Can’t Deny Me

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 7.32.55 PMYes, the artwork looks like Rage Against the Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles. Yes, there’s an element of “more cowbell” butt-rock in the bluesy grooves. Yes, the lyrics are a little ham-handed and obvious. Still, though it’s only been a day, “Can’t Deny Me” is growing on me. My four year-old even said “I love this song all the time! So there’s that.

I had no idea when I decided out of the blue to write a new post for this blog a couple nights ago, that this song was in the pipeline. When I saw that it was the new Ten Club single, I thought it was a nice surprise for the single to be a new original song for once, but that was it. Now it’s officially the lead single for a new, as-yet-untitled Pearl Jam album, and that’s exciting.

I sent a friend of mine a message “Happy New Pearl Jam Song Day” and he responded that he’d heard it, but wasn’t too crazy about it. That seems to be the gut reaction on the message boards too, and it’s how I felt with the song coming out of my phone’s tinny speakers. But it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out over time, and whether people will stick to their stubborn first impressions or give it a fair shake.

For the past year or so I started to wonder if the band would record a new album again, and then anticipated that if they did, it was going to have to be a response in some way to the new Trumpian political era, just as Riot Act and Pearl Jam were to GWB, and Backspacer and Lightning Bolt to the Obama presidency, both its hopefulness and the absurd backlash and recalcitrance to it. “Can’t Deny Me” is clearly, very clearly about Trump, and takes some predictable, if deserved potshots. While I think I prefer “Mind Your Manners” sonically and lyrically, bluntness is about all Trump deserves, and the biggest middle finger you can give a fascist is simply your presence. As much as the current administration loves to pretend opposition either doesn’t exist or isn’t worth addressing in a respectful way, showing up to say ‘we will not be erased’ is both important and a legitimate rejoinder to the soul fucking nullity that is the GOP these days.

Musically, I can get with Ed’s screaming, energetic delivery, which lifts the kind of predictable (but not quite predictable) boogie of McCready’s music. If it seems a little obvious at first, I’d counter that so are a lot of Pearl Jam songs in different modes, from “Worldwide Suicide” to the as-yet-unreleased “Let It Ride.” It’ll be interesting to hear the song in the context of the rest of the album.

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~ by Michael on March 13, 2018.

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