Education

Listening to the recent Pearl Jam performance at Chicago’s Vic Theater (cough, Army Reserve, cough), it sounds as much of a celebration of Pearl Jam’s legacy as comparable gigs like Las Vegas ’00, State College ’03, and on and on, because it shined consistent light on the more shadowy corners of their catalog. Debate rages about how the band feels about its own material, but unless you get a direct quote from a band member, it’s tough to tell, and how much it matters is even more debatable.  But hearing such a fresh, exciting, and altogether different set does make one wonder. The answer to some extent is that the more rare material such as “Education”, “Low Light”, and “Hard To Imagine” might require special circumstances, the right place and time to feel right and appropriate on stage.  The 1,000 seat Vic Theater is just intimate enough to really sell those tunes all the way to the back.  It doesn’t hurt to have those 1,000 be, um, kinda sorta fanatical either.

Hearing “Education” live, with its jangly rhythms (reminiscent of “Rawhide”) and whipcrack stops and starts, also makes me wonder how Binaural would have been received if the song had been included as on the earliest publicized tracklisting.  The song would have appeared after “Parting Ways”.  It’s been a while since I dusted off my home-burned, 16-track alternate version of the disc, but I remember making it almost purposefully so I could experience such a strange album ending.  “Education”, in either its Lost Dogs form or the recently leaked demo version (with vaguely flamenco-style guitar accompaniment to boot), would have been the most outwardly aggressive album closer for the band, though it’s not a particularly heavy song. It would also have tied up an album purposefully divided into relative loud/soft halves.

“Education” was one of three Binaural outtakes to be leaked somewhat widely long before the release of Lost Dogs, and much to my complete surprise at the time, I found myself with a copy. “Education” was definitely the strangest of the three. “Fatal” was a Gossard ballad in line with a lot of the material he was developing at the time; “Sad” was a fairly classic Vedder tune.  But “Education” possesses elements that I find hard to classify or compare to any other Pearl Jam song, at least musically.  Lyrically, I find it akin to a whole slew of tracks, from Binaural bretheren (“Sleight of Hand”, “Soon Forget”, “Thin Air”, “Of the Girl”) as well as “In My Tree” and “Present Tense”.  The theme is continued growth, learning, doubting, curiosity, introspection, self-challenging.  “I’m questioning my own equation / Is my own equation relevant somehow?”  I wish to God that more people asked themselves this fundamental question, particularly those with political power. The ability to check oneself constantly throughout one’s life, to not be taught one thing from the beginning and hold it as unwavering dogma forever.  I can think of several individuals in power who do not seem to possess such self-awareness and humility.  Cookie Monster, for example.

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~ by Michael on August 15, 2007.

6 Responses to “Education”

  1. It’s an obvious line to go for, since Ed mentions it in the Lost Dogs booklet, but “I’m a seed wondering why it grows” is an awesome lyric. It just encapsulates so many huge questions into that one phrase.

    Also, I feel obligated to point out that I was present for the live debut of Education in Dublin last year. That was this thing: the excellent thing!

  2. That is an excellent thing, rhino. Your certificate is in the mail. Corduroy, you have the army reserve to thank/blame for my being here to begin with…listening to the Vic show, I was thinking that instead of 1,000 fan-club president wannabees singing along to allegedly obscure songs that everybody knows, they should have brought in an audience of Eskimos, Amish, Bantus and maybe Texans…people who’ve never heard of, never listen to, or only vaguely recall some Ten songs and never liked them in the first place…because if you try, though it’s impossible of course, but if you try to forget everything you’ve ever known about the band and the music, and listen to “Education” and the others with new ears, as if it was a new band…and the Vic show is as close to an “alternative” Pearl Jam that we’ve heard in a long time, since Lost Dogs, I guess…I just can’t see how you can’t like that music. On the other hand, I can completely understand why “Education” and some of the other lost dogs are so rarely heard…let’s not let their obscurity obscure objective opinion of the songs as…well, sub-optimal(?)…there’s a reason why they’re lost dogs, right? But bringing so many of them out to run around on stage together in one show is a brilliant and inspired effort and I think if more people who don’t really know the band, or who have judged the band based on songs they do know, could hear these songs…they’d be pleasantly surprised and…THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE!!! There’s a certain peace that comes with knowing that everyone likes what you like. Just listen to the happy people singing along at the Vic show.

  3. I think “Education” is my favorite of the cut “Binaural” tracks. Lyrically, it would have been one of my favorites on the album.

    I’m continually interested at the thought of what Binaural “could” have sounded like had songs been re-arranged or any of these cuts (Fatal, Hitchhiker(s), In the Moonlight, Sad) been kept in the mix, supplementing and/or replacing songs on Binaural. I remember reading that 16-song tracklist on FiveHorizons, way back in 2000. I was so jacked that Pearl Jam was going to have 16 songs on an album. Of course, when the finalized list came out, I was disappointed. I still am, I guess. I like Binaural, but the addition of “Education” (not necessarily at the end, but somewhere), “Sad”, and “Fatal” could have solidified that album’s standing in my mind.

    Oh well. At least we can listen to some of these cut songs now.

  4. Oleyever; I was actually thinking of that “new ears” concept on my drive to work this morning, making my way through the Vic show. It’s as close as I’ve been able to get in a while. This blog has been an attempt, in some ways, for me to try to listen to each song with new years, and discover what it is I really love or don’t love about each song. I’m not sure “Education” is really sub-optimal. The case could and should be made, but I feel like some b-sides are only so because they didn’t fit in with their album, or any. “Footsteps” is a Lost Dog after all.

  5. Yes, EDUCATION is a great song. Both versions, released and unreleased are very cool. Listening to them made me think about some of the conventional Pearl Jam wisdom. We’re always hearing from the members of Pearl Jam that songs are chosen to fit the mood of an album. And I believe that they are sincere in this. But they are also professional musicians. Can the mood not be modified to fit the best songs?

    I’ve argued about this with friends who used to be fans, but weren’t willing to go along for a ride that included NOTHING AS IT SEEMS and GHOST. I’ve always been on the band’s side in this. Well, this is their artist vision. But after listening to Avocado again last night and thinking about what a great listen it is, I had to ask myself the question, “Why can’t their artistic vision include great songs as well?” They did it so well with Avocado. Why can’t they do it with every album? The b-sides tell us they’re capable of it.

    Am I just crazy?

  6. Yeah, I think you’re a bit crazy. 😉 The idea that some B-sides are better than the album songs only kinda relates to Binaural. And even then it is a matter of opinion. I personally don’t think you can replace any four Binaural songs with the four Lost Dogs and make it a better album. That’s just me. (I love Evacuation, but according to some people I must only like it to be different/cool). Also, I think Education and Fatal fit the mood, the problem was they sounded too similiar to some other songs. ie, Education=Insignificance. I am a little baffled that “Sad” didn’t make the cut.

    Besides Binaural, maybe some people wish “Down” and “Other Side” made Riot Act. (lets face it, anything could of improved that piece of mediocricy) I don’t see any other B-sides that deserved to make an album, maybe Dead Man, but even that is questionable.

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