The lyrics seem to be written with two Staleys in mind: the powerful lead singer of a respected band, and the lost soul who was a friend and peer. The song is bookended with lyrics about the first Staley. Vedder’s voice drips with sorrow and resignation as he sings the opening lines: “So all of you fools that sing just like him/ feel free to do so now, ‘cause he’s dead.” The sentiment is revisited with slightly more venom to end the song.
The song does more than chide Alice in Chains clones. The sentiment of a simple line, like “lonesome friend we all knew/ always hoped you’d pull through” makes the tribute sadder with each listen. “4/20/02” is a fitting eulogy to both a friend and an era.
Pearl Jam is the only band of the grunge movement to have made it through the decade (more or less) intact. Shifting taste and changing mood are largely responsible for the demise of most of the other bands, but there is no denying that the pain of addiction took a heavy toll on the 90s music scene.
So, what’s not to like about Lost Dogs? Not much. The band ignored the two gems from the Singles soundtrack. (This, too, has been corrected with my handy, dandy iPod.) “Breath” and “State of Love and Trust” are two of the best Pearl Jam songs and need to be available on a proper Pearl Jam release. Live versions of both can be found on many of the official Pearl Jam bootleg albums. The band’s collaboration with Neil Young is not represented on the package either. Lastly, the hidden track “4/20/02” is tacked onto the end of “Bee Girl,” making it inconvenient to find.
Lost Dogs restores faith in Pearl Jam’s ability to continue recording good, sometimes great songs. It teases us into believing they might be capable of another great album if they can learn which songs belong on albums and which ones should be relegated to leftover status.