Among the classics of Pearl Jam’s most recent history, Sirens sings the urgency of reality. And it does it directly, creating a mutual, constant correspondence between music and words. Sirens sings the fear and the fall, the things that fade before our eyes.
What cannot leave you indifferent is the depth nestled between words that are only apparently flat: it’s precisely the interweaving between those deep meanings and the easiness of listening that marks the beauty of this song.
Have to take your hand, and feel your breath
For fear this someday will be over
I pull you close, so much to lose
Knowing that nothing lasts forever
The main characteristic of the lyrics is this dialectical conflict between the progressive degradation of reality and the need for stability, under a “simple” romantic context: it’s the search for an anchor that can save us from the flying time and can better orient our days. The fear is hidden into the human relationship, and specifically in its highest declination: love.
Nothing lasts, everything fades in the following moment: the same act of touching the lover’s body, or holding her hand, is nothing but an attempt to escape death, to win over the void. Love is a fragile, human thing, but it’s able to revitalize a fragile life, fighting the death that is always around us (“It’s a fragile thing / This life we lead / […] With death over our shoulders”).
I didn’t care before you were here,
I danced in laughter with the ever after
But all things change
Let this remain
There is no space for empty laughter, for the ambitions of who looks towards the eternity, and in the meanwhile doesn’t collect the present, doesn’t live within it. This blind dance oriented to preserve love is therefore a ritual, a celebration of contacts and breaths:
Let me catch my breath and breathe
And reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man
The slightest bit of light
And I can see you clear
Of course the sirens are signs (“Hear the sirens / Covering distance in the night”): they warn you about danger and tension, so the singer remains awake, prepared to face fear: the sounds of the city become warnings of the race of time (“The sound echoing closer”) and at the same time seem to come from somewhere else (“Will they come for me next time?”). It’s the persistent distraction from the dialogue with the beloved one.
The enchantment, mixed with fear, becomes then an error: a journey weakened by the humanity we are made of (“For another choice, I have done / For any wrong choice I made / It is not part of my plans / Send you into the arms / Of another man”). But, once again, it’s within the love relationship that Vedder’s voice finds its shelter. It’s in the threatened delicacy of love that we can feel safe. A “slight bit of light” in the darkness. And when we accustom the eyes to darkness, we can finally see who we are looking for: “I study your face / And the fear goes away”.
Recognizing the shapes of the beloved one means, therefore, staying connected to life: returning consistency and meaning to what has been devoured by time.