“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.


~ by Michael on September 16, 2007.

11 Responses to “Grievance”

  1. C13, I think that I’m only just starting to appreciate your sense of humor. WISHLIST to GRIEVANCE? You knocked me right out of my Camaro.

    I saw this on the David Letterman show, too, and instead of thinking, “Man, Eddie is so cute,” I was thinking, “Pearl Jam is back.” What a great, great song. So powerful. As much as I love Jack Irons, Matt Cameron gave this song the kind of kick that Jack just couldn’t have done. In many ways Binaural was a great album, but it was also such a tremendous disappointment for me, especially after hearing GRIEVANCE. It was filled with songs that were up there with some of their very best, but it also has some of my least favorites. Still, after Yield, it was great to see that they could still rock.

  2. Same. I watched this performance on Letterman with my freshmen year roommate. I remember that I taped it and then watched the performance about 20 more times before I went to bed. This song, and that performance, immediately kicked my ass! I was hooked.

    Like Susan, I think the greatness of “Grievance” (and the fact that it was the first song I heard from “Binaural”) led to my disappointment in that album as a whole because most of it never lived up to the mythical expectations that “Grievance” created.

    My favorite part of the song has always been that final outtro verse. I love the way Ed sings it. I love three part guitar work and Jeff’s bass work. And I love the line “I will feel alive as long as I am free.” And of course, Matt’s drum intro has to be one of my favorite intros for any song.

    This is definately one of my favorites.

  3. Yeh, that Letterman performance was great.

  4. As most of you probably know, I’m a lyric guy. So I pose this question to ye unwashed masses:

    “You can’t give blood and take it back again.”

    What does that mean, in the grand scheme of this song?

    And, yes, this song kicks so much ass.

  5. “I pledge my grievance to the flag
    Cause you don’t give blood… to take it back again”

    Very powerful statements. Those of us who live in the United States consider our country the Land of the Free. The idea of freedom flows through every aspect of our culture, feeding and nourishing our self-image, like blood flows through the veins of each individual citizen. Our system of laws, our Constitution, celebrates it, defines it and ultimately attempts to codify it. Yet we’ve seen subtle re-evaluations and re-interpretations of the Constitution that seek to withhold or even “take back” freedoms that we now take forgranted.

    SoJ, I believe that line challenges those who would attempt to take back the freedoms that were given us at the inception of our nation. The song has never been more relevant than today, and all the years since Binaural was released. The final line,

    “I will feel alive… as long as I am free…,”

    has never felt more poignant. This song needs to make a comeback.

  6. I became a father last night at 11:02 Central European Time. His name is Thomas. I’m home now to walk the dog…send photos out…and find myself here…and to say something relevant about Grievance…I’m glad my son is only half american, but I fear that that half of him, instead of opening up the opportunities america likes to believe it creates, will instead be something he has to hide, or fight against. I wish it wasn’t that way…I wish I didn’t feel this way, really…but it’s what i believe…so i pledge my grievance to the flag of that fucked up place I couldn’t love so had to leave. and when i say had to leave, i mean, it wasn’t exactly my choice…, but i’m glad i made it. the u.s. government has ways of making life very unpleasant for ACLU attorneys with attitude. and debt. believe me. and believe me…if you think the u.s. is fucked up from the inside…you should see it from out here. enough politics…i’ll leave it with susan…i’m off to raise a kid who isn’t mean.

  7. Congratulations Oleyever! “I’m off to raise a kid who isn’t mean.” Beautiful.

  8. Congratulations Oleyever! I sincerely hope that your son doesn’t need to feel ashamed of his heritage. Some of us are still fighting for the ideals that we were all taught to believe in. I like to think that there is hope for the future.

    We’ll be expecting a lot of posts from you as I guess you won’t be sleeping much for the next few years.

  9. The “Grievance” chorus is a play on words for “I pledge allegiance to the flag”, which we all said every day for 6 years of elementary school. I think they banned that in schools now.

    (Of course someone’s child is gonna hate or feel ashamed of America if he/she is raised by a parent with such a negative view towards the US. The importance of parenting is so underestimated in this world.)

  10. Susan. I can buy your interpretation. Sounds good to me. 🙂

  11. […] 9. Grievance […]

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