Around the Bend

From “Let Me Sleep” to “Let You Sleep”; “Around the Bend” is arguably the most experimental track on Pearl Jam’s most experimental album. Why? The word “experimental” is overused, and I don’t exclude myself from that observation. What constitutes experimental is fairly wide open, it doesn’t have to mean Philip Glass or Oval or Marianne Amacher. For Ed Vedder, the decision to try writing a lullaby and then producing one as sweet and succinct as “Around the Bend”, well that’s a pretty bold move from the band that brought you “Even Flow”, “Spin the Black Circle”, and only minutes prior, “Habit”. From the Innocence Mission, or Ida, or Iron & Wine (to name a few “I” bands), not so revolutionary, but “Around the Bend” still manages to catch some fans off guard even after 11 years.


The song also features some of the band’s best production, with its balmy, relaxed atmosphere, steel guitar and sun-dappled piano chords. Ed sings as gently as he’s ever done, his fingers squeaking audibly over the chord changes. Vedder’s claim that some of the lyrics were tweaked to make it less sweet, and open to the interpretation that the song could be from the perspective of a cannibalistic serial killer initially pissed me off something awful. But traditional lullabies are often gruesome, filled with all sorts of unsavory business, including the ubiquitous “Rockaby Baby”. For its own part, “Around the Bend” features the curious lines “Please forgive me won’t you dear / Please forgive and let me share”, and a twinge of darkness in the suspended chords accompanying the title phrase. But I still much prefer the clear, literal interpretation in all its sweetness, a lullaby for Jack Irons to sing to his boy, or anyone to their children, wishing them off to untroubled sleep.


~ by Michael on September 13, 2007.

6 Responses to “Around the Bend”

  1. I love all of No Code. I’m one of the few fans who felt relief when No Code came out. How could the band that put out Vitalogy survive another round of that, as great as it was? No Code felt like a lot of healing had taken place. How could you not be glad if you were a fan? And this song ended that album. Such a sweet lullaby. It was perfect. As though everything really was going to be alright, and there would still be albums and shows, and we would enjoy their music for many years to come. And here we are.

  2. No Code is my favorite…and the spirit that made “Around the Bend” possible is exactly why…and the ending…ending on an odd note or an off beat…it still leaves me with such an indescribable feeling…so I won’t try to describe it now…but it’s that spirit, feeling, vibe of No Code that makes it Pearl Jam’s best.

  3. No Code was such a roller coast, musically. I felt as if I had been put through the wringer. You know? Start out soft with “Sometimes”, get blasted with “Hail Hail”, then continue on path that was up then down, bruising then comforting, aggressive then contemplative. So I appreciated the fact that sent us off with a sweet goodbye. I’ve always considered “No Code” to be the dark album–there just wasn’t much light in the songs until you get to “Around the Ben.” I think it was the perfect way to end the album.

  4. Around the Bend is a great lullaby song. In fact, I don’t find any tinge of darkness in the lyrics. To me, it sounds like a song written for a father who just isn’t around his kid enough.

    In fact, that’s exactly what it was — a lullaby in honor of Jack Irons’ kid.

  5. I also heard Ed describe this one being about a deranged stalker. Although I also take it as a lullaby, I can still see Ed’s point. Being that this was probably around the height of his stalker problem (also see lukin) it makes sense. The thing that strikes me weird is that Ed said this stalker thought evry song was about her. Then he goes and writes two songs that ARE about her. Strange.

  6. A friend of mine who did not like Pearl Jam spent some time in hospital. I put together a disc of some songs she might like. Felt compelled to put on Around the Bend as the last song. She loved it.
    The best last track (OK along with Indifference) on a PJ album.

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