With “Insignificance”, a protest song in part about the futility of protest songs, did Pearl Jam stop trying to make a difference? No way.  What it did, along with its compatriot “Grievance”, was attempt to reignite and reinvigorate the band’s political nature in the wake of the WTO protests, and the public awakening to the realities of global economic and governmental superstructures.  It’s not enough to just play C3 in the jukebox, and let the song protest, when there’s a ginormous military-industrial lobby in bed with the government that needs war in order to remain profitable.

Vedder may have had writer’s block during the creation of Binaural, but he still managed to eke out a pair of forceful political songs that took a bit of piss out of the rapid-growth ’90s.  Sounding as dark and huge as the nebulae adorning the album’s artwork, “Insignificance” introduced stuttering drum-shifts into trademark Vedder guitar progressions and riffs, while the lyrics imagined a town getting obliterated by bombs. “Please forgive our hometown,” he sings on the chorus, in reference to Seattle’s Boeing being a major manufacturer of war planes.

“Insignificance” is a showcase not only for Vedder’s renewed and refocused political awareness, but for new old drummer Matt Cameron, who bashes the hell out of his kit on every performance (and it should be noted that as with many Pearl Jam songs, the live version of “Insignificance” benefits from an added jolt of energy).  The sheer force and vigor that Cameron brought to the band adds an even deeper sense of urgency to lines like “It’s instilled to wanna live,” which hopefully gives American listeners pause to reflect on the fact that words like “civilian casualities” that we rarely even hear on network news regarding our involvement in other countries, is just news-speak for towns like the one in the song getting crushed and blown up, tens of thousands of people who lived to love and loved to live dying horrific deaths that somehow raise the stock value for people on the other side of the world.  And even more hopefully, it inspired at least a few folks to do more than let the song protest, but to become involved in local and wider communities to work for change.


~ by Michael on June 2, 2007.

9 Responses to “Insignificance”

  1. This is my favorite Pearl Jam song. Period. I cannot adequately put into words how much I love this track. Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of “Binaural” on the whole, yet I can say that “Grievance” and “Insignificance” are both in my Top 5 PJ songs. This song to me is the ultimate protest song…a song that feels so worldly and yet, so deeply personal at the same exact time. Ed’s writing is top-notch here….especially the “It’s instilled to wanna live” line which gives me chills every time.

    As C13 mentioned, you can’t really say enough about Matt’s drumming on this song either. It sounds like bombs dropping when he is pounding on his kit during this tune….Also, Ed’s guitar line during the verses is just perfect. I wish I could say more, but suffice it to say, for me, this is Pearl Jam at their absolute, collective best.

  2. Awesome, NoCoder. Always cool to hear what people’s all time favorites are. Do you give the slight edge to “Insignificance” or “Grievance”? I go back and forth.

    • @courdoroy: Same here. I’ve been wading in a Binaural phase lately , and aside from Rival (my favorite) I would say at this moment, it’s Insignificance over Grievance… Until tomorrow that is lol!

  3. Good song. Great lyrics. But still not my favorite on Binaural. Wake me when we get to sleight of hand. 🙂

  4. I used to favor “Grievance” because it’s so perfectly raw. But overtime, “Insignificance” has just started to mean more to me. “Grievance” is a perfect song in my book, but I favor the lyrics in “Insignificance” and that’s probably why I put it at the top. Still, they are two of my favorites.

  5. Off topic (well, it IS PJ related…) but I saw this and thought you’d might like to have it:

    The full audio from PJ’s MTV Unplugged performance.

  6. Great song this one. I like the moment when then band stops to play before the 2nd chorus when they play it live. Insignificance maybe is the best collaboration between the 3 guitars

  7. I really like Matt’s drum sound on Binaural. I think he added a towel or something into his kick drum to get that bombastic effect.

  8. Play C13, let the song writer protest.

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