Mankind

Getting an early jump on the collaborative, open-minded spirit of Yield, Stone Gossard’s Pearl Jam vocal debut on “Mankind” took fans and radio stations by complete surprise in 1996. A punk-pop nugget featuring the rhythm guitarist’s deadpan yowl, many die-hard fans are still unsure what to make of it. Many are baffled by wordplay such as the Listerine/Ovaltine rhyming or just what it means to dip one’s battleship, but the song fits perfectly on the eclectic No Code, and if nothing else, provides Stone with an excuse for some wry banter at the occasional show. A loose, groovy (ha!) examination of the nature of influence and imitation, “Mankind” further lends it album a sense that anything is possible.

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~ by Michael on July 6, 2007.

11 Responses to “Mankind”

  1. I’m gonna follow the golden rule here, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. Fuck it, this song is the worst thing to ever happen to No Code. There is nothing appealing about it at all. They should of atleast had Eddie sing the vocals since he can actually sing. But I can understand why Ed wanted no part of that. The only positive thing I can say about “Mankind” is that it’s better than “Don’t Gimme No Lip”, another Gossard flop. Stone should of waited until he had a decent song before deciding to chime in on vocals.

  2. No way. Mankind is one of the better songs on the album.

  3. It’s a funny-ass, tongue-in-cheek moment, which is what it’s supposed to be.

    Given the song’s theme — that anybody can write a pop song — the dumbass, meaningless rhymes make perfect sense.

  4. I agree with SoJ on this. I believe that MANKIND is blatantly satirical, and I was convinced of this from the first listen. Stone is known for his wicked sense of humor, and this song is really funny.

    No Code may be the only Pearl Jam album in which I actually like every song. It is an eclectic mix of styles as others have pointed out, but the songs fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. When Eddie Vedder joked about the possibility that publicists may have tried to turn them into the Backstreet Boys if they had emerged just a few years later, songs like MANKIND make you realize that they might well have pulled it off, maybe even with dance moves. I am an unapologetic fan of a lot of catchy, poppy, top 40 stuff, and I believe that MANKIND emulates this style well, but it also serves a purpose on No Code. Look at the two songs that bracket it, PRESENT TENSE and I’M OPEN. One is about letting go of the emotional turmoil that we all face and living for today, and the other is about maintaining an open mind despite the loss of innocence that is an inevitable part of growing up. MANKIND, a song about artificiality, in the most artificial of musical genres, is sandwiched between the two. It spans the gap between the acceptance of oneself as an individual and the realization that the people we have become are not what we might have expected or hoped for. A big part of this is the artificiality of the lifestyle that we have grown-up into. I don’t believe that MANKIND was merely a prelude to the spirit of group participation that became Yield. Those high harmonies that give this song such a poppy feel are contributed by Vedder, and while the verses have typically Stone-like wordplay, the melody in the chorus, as well as the lyrical phrasing, is distinctly Vedderesque.

    Why is Stone singing? Because he’s the fake lead singer, not the real one. The album is, after all, called No Code for a reason. Unfortunately, Stone has not really pulled this off live.

  5. Well, they also recorded “Don’t Gimme No Lip” around that time, so Stone was definitely trying to get a vocal performance on there. Not unlike Mike Mills on Out of Time.

  6. C13, why do you suppose that Stone has never sung on a Pearl Jam record again? He actually doesn’t sound too bad on Bayleaf.

  7. I don’t understand why this song was put on no code. It doesn’t not fit at all in theme or sound. Mankind is a smiley face button on the dark, complicated garment that is no code. “Should have been”- replaced with All Night or even Black, Red, Yellow.

  8. I wondered about that Susan, and thought perhaps it had something to do with a reluctance to sing another bandmate’s lyrics, which Ed didn’t do prior to Yield, unless I’m forgetting something obvious (scanning brain…. got nothing). Plus, around No Code, there was a real tension in the band regarding everyone’s contributions, the bulk of which seems to have been between Ed and Stone, so I’m sure that made it extra important to Stone to have his vocals on there. There’s not so much of that need now, also w/ Bayleaf, etc.

  9. I don’t know. When it comes to Mankind, I don’t know if it was so much Stone wanting to sing as it was Ed wanting Stone to sing…(or perhaps Ed not wanting to sing Mankind).

    I think Mankind is a great addition to No Code for all of the musical and symbolic reasons mentioned above. I’m glad Stone did vocal duty and I really liked what he did with it. I remember Ed once saying that he asked Stone to sing “Thin Air.” I wonder what that would have sounded like!

    I’ve only heard Mankind live once. I thought it was great and as C-13 said in the original post, it gives Stone a much-needed chance for witty show banter, which he is so good at.

  10. I also heard somewhere that ED asked Jeff if he wanted to sing LOWLIGHT. Maybe, when the others began writing lyrics, Ed envisioned the type of situation where the lyric writer would sing his own songs. If the others could sing as well as Jerry Cantrell or Mike Mills, maybe this would have worked out, and the albums from Yield on would have had a completely different feel.

    I’m just glad that it wasn’t Matt singing YOU ARE.

  11. All the negative comments… I actually like this song!

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