You”. The song is on my mind right now primarily due to contemplation about the effectiveness of swearing in rock and roll (see Brain of J). Swears are no better or worse than any other word in the language, but they do present their own special set of problems, mostly because people tend to think that they are better or worse. On one hand, you get stupid parental advisory stickers. On the other hand, you get songs like “Save You”, where the power of a single “fuck” is diluted after several thousand uses.
This is the primary hurdle that I cannot jump over when hearing this song on record, or on a bootleg. I’m not concerned about the subject matter–in fact I can’t even work myself up to care that much about it, because the sheer number of fuck me’s is distracting. “Fuck” has a lot of power and potential, which the person wielding it has got to know. Almost every Pearl Jam album has a song or two that drops the f-bomb, either as an emotional release, or to really drive the seriousness of a point. But “Save You” feels way too conscious of itself, trying too hard. I feel like the band has dealt with similar thematic elements and concerns in much more affecting ways. It did serve a particular purpose on Riot Act however, as being the one spiky punk-rock tune in the vein of “Hail Hail”, “Comatose”, “Spin the Black Circle”, “Brain of J” etc.