Sunday, September 23, 2007

Road Music: Eddie Vedder’s “Into the Wild”

Before I get to my review of Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild, I’ve written an open letter to Mr. Vedder himself (that he probably will never read):

Why are the majority of the tracks so short, Ed? The songwriting is magnificent in your solo soundtrack album Into the Wild, and I’m sure these songs fit the movie Into the Wild perfectly, but a few repeats here and there would’ve made this album a better listen. Hey, if you want, I can chop and repeat some of the stuff in Pro Tools (or Audacity, if you want to be open-sourced about it). I’ve done that sort of thing in the past for other people. I extended the musical theme for part of Rob Zabrecky’s card magic act. You remember Rob Zabrecky, the former lead singer of Possum Dixon and current magician/actor/auctioneer. You both helped out with this year’s benefit for Flea’s school of music. Name dropping aside, it would be great if you added an extra verse or two to the songs that are less than two minutes long; otherwise I can chop, copy, and paste some already-recorded choruses. I hate tooting my own horn, but I can make it sound pretty seamless.

Cheers…alright (wait, I stole that from you),

Ryan DeRamos
The Society of Gloves

The first track on Eddie Vedder’s solo album, “Setting Forth” sets the mood of the this album. You can almost see the open road, under a crisp blue sky, in this song. We’re in for a road album, a journey that is (presumably) perfectly in tune with director Sean Penn’s movie Into the Wild – as well as the book upon which the movie was based, and the real-life tragic adventure from which the book was inspired.

Having never read the book (it’s on my list now, believe me) nor seen the movie (I’ll most likely check it out on DVD in a few months), I can still hear a storyline of mood in the album. Yes, Ed’s solo album is a concept album, due to it being a movie soundtrack. There is a feeling of a hopeful journey from “Setting Forth” (track one) to “Hard Sun” (track seven). Track eight, “Society,” signifies a point of no return in the journey, with hope ever fading. The next two songs pretty much end the journey, and the final track “Guaranteed” is a final lament to the once-hopeful journey. The bonus track, a reprise of “Guaranteed,” is a nice tag to the otherwise short album.

The current giant of music distribution, iTunes, released a deluxe edition of Ed’s solo album, with four bonus tracks: “No More,” an instrumental called “Photographs,” and live versions of “Here’s to the State” (an adaptation of the Phil Ochs’ protest song) and “No More.” This additional EP is essentially protest music – adhering to my ideology so there’s no disconnect on my part – but in the context of the entire album, it gives a pseudo-back story to the journey. The additional songs give purpose to the society-leaving journey – part resignation of changing the system and part determination to begin anew.

In conclusion, Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild is a short album densely packed with great music. The music is both folksy and electric, but in a mellow sort of way. If you have to decide which version to get – hard copy or virtual – I suggest you lament the end of the CD age and pick up the “deluxe album” at iTunes. (And then burn a CD.)

As a postscript, several of the socio-political references of the cover/updating of “Here’s to State” are currently outdated. While the injustices sung about are sadly current, the specific names have either resigned (Alberto Gonzales) or died (Jerry Falwell), as well as those perceived as lame ducks (Dick Cheney and George W. Bush). The jury is still out on the third category, with the verdict coming in late 2008.

Here's the music video for "Hard Sun":

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