In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of the Oscars, we’re featuring songs with famous people in the title.
If you’re in that race to be the coolest, best-looking, richest, and most successful—let’s just say, the greatest person overall—it never really ends. Because there will always be someone richer, cooler, better-looking, more successful, and let’s face it, better than you are. Even if you are in an awesome band yourself.
Local H’s Scott Lucas points this out in a mid-point track on the band’s 1996 breakthrough album. As Good As Dead, released in the midst of Chicago’s alterna-peak (Pumpkins, Veruca, Urge, et al.) could be read as a horrified reaction to the new hipsters and posers then-swarming the city. (The band, now consisting of Lucas and drummer Ryan Harding, just announced a 20th anniversary As Good As Dead tour that will kick off next month, as well as a colored vinyl re-issue.) The record spends a lot of time exploring reactions to other people, but maybe that was the secret to As Good As Dead: By listening to it, you were automatically in on the joke. It leads off with “High-Fiving MF,” dismissing a “stupid steroid fuck” of a fan who wears stone-washed jeans. The band’s best-known song, the chugging “Bound For The Floor,” chides, “You just don’t get it / You keep it copacetic / You learn to accept it / You know you’re so pathetic,” although the song could be interpreted as everything from a call to action by the oppressed lower classes to an accurate portrait of an internal depression monologue. The punk anthem “Back In The Day” tosses off those whose best days are behind them, and “Lovey Dovey” can’t even stand just plain old happy people: “Don’t you hate it when people are in love / They’re so happy / So goddamn happy.”
Which makes “Eddie Vedder” the heart of the whole record. While most of the tracks look outward, this song is inward, where Lucas tackles his own feelings of insecurity and self-worth on a more micro-level. As one of As Good As Dead’s lower-key efforts, Lucas’ now swoon-worthy vocals take a break from screaming. He appears to be mildly conversing with his intended: “If I was Eddie Vedder, would you like me any better,” and quickly deduces that he “failed your litmus test.” He finally unfurls the album title, eight tracks in: “You go ahead / As good as dead”: not just dismissing the former object of his affection for passing over what he’s offering in favor of flashier, showier players, but writing that person out of (his) life completely.
Local H’s two-pronged assault, as always, is as action-packed as Pearl Jam’s whole five-piece, with a bit more sincerity, as then-drummer Joe Daniels fiercely backs up the personal rebellion: “That’s it, I quit / I don’t give a shit.” Although Local H spends a lot of As Good As Dead poking fun at other people for everything from monster trucks to romance, “Eddie Vedder” backs up all those sentiments, showing the strength to stand up to someone who wants you to be just a little bit bigger than you already are.