One of the biggest surprises of Pearl Jam’s 2006 was the return of “Rats”, a strange, humorous, yet intense song from Vs. that is easy to overlook when thinking about Pearl Jam’s career as a whole.  Interpolating a line from Michael Jackson’s “Ben”, and featuring one of the band’s most hilarious misheard lyrics (“lick the dirt of the larger ones’ feet” always sounds like “lick the dirt of [Hakeem] Olajuwon’s feet”to me), it’s a headscratcher, but an enjoyable one.

The playful tone of the lyrics, not to mention the bass-led funk-rock hybrid, is actually not uncommon for early Pearl Jam.  Though not particularly known for their sense of humor, songs like “Dirty Frank”, “Glorified G”, and “Rats” are all either outright goofy, or play freely with sarcasm and irony.  The latter day equivalent of these songs, most notably “Sweet Lew”, makes me suspect that Ament played a prominent role in the songwriting process, despite those tunes all being credited to the entire band in the liner notes.  Ament’s bass drives “Rats”, keeping the song buoyant, loose, and elastic.


~ by Michael on May 18, 2007.

6 Responses to “Rats”

  1. My all time favourite PJ song. I don’t know why, but once that funky bassline starts, i’m taken to another place for the next 3 mins. After bringing it back in NA 06, it was ditched once more in Europe and Aus, so heres hoping it will return again this summer.

    On a side note, Jeff’s backing vocals may be the coolest thing i’ve ever heard 🙂

  2. ‘Rats’ is another great song. I hear a hip hop influence as well as funk, especially in the vocal delivery and phrasing. One of Dave Abbruzesse’s best drum tracks. Stone’s guitar solos are always cool and much different than Mike’s style. Jeff is turned up in the mix, which is a welcome change.

  3. Now I am completely but pleasantly surprised by the love for “Rats”. I don’t have strong feelings for it or against it, but somehow, it makes me very happy to know that it’s someone’s favorite Pearl Jam song. That just goes to show how many different things this band is capable of, and how different individual Pearl Jam fans can be with their tastes.

  4. I am completely and unpleasantly surprised that someone DOESN’T love “Rats”, C13! 🙂

  5. Dave Abbruzzese –

    “As far as my playing, on the song “Rats”, Brendan really wanted me to open the hi-hat, just let the groove open up and plow through. I’d originally approached the song a lot tighter, more hip-hoppy. But when I opened up and bashed my way through it, I felt it just made the whole song explode more. It actually gave the song a different shape, making the chorus different. Little thing like that can make a big difference.”

  6. This song has the best PJ bassline

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