Thumbing My Way
Prior to 2002, and based on the strength of quieter, Vedder-penned songs such as “Around the Bend”, “Off He Goes”, and his sublimely understated backing vocal work for Cat Power, the idea of an acoustic Ed solo album topped my Pearl Jam daydreams. Imagining the frontman consolidating what he’d learned from those efforts, and crafting a low-key, Harvest-style album with some harmonica, slide guitar, hell even a banjo, is still something I do from time to time. But “Thumbing My Way” soured me on the prospect for the brief spell that I paid regular attention to it. The number one problem I have with the song is that the vocals work too closely with the main guitar part on the verses, undermining the power of both. Ed’s chord progression is great on its own, wonderfully executed, but his vocal melody is fairly unimaginative. As much as I’m able to pick apart most Pearl Jam songs or find at least a unique angle with which to approach them, “Thumbing My Way” doesn’t strike me as much more than pretty yet dull, but perhaps only because the band has ventured into similar territory in the past, and since, with superior results.