Saturday, 14 February 2015

Pearl Jam "Ten" (1991)

Peral Jam are an American Rock / Grunge band who rose to fame in the early 90s with the explosive popularity of Grunge. Coming straight out of Seattle, the scenes origin, the group would release their first and best selling album "Ten" in 1991. The record was not an instant success but continued to steadily sell and picked up steam the following year. It has since gone 13 times platinum in the US alone and has helped cement their place in Rock history. Despite being a seminal act of one my favorite eras of music, I had hardly ever heard the group before, so I picked up this album with very little idea what to expect.

My first impression was good, but quickly I found myself asking "Is this grunge?". Softer guitar tones, less aggression and gliding, passionate vocal leads painted a Alternative/Classic Rock feel to a record that swiftly captivated me with composed rocking grooves, subtle melodics and Eddie Vedder's mighty, captivating presence as the front man who pours an immense amount of heart into his free flowing afflictions and anthem like singing. Before I barely knew a song I found myself singing along to his wild descending ascending vocal hooks on "Alive". Singing and lyrics are often like another instrument to me, and although they sit in the forefront of much music, its not often I find myself engrossed in what their doing. I've been scratching my head trying to remember when a singer last captivated me like this, but Vedder's passioned singing is memorizing and by grabbing my attention so vividly he lets the quality of the music behind him speak volumes in a subtle magnitude, before breaking out explosively in the moments of his absence.

The chemistry between the instruments is dynamic and powerful. The group achieve a big rocking sound with no need for heavy overdrive or cheap tricks. On the track "Why Go" the guitars slam in over a glistening bass line with a mammoth, melodic groove. There is a big space in the sound, the drums rattle away orchestrating the rhythm and although feeling distant from one another they fill this space rocking out Classic Rock riffs with a jamming feel. On particular tracks the group bust out into guitar solos that have a magnetic energy to them as they wildly shred leads reminiscent of Skynnard and Hendrix over a steady bass. The more I talk about it the less I see the Grunge. This group just rock hard in a classic style, but bring a newer sounding tone and drive, complimented by Vedder's theatric perfomances.

The group also calm the mood with some dreary melodics and quieter, progressive numbers that build up big atmospheres. All of this is amplified by the subject matter of the lyrics which are surprising candid and bold. Tackling topics of suicide, depression, abortion and mental illness this album strolls through dark territory while maintaining an upbeat mood. The track "Jeremy" really pulls at the heart strings as Vedder sings tribute to a young boy who took his life in front of his classmates, a mental state reached from the abuse suffered at home and from his peers. Its a climactic moment in an album full of terrific songs, the sort that closer examination just yields more admiration of the instrumentation that can sometimes feel I little hidden behind Vedder enigmatic performances. A stunning debut record.

Favorite Songs: Even Flow, Why Go, Jeremy, Release
Rating: 9/10


  1. A great review. I discovered this album myself in 1993. I had dismissed them as just a part of a grunge trend, not worthy of the time to listen, but a friend had the album and I was staying with him for a week, so I threw it on a few times. I was quickly hooked, especially by the power and emotion of Black, Jeremy and Why Go. I saw them live that year, and OMG, I have rarely seen a band before or since with the live chops, passion and performance. The many bootlegs of their live performances are almost uniformly better than the album versions, even though the album versions are great. In following years, their fights with Ticketmaster, their decision to stop making videos, and their experimentation with different genres, their collaborations with people as diverse as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pete Townsend, Neil Young, Neil Finn, etc and growth of their musicianship made me a (and kept me) massive fan of their art. I think I'll put the album on right now...

  2. Evan Porter/Sir Madrigal2 June 2019 at 03:15

    Still one of the best Pearl Jam albums