Come Back

Listening to Otis Redding on a long drive back from a July 4th function, my thoughts turned to “Come Back”, the one original Pearl Jam track to bear out the promise of the 3/26/1994 performance of “(Sitting on the) Dock of the Bay”. At least partially. The soul/R&B influence on the song is present but not overwhelmingly so. There’s a nifty 6/8 time signature the band rarely indulges in, a chord progression that rarely deviates from the classic I’s, IV’s, and V’s, and a strong, torch ballady performance from Vedder, but it’s still all wrapped up in a rock and roll context that delivers, and to some, absolutely testifies.

According to the singer, “Come Back” is part two to the part one of “Man of the Hour”, which also utilizes a distinctive style, though completely different from that of its sequel. Lyrically, the song is simple and sweet, befitting its soul origins which seem to beg for emotional directness. As a song that communicates with someone who has passed on (a device known as “apostrophe”), the song is no doubt stronger than if it had been a more traditional lament. It also reminds me most of “Release”, where Vedder sings “Oh dear Dad, can you see me now?” I find these moments particularly touching, that despite an aversion to organized religion as evidenced by “Marker in the Sand” and documented comments throughout the years, Ed demonstrates a kind of loose spirituality, and the romantic idea that one should be able to speak with the deceased (“Letter to the Dead”, ahem).

Pearl Jam was widely regarded as some kind of “return to form”, as if all of the growth and expansion of sound in the years prior had only led the band in a circle. But “Come Back” is just one reminder that the band has too great a sphere of influences and inspirations to be limited to a particular approach or style. I would hesitate to include the song with my own favorites from that album, but I’m pleased by its inclusion, and even more intrigued by what it might bode for the future.


~ by Michael on July 8, 2007.

8 Responses to “Come Back”

  1. Wasn’t Gone the third single?

  2. You’re absolutely right. My apologies. I don’t know why I had that in my head. I will fix. Hard to know these days when actual physical singles are hard to come by!

  3. I hear a lot of people relating to this song as C13 did in his second paragraph, a song about a deceased loved one. From day one I’ve always thought this song is about a soldier away from home, with the Narrator praying for his/her safe return.

    I’m not a big fan of ‘Come Back’, but you’re right though, some people really love it.

    (And regarding the singles, J-records didn’t release any singles in my opinion. Just three promos and an i-tunes exclusive, both of which shouldn’t count as a true single.)

  4. I also like this song a lot. What struck me about it upon first listen is that it adds yet another dimension to a very strong album and is a great follow-up to ARMY RESERVE. Ed’s vocals on both songs are very strong.

    The closing lines of ARMY RESERVE,

    “Darling you’ll save me
    If you save yourself,”

    leading into COME BACK are particularly moving.

    I’ve had some interesting personal experiences with this song. I have very few family or friends who listen to pop music of any kind. Most listen to classical, jazz or music from that amorphous category, world music. Many are also musicians. They have all, of course heard some Pearl Jam because I like to listen to them, and when they say, “Play that Pearl Jam song that I like,” it’s almost always either MAN OF THE HOUR or COME BACK.

    On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of die-hard Pearl Jam fans who just hate this song with a passion. “The worst song Pearl Jam ever produced” is a quote that I think I’ve heard a number of times. I just can’t figure that one out.

  5. Not much to add to the conversation…but I’m definately one who thinks this is a beautiful song that is perfectly placed on the album. I know there’s always so much talk about the First Five Songs on “Pearl Jam”, but as the months go by, I find myself more often listening to the Final Three. “Army Reserve” – “Come Back” – “Inside Job” — I don’t know if an album can end better than that.

  6. Yeah this album ends really strongly unlike riot act or vitalogy. This song represents old pearl jam themes just in new settings. Anyway i don’t think that this is at all a r&b song. It seems like a 50s/ 60s doo woop “ish” ballad, much like many other pj songs / covers.

  7. This is definitely a death song. Not a lost love song. There is no question.

    It’s interesting that ed thinks of it as a sequel to MOTH (I never knew he said that until reading this entry). I’ve always thought of it as a sequel to Army reserve, as Susan alluded to above.

    At any rate, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it follows AR on the album.

  8. although i dont have a particular situation to relate to this song, ive always thought of it as a breakup song. but the more i listen to it i think it is a ‘death’ song.

    ‘I would hesitate to include the song with my own favorites from that album, but I’m pleased by its inclusion’

    when i was first listening to it i would have agreed with that statement. but then i got to about 3:47 into the song. eds soothing ‘its ok’ grabbed ahold of me…hard.

    and then about 4:21 came and i was almost suffocated with mikes guitar and then eds wailing hits and my chest has had about all it can take. and then about 4:57 came, i closed my eyes and i found myself soaring as if im going thru clouds.

    to me, the ending of this song is probably the best tandem of guitar and voice ever done in music of any kind.

    to me, this band is proof humans have a soul, because they make music from it and i can feel it filling mine.

    i have an insane amount of amps and speakers in my poor little car and this song can NEVER be loud enough.

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