Habit

“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.

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~ by Michael on May 16, 2007.

7 Responses to “Habit”

  1. “Speaking as a child of the 90’s”. This song disappeared from the 2006 setlists. They should bring it back, it deserves it

  2. I personally don’t hear the seriousness of Habit that you mentioned. I hear a more playful, sarcastic Ed in these vocals. There is no desperation in his voice or any real worry. More or less, it’s an observation of addiction, but at the same time it’s a ‘fun’ song about addiction. The only two other songs I relate to an addiction problem are ‘Save You’ and ‘Wash’, which to me are much more serious and personal to the narrator. ‘Save You’ and ‘Wash’ are heroin, ‘Habit’ is a pack of smokes.

    This song was played a few times when Ed was on tour with Mike Watt in 1995. “Speaking as a child of the 90s” was ripped off from the Mike Watt song “Against the 70’s” which has the line “Speaking as a child of the 70’s”, a song which Ed subsequently sang lead vocals on for the release of “Ball Hog or Tug-Boat”.

    Man, I am starting to sound like Matt Pinfield.

  3. Wow, Matt Pinfield. Taking me back! I do hear the playfulness and sarcasm, but there’s an undercurrent of something baaaad going on. “Against the ’70s” is such an amazing song.

  4. Yeah, there is an undercurrent of something bad going on, and I think that’s because in the case of ‘Habit’, art imitates life. Most habits start out playful enough, but in many instances the warnings about such tempations fall by the wayside, eventually leading to a serious problem.

    So yes, there is a very serious undertone to the lyrics, but this early warning is buried in a gravel of youthful exuburance. (at least it was for me in 1996. If I had know then what I know now.)

    Do I think Eddie wrote ‘Habit’ to warn people about addictions?
    Not really, it’s just a song. A rocking one at that.

  5. I think that there is probably specificity in these lyrics. I don’t think this is a song that was just written to rock ou. Who knows, really? But I think it sounds serious and urgent enough for me to think there is a specific meaning behind it.

    That being said, I really enjoyed the versions of Habit from the 2000 tour which would start with Ed improvising a little song on the guitar. If I remember correctly, there is a great version from the 2000 Berlin show. Ed does a great improv before Habit. I remember him singing the words “free at last.” I don’t know if we’ll hear this one too much more though. It’s got to be a bastar to sing.

  6. I love Habit, i think it has a real urgency to it that just carries you…

    On a side note, Ed played Habit with Flea and Jack Irons at Hullabaloo last week, so there is still hope for Habit this summer.

  7. Jeez, you’re right, BWR. I forgot that Ed just played Habit recently. Well, you can throw my theory in the trash can. 🙂

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