Is it the lyrics or the accordion that get more fans riled up over the relative worth of “Bugs”, the infamous scrap of a song that makes for perhaps the most intentionally ridiculous moments on a Pearl Jam record. Though listeners endlessly debate the merits of Eddie’s paranoid soliloquy, I tend to think the mere presence of the buttoned box is what freaks more people out.  How often does a mainstream rock band pull out a junk store accordion and hack away at it with little/no training on a highly anticipated album at the very height of their career.  For most rock fans, accordions are associated with polka and zydeco, even if they can’t name those genres. It is a defiantly un-rock-and-roll instrument.  But there it is wheezing away on Vitalogy, less of of a fuck you I think than maybe a “look what I can get away with” (there’s also noticeable piano, and a snippet of Vedder vocal from an unidentified piece of music—which, someone please identify!).  I happen to think the whole thing sounds fantastic.


~ by Michael on July 18, 2007.

18 Responses to “Bugs”

  1. People that *hate* Bugs, I think, are trying to make it into something it’s not. “It’s not a good song,” they say. Well, of course, not. It’s not supposed to be a song.

    It’s a concept — either as a fuck you, or as a “look at what I can get away with.” And that concept — that rebellious spirit — is what is cool.

  2. I took this song personally…together with “not for you”, “corduroy” and maybe some other things…”immortality”. it was a clear “f-you fans for liking my music and making me rich and famous and can’t you see how it tortures me?” I actually think I was offended by that message. SorRY Mr. Vedder for liking your songs…silly me, i thought people made and sold cd’s with the idea that people would like the songs and want to buy the cd. Writing songs that touched personal topics that maybe he later regretted sharing once they became so popular is an understandable reason for some angst, but also a VERY forseeable consequence of joining a band and making a record, no? I just couldn’t really figure out what he was so pissed about…I still can’t really…Cobain killing himself?…This aspect of Ed’s songs are full of contradictions as far as I’m concerned…”Blood” says, “paint ed big, turn ed into, one of my enemies”…One of his enemies? Rock stars are his enemies? If the song is “not for you”, why put it on a record and perform it on SNL, rock star? If you’re so bugged by us, does it really help you feel better to tell us how bugged you are? There are other ways to pull back and lose some caotic crazy fame without such bitterness…I think he figured this out later…but at the time this was a HUGE issue with the band, the fans, the critics, etc…Vitalogy was a lot of “my life as a famous rock star sucks, and it’s your fault for making me famous…fuck you.” Tough message to swallow, but fortunately the music was so incredible, and it’s what endures…It’s funny how Cordury became such a concert staple, ed telling his fans, “i would rather starve than eat your bread” night after night, and everyone jumping up and down singing it with him. “heyfoxymophandlemomma,thatsme” was the “look what I can get away with” song, and I wouldn’t let Ed get away with it. It’s the one and only PJ song i turned off on first listen, unable to get through it, feeling a little insulted. A rebellious spirit is cool, but enough is enough. Such an attitude has cost many many performers their careers…the difference is that Ed has a million times more talent than most of them and he has the world’s best band behind him, so they made it through. Otherwise, I think Bugs is a good song!!

  3. I’m one of those people who really doesn’t care that much what Ed’s intentions were or what the band’s internal problems were at the time Vitalogy was released. Vitalogy is just one hell of a listen from start to finish. I guess that a lot of fans were offended by BUGS, as oleyever was, but it’s just hilarious. And the manner in which Ed sings it is a hoot. And that accordian. This isn’t Weird Al Yankovic.

    Maybe Ed was saying, “Fuck you,” to the fans, but I’m not convinced. There is just too much care taken on this album. One of the best collections of ten rock songs that I’ve ever heard, and the artwork is like nothing I’d ever seen before. Ed is just too big a fan himself to do that. I may be affected by the fact that I didn’t really know anything about Ed or the band, personally, at the time I first listened to Vitalogy, so I don’t mind that the songs may have helped Ed work through some personal issues.

  4. I’m not convinced of the “Fuck You” either. I can see it, lyrically, but I’m not sold on the idea as its been portrayed over the years. I tend to believe that when fame became a burden for EV, his anger and frustration was not directed at the fans, or certainly not all fans. I’m sure much of that anger was directed toward record companies and suits who forced this music on the youth of America, labeled it “grunge” and sold it with a flannel shirt. I think EV was also, and I guess obviously so, devastated with the loss of Kurt. Were they buddies? No, probably not. But do you think two men in the last 25 years of music had a more intense connection than EV and Cobain? These two men spoke, more or less, for an entire generation. A generation, I might add, that was widely despised and ignored by its elders. So naturally, these kids were looking for saviors and they found saviors in the music of Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

    Anyway, I’m getting off track…I guess I’m saying that I believe Vitalogy to be an album full of anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness. “Bugs”, while certainly not the greatest song in the PJ catalogue, has all of those elements. It’s a kooky little song. I don’t have anything bad to say about it, except I wish those 10 great rock songs that Susan alluded to in the previous post would have had a chance to stand on their own, without these interruptions. But that is not how EV wanted the record to be presented, and I’m ok with that.

    But I’m not ready to say all this anger was directed right at the fans. I just don’t accept that, even though there have been valid points made to support it.

  5. My take on this:
    This period of songwriting saw the band trying to cope with the unprecendented level of fame they had acquired and the subsequent relentless wanting that some fans and the media subjected them to. The band had given a lot of themselves to a lot of people already – at the very least through their musicianship, songwriting and song content which often exposed many personal experiences. This however wasn’t enough for some who wanted to invade every aspect of the band members lives and in some cases then exploit what they found for commercial profit. As suggested by NoCoder, there was a definite element that were trying to create a commodity out of a pure art form, which unsurprisingly angered Ed & Co. – imagine turning on your TV and seeing clothes identical to yours parading a Milan catwalk with a considerable markup attached. This was purely a way to retaliate against all the B.S. that was surrounding the band at the time, to try and re-assert that there are boundaries between the band and the fans and that it’s important that these are respected. Perhaps the biggest enemy they had at the time though was the media who would always seize any opportunity to sensationalise and/or blow things out of context especially in terms of their relationship with Nirvana. Reading the lyrics to Bugs it seems that Ed felt that every aspect of his life was being relentlessly watched by the media, how some fans were invading his privacy and to some extent he felt he was being controlled i.e. ‘bugs on my window, trying to get in, they don’t go nowhere, waiting, waiting…, bugs on my ceiling, crowded the floor, standing, sitting, kneeling…, a few block the door’ and:
    ‘they’re always takin’ over, i see they surround me, i see…,see them deciding my fate’.

  6. Alex Ross and NoCoder are exactly right regarding this whole discussion. Oleyver, I don’t know what you were smoking when you wrote that comment.

  7. I don’t think most people understand just how many insincere, exploitative people that are actually quite like bugs that come out of the woodwork when someone achieves even a modest level of fame, let alone the level that Pearl Jam experienced. It’s really quite astonishing.

  8. Holy shit Oleyver … just holy shit.

  9. Holy shit what? The only difference between my comment and the others is that mine comes from a bug’s point of view, looking up at the sole of Ed’s shoe, and the others are analysing the situation from a detached, looking back in the rear view mirror perspective…Listening to Bugs later, yeah sure, of course it’s a perfect little gem on what is truly a classic album that seems to be talking about the trials and tribulations that some rock stars face due to fame, the media, and “some fans”. But Ed wasn’t writing it as a detached observer, and I wasn’t listening to it that way. I take it more personally, because I am the bug. And I was the bug that lived in Ed’s head, devouring his music, deciding his fate, (wearing flannel!)…with an intensity that matched the young, raw, naive emotional intensity of Pearl Jam itself in those halcyon years of ’91 to ’95, up to Jack Irons and uncle Neil…Anyway, this is all way to deep and dramatic, I realize that. It’s just a song with an accordian, for god’s sake. And that’s just it…PJ was a powder keg in ’94-’95, ready to explode, implode, everything was big and dramatic (ticketmaster, firing a drummer, etc.), and I guess if it wasn’t for Ed’s pissed off little rants in Bugs, Not for You, etc, the band would have busted up and we could have had that long anticipated solo album of ukelele tunes ten years ago.

  10. and believe you me, Believe You Me, there is no right and wrong here, nevermind “exactly”, it’s just harmless speculation and opinion sharing.
    FYI, I was smoking crushed cockroach carcass, ground into powder and rolled up in paper made with red mosquito wings.
    I try to keep my nonsense to a minimum, believe you me or not, and do apologize if i sometimes get carried away to the point that you and sleightofjeff think I’m on drugs…I’m just enjoying myself. But to make it up to everyone, I won’t comment on the next three songs. (unless one is Yellow Ledbetter) Adios!

  11. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Can’t do that one until………..

  12. Oleyever, come back. If we don’t want to read nonsense (AND I DON’T THINK YOUR PREVIOUS POSTS WERE NONSENSE), we could just skip over them. But don’t stop posting! If all of the posts were the same, this place would be pretty damn boring.

  13. oleyever, don’t get bent out of shape, we were just defending Eddie that’s all. I’m a fan of your comments, plus you’re a funny dude. (that joint you rolled sounds good by the way)

  14. Ole … you just scared me there for a second, that’s all.

  15. i love this song. and i do consider it a song, not a statement or a “fuck you,” etc. it’s just a lighthearted yet kafka-esque little ditty.

  16. I don’t know whether its meant to be a fuck you to the music industry, or a lool what i can get away with or an actual experiment, but i do know that i find it to be 3 mins of insufferable noise. I try to be open minded and appreciate songs for what they are, but i just think this is shit. If they had released it as a single, then it would have at least been funny as a fuck you, but instead it is just a waste of space on an album that would have been better off with something like HTI in its place.

  17. “Bugs” is fantastic.

  18. I think it’s more of a joke than a statement…You’re just supposed to laugh at it. And for some reason I actually do laugh every time I hear it, if only for the line “tickle my nausea”. The song also reminds me of Franz Kafka, with the bugs and the paranoia and whatnot. This one definitely doesn’t bother me as much as “Pry, To” or “Aye Davanita”; it definitely has a place on the record whereas the other ones seem like more of an interruption.

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