The last songs on Pearl Jam records are normally some of the band’s strongest. Release is heartrending, oceanic tribute to a father, Indifference simply a haunting cry of defiance, Inside Job an inspiring declaration. Throughout 20-plus years, the epitaphs are a mix of fan favorites and bittersweet symphonies.
The latest finale is Future Days, the last track on Lightning Bolt, and perhaps the band’s most resonant – to fans – yet.
The hymnal Future Days purports to be a love song, but I consider it more of a spiritual, dedicated to Pearl Jam fans. We’re 10 albums, countless bootlegs, thousands of shows, and gallons of blood, sweat and tears into a 20-year reign of a band we couldn’t, wouldn’t live without. Each show is a rite of passage, reunion, or communal celebration. Every album is an event; every song a benchmark in our respective lives.
We couldn’t live without Pearl Jam. Future Days is a reminder that someday, we might. The few chords pluck, and Eddie’s quiet voice builds into a deep, unconventional chorus, bolstered by poignant background vocals, the echo reminding of a funeral procession, a wake, a graduation, a memory.
I believe, and I believe that I can see. He’s daring you to sing along, knowing you will. He knows, they know, we know we’re all members of this, silly, imperfect Pearl Jam nation, on an all encompassing trip. We know, somehow, it means more than any religion stumbled upon.
The unconventional vocal progression melts. Our fut-ure days. Days of you and me.
It’s no longer a love song. It’s a benediction. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come. This fan, that fan, this touring band, this community, and your life. It’s a nod to the role Pearl Jam plays in your life. It’s a subtle thank-you. It’s a tribute. And it’s hope.
It’s hope that we’ll come around this way again, be it Oklahoma City, Prague, or Portland. The Barclays or Key Arena. But an acknowledgment that things will change. Everything has changed, absolutely everything changes. And someday that change is going to be the end. The band grows up, or you do, too. It’s acknowledgment that once that happens, that future day is going to be OK, just you wait. Just you see, just you believe.
It’s a combination of Pearl Jam at its most declarative yet most quiet. A spiritual rejoinder for our Pearl Jam community; a quiet, simple song bursting with emotion. It just might be the band’s best coda, were it an epitaph, it would do the band proud.
I believe that’s it not. But it’s nice to know, no matter how sad, that something separates us, it will be OK. It will be.
Days of you and me.
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