State of Love and Trust

If I had to guess at where I was the first time I heard “State of Love and Trust”, I’d have to guess it was in a high school gymnasium in Worcester, MA, early on a Saturday morning during an indoor track meet in the dead of winter. One of my older sister’s friends, who was also on the team, made me aware of the Singles soundtrack, letting me borrow the cassette for my walkman while he listened to Pantera or Iron Maiden or some such. “Breath” was great; Chris Cornell’s “Seasons” was revelatory; but “State of Love and Trust” beat them all. Along with “Wash”, the title “State” adorned my Pearl Jam stickman t-shirt, so finally that mystery was solved. Here was yet another amazing song by my favorite band that didn’t even make it onto their own record. And I was pretty damn sure it was good enough; it quickly became my favorite Pearl Jam song in the days before Vs., back when it was somewhat easier to choose.

Inspired by the movie, “State of Love and Trust” is another Vedder song about relationships and fidelity, though the most striking lyrics are of the protagonist aiming a gun at his head, which has subsumed the larger picture. They’re also the easiest lyrics to pick out, likely the only ones I could manage when I was 13. But to me, at that age, I took the images of potential suicide non-literally, the way I would “want to die” after getting rejected by a girl I had a crush on, and the way I would subsequently write a poem about it. The media made such huge assumptions and oversimplifications (as they always do) when reporting on the “alternative” music scene, that the music was overly dark, depressing, troubled. But it wasn’t to me.

The hyper-passionate bent of bands like Pearl Jam drew me in partly because everything else on the radio seemed devoid of feeling. Of course, there was plenty of passionate music being written at the time that was more difficult for a somewhat rural teenager to track down, but of what I was exposed to, Pearl Jam was it. “State of Love and Trust” made me think that other people in the world cared as much about… well, anything at all, as I did. Whatever it was that was working the character in “State” up so much that he had a gun to his own head, even if I didn’t know what it was, meant that there were things worth caring about. The gun was never the point. Fifteen years on, the lyrics in “State” are no longer that interesting to me. But they don’t need to be; how one relates or doesn’t relate to a song is always in flux. Now it’s Ament and McCready’s melancholy yet aggressive music that retains its impact, somber and quick, the same way Cameron Crowe’s Singles still manages to affect via tone despite what now feels like over-earnestness and naivete.

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~ by Michael on October 9, 2007.

6 Responses to “State of Love and Trust”

  1. Never have nana-nana’s sound so tough. Awesome song.

  2. I got the Singles soundtrack in 7th grade. It and the maxi-singles were my first exposure to the idea that a band could have music that didn’t get issued on standard album releases. For a while, I would compulsively pick up every movie soundtrack I saw in hopes of finding a non-album Pearl Jam song on it – or at the very least, a non-album song by some other band who I liked. I don’t know if I ever found another one – but that might just be because there has never been a soundtrack as rewarding as Singles. It’s as essential a record to the early 1990s “grunge” movement as is Ten, Nevermind, or Dirt.

    When I first got the CD, the jewel case had a sticker on it which irritated me, so I used my mom’s nail polish remover to get it off. Needless to say, the case stunk of pungent chemical solvent for days. To this day, the studio versions of “State” and “Breath” always bring to mind the smell of that nail polish remover, and so too do I always get an itch to hear the Singles soundtrack whenever that stench is wafting through the house.

    Live versions of “State” peaked in the early 1990s and hit an all-time low in 2000 and 2003. They’ve rebounded a bit on the last couple tours, but never has the melodic intensity of the original studio version been matched. The song is enormously successful in its use of melody, perhaps the first song in the Pearl Jam catalog to really be melodically driven.

  3. Great story. It’s amazing how much our sense of smell is tied to memory. Also, great point about “State” being melodically driven; it definitely is, which is another reason I fell in love with it.

  4. I immediately latched onto “State” moreso than “Breath” when I first heard the “Singles” soundtrack. Like Kevin said, the melody in this song is great and really, the studio version has always been my favorite version.

    One of my favorite versions of “state” has always been the unplugged version. I just think that was a great setting and vibe for this song.

  5. i had a very single friend…studying to be a catholic priest, for god’s sake…as single as you can be…it was in his vw golf that i first heard the Single’s soundtrack…I loved Breath, and Seasons…asked him to make me a copy of his tape…which was already a copy…everything is just a copy of a copy, isn’t it? we were listening to this cassette on the way to a charity golf tournament, where we ended up paired with two young ladies, one of whom my friend was immediately attracted to, and they really hit it off…and it fucked him up…he wasn’t supposed to let himself be attracted to women, never mind date somebody, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her, and i ended up being his confidant in this illicit affair which brought his whole faith into question, and raised alot of just general issues about being single, in your early 20s, in the early 90s…we were, the three of us, on the way to a Notre Dame v. Stanford football game, listening to Singles, and we stopped at a coffee shop along the way, (so 90s), and they told me that he was going to leave the priesthood. Then came marriage, jobs, kids etc…almost all by halftime of the football game! anyway, Single was the soundtrack to that remarkable few months when my friend chose his path. It really was a peak in “grunge”…neatly wrapped, of course…or better, neatly poured into a Starbucks coffee cup. I barely remember the movie…Citizen Dick…funny.

  6. and SoLaT, as the years go by, was a really mature song in comparison with most of everything else going on around it…

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