Lord knows I love me some unreleased tracks, and that sometimes I react with bafflement at their being excluded from the various projects they were recorded for. However, I may be one of the few who did not respond with consternation to the instrumental version of “Brother” issued on Lost Dogs, mostly because it provides some great and fairly humorous insight into how the band members view their own work, and each other’s. Also because one doesn’t have to be all that web-savvy to find the version with vocals if one really wants to. Hell, even the one live performance of “Brother” is relatively easy to find.
Still, Pearl Jam fans including myself love to have everything the band has ever done, warts and all, officially out there for mass scrutiny and enjoyment. And the instrumental version of “Brother” proves that the band has been extremely generous in this regard, considering that it’s pretty apparent that there’s not a whole lotta love for it. Well, apart from Ament. According to the liner notes, when Gossard tired of playing his own riff, Ament nearly lost his shit. This is not hard to imagine, as “Brother” dabbles in the sort of hard, bass-heavy funk rock Jeff tends to enjoy. But cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and the song didn’t make it past its live debut in early 1991, when the band was still playing shows as Mookie Blaylock.
Curiously, however, I remember reading about “Brother” when magazine articles began to stream forth regarding Pearl Jam’s much anticipated follow-up to Ten. And if you gaze at the shelves of master tapes in the Lost Dogs photos, “Brother” appears beside a couple tracks from Vs.. If “Hold On” managed to elude detective fans researching recording session information, it’s highly possible that re-attempted and -recorded versions of “Brother” may exist somewhere in the vaults, and that Ament’s plight to keep that song in consideration lasted longer than it would seem. Also, although the live debut of “Daughter” was introduced with that title at the 1992 Bridge Benefit concert by Ed, it did contain a few “Don’t call me brother” choruses, which opens up just the tiniest possibility that there was a little back and forth on the name, which could also explain how mention of “Brother” ended up in the Vs. press.
There’s little comment from Ed out there regarding the song (at least that I can find; you sleuths may be able to dig something up) or exactly why his vocals are absent from the Lost Dogs version, but the reasons seem pretty obvious. “Brother” might be the hammiest track to come out of the Ten era, not only for its bombastic “chug chugg-gah!” verse riff, but also because the song’s style accentuates the more over-the-top aspects of Ed’s early singing. In fact, he does pretty much everything on “Brother” that a parody might, from goofy sidebar dialogue to the low tough-guy growling. None of this is to say that I don’t enjoy the song thoroughly as someone who revels in completism, and because it’s endlessly fun to imagine exhaustive, double-disc reissues of such an iconic album as Ten, but honestly, whereas reasonable arguments could have been made to give “Girl” its moment in the spotlight, I don’t think the same can be said about “Brother”.