All Or None
In honor of the recent, rarity-filled set played at Chicago’s Vic Theater (aka the ‘Brew ‘n’ View’), we look at “All Or None”, which opened the show. Stone’s Riot Act closer is one of the band’s more intricately (and interestingly) arranged songs, full of nuance and texture that makes it one of the album’s true highlights. Vedder’s performance, alternating between both ends of his range, serves the mood perfectly, his famous tone finding its match in the elegant yet rustic accompaniment. I’ve always thought that Gossard’s writing here had to be inspired by Aimee Mann. “All Or None” is lounge pop, but not in the space age manner of Esquivel, chintzy Vegas acts, or the Rat Pack. It’s a dirty, seedy, sad little lounge where Tom Waits would sing “Ol’ 55” to the sodden and bleary-eyed.
“All Or None” has a whiff of sophistication, but the downward-spiral melody makes the whole thing feel like it’s constantly degrading, like a fine suit half-eaten by moths. Stone’s guitar sounds like it’s been tuned down (though transcriptions have the instrument capo’d high, and in an alternate tuning), the barest hint of a rattle in the opening descending chords. Watery organ, hand percussion, and perfectly understated piano parts fill out the rest of the song, along with a wailing McCready solo that comes close to literally wailing. The chord progression is definitely Mannish (ha!), autumn-toned and lovely. The lyrics are simple and forthright, which works well in balance with all of the instrumentation behind it, which is worth paying attention to every detail. It’s not a song that works too well in large halls or stadiums, but it’s absolutely dead-on for venues like the Vic, or even smaller, the little nooks and corner bars that still cling to the non-yuppified streets of Chicago.