Even flow

I was recently watching a documentary about Pearl Jam, the American rock band (still on iPlayer if you’re interested). It was strange: the first time you hear Eddie Vedder’s voice you do a sort of aural double take. *Christ*.  But in the end Pearl Jam lack a certain something and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with their output it’s somehow less than it ought to be. Years ago a friend of mine and I listened to their “Ten” album and decided that there wasn’t really much that could improve it, but now, probably 15 years later, it’s clear that we were wrong.

Not that you can dismiss the album in any way: it’s really good. The band themselves are good, too: Mike McCready’s an extraordinary guitarist and Vedder’s voice is like something a giant bear might come up with had it learned to speak human (then learned to sing well – I didn’t think this one through did I?).  It’s something beyond the norm, and explains why the band became so successful so quickly.  It was all just *there*, great, obviously great.

Sometimes it’s not that simple though. Sometimes that indefineable *it* is missing, and no amount of ability or longevity or anything else can give you it back. I’ll tell you how you know: Pearl Jam made an effort to be less ‘commercial’ in their sound and it sounded like they were making an effort to be less commercial in their sound, which to me was getting away from what they were good at. Contrast with Nirvana, who reacted against Nevermind’s over-production and commercial success with the implausibly good In Utero. Vedder’s attempt to get off the beaten track may have been a personal success but not a musical one; Cobain doing the same was an artistic triumph.

I don’t know what this is or why it happened, and after all it’s just a subjective judgement from someone who doesn’t know as much about these things as he thinks he does, but even so, I’m on to something here.

It’s why Fulham are so pleasant to watch at the moment, I think – there’s a primacy and recency effect in play here, I grant you – we ended the season in the best possible way – (how many dashes?!) but the team has just about enough of everything, in the following ways:

Much of this team has struggled together. Hangeland, Hughes, Dempsey, Murphy and Davies were all here in the bad times when we were all really glum. They bonded then and pulled this club through a terrible situation. We were with them every step of the way. We feel them, they feel us, we get them, they get us. They are Fulham players and deserve our respect and gratitude for their efforts. As QPR are finding, you can’t just buy a team. A team grows.

Beyond the relegation fun though, we went stratospheric, to a degree heretofore unimaginable. Mark Schwarzer and Damien Duff were part of the team that did this, too, so they’re in our hearts and minds as good eggs as well.

We’re still on about something that’s real about this team – there was a time not so long ago when we didn’t really know our players, we didn’t sing songs for them, we just watched them play. Now they are part of the club’s fabric. They are not Nickelback or Snow Patrol or some other lamentable excuse for a guitar band; they are our Nirvana, the best thing of its kind any of us will ever see or hear.  Because in addition to the soul issues mentioned above there’s a new authenticity to the team’s play.  Cast Roy Hodgson as Butch Vig, the man to do things the right way, but bring in Steve Albini or Scott Litt as Martin Jol, letting things go a bit, relinquishing a small amount of appropriate control for the common good and producing a team that can just be what it’s meant to be. Clint Dempsey is playing like a free man; Moussa Dembele is a talent so pure and exciting; John-Arne Riise looks like he’s never had so much fun on a football pitch.  It’s real.

This is why today’s team is so satisfying. It has a core that Roy Hodgson nurtured and made us believe in, but now it is becoming true to itself, becoming even more than the sum of its parts, becoming something really spectacular.

Nirvana stopped there; Pearl Jam carried on Pearl Jamming around for a while. This Fulham’s probably not going to be this good again but like the legions of Pearl Jam fans who follow their band everywhere, I’m sure we’ve got much to look forward to even if we never produce another “Ten”.


17 thoughts on “Even flow

  1. (I say all this but have “Ten” on at the moment and “Release” to end the album is pretty spectacular in that overwrought way they have. but again, contrast with “Something in the way” from Nevemind, or “All Apologies” and, well, there we go again).

  2. The pitch parade on Sunday gave me a big moody—AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN SHOW IT OVER HERE! Last call for the guys who have been so ………..well………lovable for the past few years. Goodbye to Chris Baird & Simon Davies (most of all) & maybe Danny Murphy & all the others who took us from Portsmouth to Hamburg. Progress can be a bitch………..

  3. “This Fulham’s probably not going to be this good again”

    Not sure I agree here. Until I actually see both Dempsey and Dembele actually walk out the door this summer I will continue to believe that next season is when we’re going to see the best Fulham side we’ve ever seen. And even then, there’s something about Jol—what he did at Spurs and the way he replaced Zamora—which leads me to believe that we can get over their loss and come out stronger.

    1. Because I am an optimist, I agree with rjbiii that Fulham can get better.

      If we can get 1 point away from our best ever top flight points total in a season where the first 4 months were relatively poor with a striker who was not interested, the additional burden of Europa League games and a team struggling with transition, then imagine a full season with no distractions and a team all pulling in the same direction.

      If Mousa and Clint go, it will be a blow, but watching the way Fulham are playing now and the way the youth teams have been set up to play, I think ‘the system’ is the way forward and finding the right players to drop into it (young, technical etc) will be the aim.

      If we can keep hold of Mousa, the sky is the limit for this team, especially with some key additions.

  4. Ten is still one of my top 20 albums and I would have to say that Nirvana’s Bleach was the mind-blowing record for me…what’s not to love about this post? The whimsical nature that you string music, art and sport into it, the way that two of the bands from my youth that shaped my love of music are intertwined or the nostalgic look at the team we all have lived and died with this past decade in the premier league. End of an era or sorts indeed, especially if Bolton join Blackburn in the drop…seeing as those were the three sides that came up together. My hope is that as the fading stars burn out, new constellations appear for our beloved Fulham.

  5. If I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m not really a fan of Nirvana, and think a large part of their success was due to MTV marketing something that wasn’t hair metal, and there were many more talented bands of that era we should focus on…

    …am I fired from this site?

    1. Not at all – let’s hear who they are. I have a couple of sub pop compilations in a shoe box somewhere and there’s much to admire in there but Cobain’s genius and sheer fury is very hard to top. It’s another one of those things where you’re surprised that all this came from a human being.

      And I don’t know that marketing has much to do with it. Over here nobody I knew had MTV back then. The music (Colin’s right, Bleach is very good) just stands up for itself. A lot of the non-album stuff they did was very good too. I mean, I don’t know why this is more important to me than other good bands of the time, and certainly very angry music is not me at all, but something in there hooks into your being.

      1. There’s plenty of research that argues it really was all about MTV et al promoting them ad nausea. Perhaps it’s a very American-centric viewpoint, but I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for the marketing, they’d just be a Concrete Blonde or Dinosaur Jr.

        See page 120: http://goo.gl/UJMtL

  6. Hmm. i have all the dinosaur jr albums and am very fond.of them but i simply don’t believe that the only difference is hype.

  7. Excellent post. Sad to the see the season come to an end.

    I don’t listen to them much these days, but I do agree that Nirvana were more than marketing. Their popularity grew immensely on the strength of Bleach, and that’s what allowed them to get to the next level. Bleach’s success was pretty organic–where I lived it was friends telling friends, “you gotta hear this.” That’s how I and everyone I knew came to it. I was never a Pearl Jam fan, but they had the good sense to cover Dead Moon, one of the all-time greats in my book!

  8. This post has caused me to queue up my Temple of the Dog station on Pandora…just thought you all would like to know! And Tim, I wouldn’t fire you for disliking Nirvana…there was definitely an MTV advert aspect to their success, but like Mc of Frank says, the way that Bleach was found out where I lived was word of mouth. Very far from the campaign to sell Nevermind.

    Cobain had to be a lyrical genius though, right? I mean it was his intellect that caused him to take his own life…or at least that is what we are told to believe posthumously whenever an artist dies by his own hand.

  9. Very nice. I love that song. I think Mike Watt plays on the Juliana Hatfield version. I think Fulham are the Minutemen for me. Underdogs. Liked personally but dismissed by the orthodoxy. Capable of greatness.

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