Push Me Pull Me
I admit I’ve been hard on Ed’s spoken word tracks, and though I’m not about to apologize, I will at least recognize that part of my distaste for them is due to the fact that spoken word of any form/kind tends to make me writhe in agony to hear. So it’s surprising even to me to note that I find “Push Me Pull Me” not only the band’s best spoken word track, but a pretty damn good Pearl Jam track in its own right. Lacking the type of self-seriousness that too often characterizes such pieces, “Push Me Pull Me” delivers lines and images that are more interesting, i.e. “Like a cloud dropping rain / I’m discarding all thought”. Even better, Ed’s playful performance keeps the tone light and self-effacing, abetted by goofy studio effects and double-tracking. On a record so distinctly focused and tight, “Push Me Pull Me” is deliriously jumbled and bewildering, from the opening snippet of “Happy When I’m Crying” to Ament’s warbling bassline to the assorted beeps, buzzes, and other sonic detritus. The band even performed the song live twice in 1998, not as a tag (which they did once). I’ve never heard those performances, but how they pushed or pulled it off, I’m most curious to know.