“I feel like the band has dealt with similar thematic elements and concerns in much more affecting ways.” At the time I made this statement regarding “Save You”, my mind was searching in vain for examples. “Habit” is the example: a heavier, more urgent, less preachy exploration of dealing with a friend caught up in addiction. “Save You” reaches out as a helping hand, or punching bag, a solution to the problem–as in, “I’m going to help you through this difficult time even if it’s difficult for me.” So there’s a confidence, or at least hope, inherent in the song that things are going to get resolved. In “Habit” there’s nothing remotely comforting, no answers, nada; the song is terrifying.
Though the songs’ intents are vastly different, “Habit” is more effective with regards to thinking about addiction, precisely because of its doubt, and the self-effacement of a line like “I’m so happy with my righteous self!” It’s extremely vulnerable, which raises the stakes considerably in the song, and makes me want to take what’s being said very seriously. “Another habit says it’s in love with you / Another habit says it’s long overdue / Another habit like an unwanted friend” — this is all presented as scary and ugly as it should be. The heavy, damaged sound of the band’s roar and Vedder’s voice are exhilarating to get caught up in–tempered by the harmonies (again, Ed is playing with this technique all over No Code) on “Not your way!” “Habit” is catchy in its own right.
“Seen in happen to a couple of friends / Seen it happen and the message it sends.” Perhaps it’s unfair to compare “Habit” with “Save You”, because of their different perspectives and aims. Artists as people grow and learn and face similar situations differently over the course of their lives. We should all probably breathe a sigh of relief that the band can write a song like “Save You” as rock, a lighthouse, etc., the certainty of “I’m not going to lose you.” But to me, the uncertainty of “Habit”, the unknown, the danger–makes it a much more interesting listen.
Note: A live review from a circa-1995 Rolling Stone misnamed “Habit” as “Havoc”, which I always thought would be a great title for another PJ song someday, just a good all-around word.