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.

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~ by Michael on June 26, 2007.

6 Responses to “Thumbing My Way”

  1. Wow. This is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs. Lyrically, I rank it among Ed’s best work.

    I can’t listen to this song, especially some of the live versions, without getting those huge goosebumps typically reserved for only the best Pearl Jam songs. So, there you have it. Scientifically speaking, your disdain for this song is unfounded.

  2. There’s nothing that makes me happier than when someone absolutely loves a song that I can’t stand. That a gulf that wide can exist between two devoted fans is pretty great. Cheers Slightofjeff!

  3. I never completely warmed to this song. I like it, but I just can’t love it. I also find the song to be a little dull and the only reason it stuck out to me in the first place is because I found the rest of Riot Act to be so unenjoyable. I have found over time though that I enjoy the live “Thumbing” much more than album version. I think it manages to be a little folksier and not as stiff as the version that ended up on RA. This is by no means a terrible song, but it’s definately not one of my favorites.

  4. I think lyrically that this song is Eddie at his best. Lines like “No matter how cold the winter, there’s a springtime ahead” convey such a strong feeling of hope. But at the same time, “I smile, but who am I kidding” conveys such a feeling of hopelessness. The contrast is beautiful in my opinion

  5. This is a really interesting comment:

    “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.”

    I don’t think that I’ve ever thought that about a song. While I don’t think that this is one of Pearl Jam’s great songs, I do think that these are some of Eddie’s best lyrics and that while I find the vocal style used on Riot Act a welcome and interesting change, this song is an exception. His delivery is too restrained and keeps the song from building any sort of momentum.

    I agree with NoCoder, the live versions are superior to what appears on the album.

    C13, I hope that you aren’t permanently soured on a Vedder solo album because it looks like we may have something pretty close soon based on the rumours about the In the Wild soundtrack.

  6. I’m actually quite excited about that solo album Susan! But I’m really shocked that everyone finds the lyrics on “Thumbing My Way” to be some of Ed’s best. Hmmmm… very interesting.

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