Second only perhaps to the massive 1998 campaign to bring “Breath” back to the stage, was the clamor to resurrect “Leash”, which finally made an appearance in 2006 after 12 years.  I may be one of the few fans who was not part of the outpouring of fanlust for the Vs. track, but I can at least partially understand it.  From the very beginning, “Leash” was a live phenomenon.  Performed regularly almost two years before the release of Vs., news of the song spread by word of mouth as a ferociously intense new anthem that completely floored audiences.  When the follow-up to Ten was far enough along that in-the-know reporters were privy to the sessions, it was written that the studio version of “Leash” was slower than its live counterpart, but no less explosive.  All of this, for me, made the resulting track fairly underwhelming, at least in comparison to the rest of the record, which nearly melted in my CD player for its obsessive use.

In concert, as a shared experience, there’s little denying the power of “Leash”.  Just from the bootlegs, old and new, that I’ve heard, the song is galvanizing, thousands of troubled souls uniting in a torrent of rebellion against leashes of all makes and models.  Jeff Ament’s 12-string bass makes the song lurch, the snaggle-toothed bastard progeny of “Animal” and “Go”.  It is infectious. But on record, listened to privately at home or in the car, I’ve always been an outsider.  I’ve read the interviews about the shared history of “Why Go” and “Leash”, empathized if not identified, but the song has never rallied my imagination the way so many others have.  The choral shouts of “Drop the leash! / We are young!” were a nice touch to some degree, but I always felt kinda dorky chiming in.  Unlike “Why Go”, “Leash” took a singular, disturbing case of child abuse and made it into an anthem for standard teenage rebellion.  And although it was brought back energetically, the joy of hearing the song in 2007 felt more like nostalgia and recognition rather than identification.


~ by Michael on August 12, 2007.

7 Responses to “Leash”

  1. My thoughts exactly.

  2. I agree as well. When I was 16 years old, this might have been my favorite song on Vs. As I’ve grown up … not so much. Not that I hate it, but that sense of youthful rebellion has been squashed.

    Hell, I half expect “kids these days” to be singing this song in my general direction sometime soon.

    That said, it was a great treat to hear it live on a couple of occasions on the ’06 tour. I’m glad they resurrected it — like C13 said — out of nostalgia more than anything.

    also “the snaggle-toothed bastard progeny of ‘Animal’ and ‘Go’ ” … that’s fucking hysterical.

  3. Hey, long time reader, first time writer. I love Leash, personally. I’ll admit that it only works really live, and it’s a fairly one-dimensional song – it doesn’t have the depth of most of PJ’s other songs. Nevertheless, it rocks hard, and I can’t resist singing along to it, and that makes it worthy of any concert, in my opinion. Also, it was a nice touch last year in Cincinatti (I think) when Eddie started calling out Ann Coulter et al at the end of the song.

  4. Thanks Rhino! Hope to see more of your comments. Interesting note about Ann Coulter. I’ll have to look into that.

  5. Leash was just unbelievable on the Ten bootlegs I had (on casette!)…and it was still great on Vs…I never really had any idea what it was about, if anything, beyond the obvious…but, man, I can’t stand the idea of nostalgia…i’d prefer they’d reworked it, maybe a slow organ and ukeleleleleash version…anything but the sad sight of an ever aging fan club clinging to fleeting youth and false memories of how rebellious we were/are. It’s worse than “dorky”…Fortunately, Ed’s writing and Pearl Jam’s music doesn’t provide too many of those too awkward “maybe we’re too old for this” moments…and better still, they’re still making music arguably better than what came before…but Leash is just, yeah…for me anyway…it belongs back there with my earing and ponytail. It’s just hard to pull that shit off once you hit a certain age, unless you REALLY want to I guess…or unless you just don’t have anything else going on, evolving, if you know what I mean. Some Longfellow, “A boy’s will is the wind’s will, and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

  6. Well said Rhino. The song still energizes me, and it was nice to hear it live at the Boston show. Looking around, you could see the young PJ fans jumping and feeling the power of the song, smiling with their friends as I had done 10 years prior. I watched the 1992 Pinkpop version on youtube. They have changed quite a bit since then! But so haven’t we, and is has been a heck of a ride growing with them. God, I love PJ. I can’t get ‘society’ out of my head now, I gotta see what you guys and C13 wrote!

  7. i have to disagree with your opinion of leash c13. For me leash means so much… the second verse always reminds me of one of my first crushes how young i was and how it was my friends idea and i i prove to be a man. the rest of the song for me was always a bitter chorus towards my dad as he never seemed to let me do what i want. like i was a dog and he had my “leash” it was what i sang round the house along with the “get outta my fucking face” line. I believe it is one of PJs greatest songs.

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