Jeff Ament fought hard for “Other Side” to be included on Riot Act, so perhaps as consolation for its absence there, the song is featured on no less than three other releases: Lost Dogs, and the singles for “Save You” and “Love Boat Captain”. But as we delve further into the realm of Riot Act tracks and b-sides, we’re forced again into the “what if?” discussion, as in what if Ament got his way? Even considering only the songs we know about from the RA sessions (internet posts of questionable veracity abound with up to fifteen additional titles), Pearl Jam had more material than they perhaps knew what to do with. The resulting album had 15 tracks, the most of any Pearl Jam record. We can’t change what now exists as a permanent artifact, decided on by the band–but speculation about “Other Side” might help us understand why they made the choices they made.
A Riot Act that made use of “Down”, “Undone”, and “Other Side” would have been a very different animal, but how different? As it stands, I’d say that the album is even more haphazard and random than No Code, which is usually singled out for being all over the map. For instance, what pandemonium would have ensued had “Other Side” replaced “Help Help”? The former clearly bests the latter in melody and sheer pleasantness. Despite key changes and those underwater guitar effects, the song flows remarkably well. Plus, Ament’s lyrics about love and mortality, separation across the void, are some of his best and least awkward. The only justification I can see for excluding “Other Side” from the Riot Act party is that the overall mood, and Vedder’s vocals, are inordinately subdued. Not exactly riotous.