I’ve made it a principle on this blog to refrain from too much cussing, but with “Blood”, I feel it’s apropos, as in: the intensity of this song is fucking scary. And you must pronounce the “ing”, it’s better that way. Fucking scary. After 14 years, the shock hasn’t worn off. “Blood” doesn’t so much as hit you like a sledgehammer as it does a sledgehammer covered in spikes. The initial assault of chords is made all the more outrageous as complemented by funk interludes (some of the band’s best “funk” moments). It’s ridiculous, energizing, exasperating, 100% convincing. In hindsight, a song so full-throttle should seem over-the-top, exaggerated, as in “what was all that fuss about”, but “Blood” doesn’t. It still sounds and feels justified after all these years.
The Atlanta 1994 version of “Blood” was something of a revelation the first time I heard it, completely capturing Vedder losing his breath at the end of one particularly intense scream. But he comes roaring back shortly after, a dive even more impressive and daring to me than his legendary scaffold climbing and leaping. “Blood” is a dare. “Suck my fucking life out man!” he screams like a masochist, but with a hint of reciprocity: should a red mosquito actually attempt any blood-sucking it is presumed, there’s a mighty swat in store. The live version in question is also telling for its tag of “This is not for you! / Never was for you!”, calling out the same enemies in that song.
Some bands want to be megastars with their first albums, want the groupies, the adulation, the #1 sales, even if it means a short shelf-life, one-hit wonderdom, or compromised music. There are cut-out bins at record stores, and flea-market tables filled with former million-selling CD’s by bands you’d be hard pressed to remember. And maybe those dudes (and gals) are totally cool with that. Ed clearly wasn’t. Pearl Jam has always been a mixture of pride, integrity, and humility. They want to work hard on their own terms to be truly worthy of the good fortune they’ve received. When Ed sings “Paint it big / Turn Ed into one my fuckin’ enemies”, he could be recalling any number of pretty boy bands or butt rock assholes content to surrender completely to media hype. “Blood” succinctly demands control of its own destiny, declaring a force not to be fucked with, by sarcastically proclaiming the opposite.