For all of my love of Pearl Jam, in that I regard it as the band’s best front-to-back collection of songs since No Code, I’ve had to concede in the year since its release, that it is understandably not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve never understood many critics’ contention that the album represented a “return to form”, that it somehow recalled either in spirit or sound the band’s first three ginormously successful albums. And no song better validates this trepidation than “Big Wave”. If I were someone who had let go of the band after the first few bars of “Who You Are”, and slumbered until “World Wide Suicide”, what would I make of “Big Wave”? There are some characteristics of the song that are distinctly Pearl Jam, particularly the nautical theme, and the grinding Ament-penned riffs. But what of the harmonized vocals, the pop-inspired whoah-oh-oh’s and yeah-yeah’s, the playful lyrical rhyming, the odd, scraping breakdowns/bridges? “Big Wave” is the closest the band has come to putting an Ed Vedder b-side pop experiment on record (or a Music for Our Mother Ocean offering), despite the fact that Ament was responsible for the music. It’s inordinately catchy, and seemingly lightweight in comparison to the rest of the album. “Big Wave” sticks out. So, in many ways, I can’t begrudge anyone who balks at it, or wonders at its inclusion on the record, especially when songs like “Of the Earth” and “Cold Concession” exist somewhere, tempting us with their unknowable charms, which we can imagine to be superior to those of “Big Wave”, if we wish. But in the band’s designs, a bit of lightness has become necessary, welcome, even treasured over the years. A bit of pop, a taste of crab, is a means of exceeding limitations, achieving levitation, yeah yeah yeah.