FFWDing to the Best Part: “Hunger Strike,” Temple of the Dog (1991)

Courtesy of new guest poster Mark in Chains

Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate! And the commercials would lead you to believe that this was the birth of the Reese’s peanut butter cup. This is how I felt the first time I heard Temple of the Dog … you got your Soundgarden in my Pearl Jam – and I love it.

I have a confession to make — I don’t like Nirvana, never really did. There were some interesting stereo battles in the Fightmaster household growing up, as my brother (the denizen of the bedroom next to me) and I would see who could play their special brew of Seattle’s finest louder. Werk Road was dominated by a battle of the bands between Pearl Jam and Nirvana, with neither of us relenting.

But I digress. Let’s take a look at the best song to come from the eponymous Temple of the Dog album — “Hunger Strike.” Ask yourself, what is it about this song that is awesome? Hold that answer and let me explain to you what I feel is the best part.

You want the 90s? You want to feel grunge? Fast-forward to the 2:50 mark. This superchunk of awesome starts with a Mike McCready guitar solo that is kicked off by a terrifying puke face. That said, the orchestra of grunge choreographed by McCready, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament that flows from 2:50 through 3:22 is pure, unrelenting angst that sounds just so damn good. Throw in the brief crooning of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder and the pounding drums of Matt Cameron, and you have grunge distilled to its essence: anger, power, metal, and melodic wailing. Speaking of wailing, don’t cut this segment short; proceed on through the 3:36 mark so you can hear the beautiful voice play between Vedder and Cornell. This segment should be put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a definition of grunge.

Other highlights include the 2:30 mark, for two reasons. Reason one: it shows you what drove a majority of my ill-fated fashion choices of the early 90s. Reason two: it shows that Cornell is not only a gifted singer, but he is also a fine guitar player. The final highlight is a feature of every Pearl Jam video of the era, the Eddie Vedder crazy face. From 1:42 through 1:51, Vedder’s face contorts to levels of crazy only he can achieve. Seriously, I’m a 40-year-old father of four and I can’t find the Vedder crazy face unless I go off my meds for a month.

Ladies and gentlemen, two great tastes that taste great together: Temple of the Dog.

 

FFWDing to the Best Part: “Jeremy,” Pearl Jam (1992)

This upbeat ditty — not about an underloved but overprivileged white boy who shoots others from his school. but rather about one who takes his own life, forcing his horrified schoolmates to look on — was released seven years before Columbine. And of course predated many other school shootings since. My point is not to drag everyone down on this Tuesday with obvious reminders, but to defend my actions as an (often) drunken college sophomore.

Because as a college sophomore at UVa, see, one of my roommates and I had choreographed a modern dance to this song. And it was as awkward and ridiculous as you can imagine. But not! — you see — as horribly insensitive as it might be today, when we know all we know about guns and schools and mental illness. Still, we were certainly a couple of a’holes.

First off, the video is incredible.  It was made at a time not only when people still watched videos, but when there were a handful of video music directors whom avid MTV watchers could rattle off by name. “Jeremy” director Mark Pellington was one of these.  Also on his resume? “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy),” by Information Society.  Yesssss.  Nearly 20 years after I was wowed by “Jeremy,” I would watch a Pellington film and declare it “pointless nonsense.”

Well.

Anyway, “Jeremy.”

Best part? 3:03 – 3:21. Most will argue that the “best part” (tm pending) is Eddie Vedder’s skilled vocal run between 4:33 and 4:50.  But I prefer a less dramatic, slightly more haunting portion of the build-up. The whole “try to erase this…” segue, where Vedder sings over himself in a deranged form of round, paints a portrait of guilt, regret, lingering terror, and brings the audience into the fear that is yet to explode minutes later. I will say, though, that my dance that accompanied that aforementioned vocal run?  Truly inspired.