Do the Evolution
Some web-savvy More Than Ten reader will have to help me dig up the article or interview where it’s revealed that “Do the Evolution” was an 11th hour addition to Yield. Or was it Single Video Theory? Regardless, I love the idea that some of the most iconic and hugely popular songs of a band’s career (see also R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon”) were such late arrivals to the party.
In 1997, Pearl Jam fandom was abuzz with the news that the band would be opening a handful of shows for the Rolling Stones at Oakland Stadium in California. After debuting as the set closer at a warm-up gig in Santa Cruz (the band billed as the Honking Seals), “Do the Evolution” gained a pre-album reputation for both its explosive energy and Vedder’s unique dance moves. In the ten years since, the song has become an absolute staple, played more times than any other Pearl Jam original post-Vitalogy.
Despite this fact, I’ve witnessed less complaints about the song’s omnipresence than that of “Even Flow”, “Betterman”, or even “Corduroy”. It’s popularity is due in no small part to the infectious Stone Gossard riff, and wry, sarcastic humor. Though its theme is grave, the band’s approach makes it one of the band’s funnest heavier tracks, a combination that carried over to Pearl Jam’s first video since the days of Ten. Vedder’s screams are riveting, and constrast well with the mock church choir singing on the bridge.
Thematically, the song is said to be the most consistent Yield track with Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, according to that book’s author. It also echoes backward and forward in Pearl Jam’s catalog, from “Glorified G” (“That’s okay man / ‘Cause I love God” :: “I can kill ’cause in God I trust”), to the recent spate of songs dealing with corporate greed. The sheer rage of the song, off-set by the glee allowed by the sarcasm, makes “Do the Evolution” one of the band’s more effective political indictments.