As has been kindly pointed out, I have not (yet) fulfilled my own rock and roll fantasy. Of course, I’ve don’t know what that currently is. In 1994, it was closing my eyes real tight and pretending it was me on stage singing “Tremor Christ”. But now, my personal musical goals are much more modest and hopefully realistic than selling millions of records and becoming a cultural icon, for better or worse. Who worth their salt ever plans for that anyway? The greatest artists just keep plugging away rain or shine, for a crowd of two or 2,000. But some through hard work and good fortune are able to devote their whole lives completely to their art, without having to enter the standard rat race. One of the strangest phenomena for someone who has been able to make a lifetime career out of music has to be watching their peers settle into other 9-5 jobs as they age, leading lives more or less of convention.
Stone Gossard has been making music since he was how old? Green River’s debut album came out when he was only 19. So the character in “Fatal”, who puts on a suit and tie everyday, who measures their worth at least in part by their parking space, is this autobiography or imagination or a little from both columns? In the end it doesn’t really matter. Again, a song shouldn’t have to come from its author’s direct experience to be “true” or viable. But it’s interesting to note, if “Fatal” is purely a work of imagination, the phenomenon of an artist creating a character unlike themselves, with the goal of somehow doing justice to their experience, and (even trickier) without judgment.
Binaural and its outtakes are full of songs that examine one’s place in life and society, particularly as one approaches middle age. Compare “Fatal” with Vedder’s “Soon Forget”, another song about the decisions people make and the value they place on certain aspects of their lives, i.e. romantic, financial, political. Stone’s song raises a lot of questions while Vedder’s makes declarations. Neither is better or worse for their differences; just two different approaches from two different viewpoints and styles. At the time of Binaural and Bayleaf, Stone also seemed particulary enamored with ballad form, quieter, more reflective material. “Fatal” is pretty solid in this regard, with folksy, even-keeled verses that lead into a less conventional chorus marked by a striking series of chords. Props to Stone for making the edit that saved the world from “The answer’s in Play-Doh”, but he still left in “When April’s in Mayo(naisse)”, which conjures all sorts of bizarre visions that it’s best not to linger on.