“Grievance” was never a single, but it sure felt like one. I first heard the song as it was performed for Late Night With David Letterman, on a crappy little t.v. in the common area lounge at my tiny New England liberal arts college. My old roommate and I stayed just long enough for the one song and then went on with our nights, with differing opinions on the song. It didn’t really catch his ear, but I thought it was refreshing tough and aggressive after Yield, compact, small yet muscular, a running back of a song (sorry, watching football). Before the rise of blue vs. red states, I knew the hook wouldn’t play well in the red, “I pledge my grievance to the flag /’Cause you don’t give blood then take it back again” (a hook that I’ve always much preferred in the few live versions where Ed takes the melody up on “again”).
Had “Grievance” been more of an ambassador for Binaural, how would that album have fared? Would it be hailed as a return to form, as every damn album has since Yield? Would it skew the entire album political in the minds of casual audiences, would it be the band’s WTO record? Singles, just like album art, just like the choice to or not to create videos, can color perception, sometimes more than the music itself. “Grievance” hung back in the dark recesses of Binaural, snarling like Dakota, but I’m not sure it ever got the chance to bite anyone. It’s not on Rearviewmirror (none of the heavier Binaural tracks is included on Disc 1) and even its live prominence has somewhat lessened. All of this is a shame, because its relevance certainly hasn’t (just wait for those universal ID cards, kids), and it’s such a satisfying rocker. From the tom-filled drum opening to the odd-metered verses and halting choruses, to Ed’s hoarse bellowing throughout, “Grievance” is the scrappy younger brother of “Insignificance”, crackling with frustration at the runaway train of U.S. corporate-political culture.