Year 5, Day 19: Pearl Jam gives rise to alternative rock with “Ten”

Year 5, Day 19: Pearl Jam – Ten

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Track List

  1. Once
  2. Even Flow
  3. Alive
  4. Why Go
  5. Black
  6. Jeremy
  7. Oceans
  8. Porch
  9. Garden
  10. Deep
  11. Release

About the Album

Ten is the debut album from Seattle based alternative rock band, Pearl Jam. The album was recorded from March 27th 1991 through April 26th 1991 and released on August 27th, 1991 through Epic Records. In 1992, the album reached number two on the Billboard 200. The album has sold well over 10 million copies and is certified 13x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It is to date, the band’s most successful album commercially.

Thoughts on the album

Pearl Jam is part of triumvirate of Seattle based grunge and alternative rock bands: Nirvana and Soundgarden. While Nirvana is often credited with bringing grunge and alternative rock into the mainstream, one shouldn’t underestimate today’s album in keeping alt rock there. Ten is considered to be one of the pinnacle grunge and alternative rock albums of the 1990s.

Everything about Ten is almost perfect. The guitar work, the bass grooves, the pounding drums, and the crisp, sharp, and guttural vocals. Frontman Eddie Vedder‘s voice is just as magnificent as it is impressive. His deep voice seems to soar about contemporaries at the time. With every word sung, you can get a sense of the raw emotion and power. Not uncommon are animalistic shrieks and guttural howls, as Vedder’s vocal style seems to hard animosity on harder tracks like Once and Even Flow. His voice carries the slower more ballady type tracks like Black or Oceans. To compliment his excellent vocals, Vedder is an excellent songwriter, who Pearl Jam would not sound or be the same with those skills. He is able to express angst and and anger through his musical stylings.

The guitar work of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are impressive as well, making them a force to be reckoned with. The riffs found throughout Ten are catchy yet hard-hitting… prime examples are the riffs found on Even Flow, Once, and Deep. You get a sense of the emotion through heavy distortion, but not so much distortion where it just drowns out the rest of the instruments. The (two minute long) solo (and masterpiece) on Alive is as emotional as it is unique. You can see how effects pedals add to the overall excellence of the album as heard with Deep and Jeremy. The dual guitarists give the album a huge sound… one that gives off arena rock vibe, but the distortion reins it back in to grunge.

While the guitars and vocals take front and center stage on the album, we can forget about the rhythm section. The drum work isn’t exactly all that technical, but the use of snare drum and cymbals disguises the lack of technical ability. The drum groove of Even Flow is highly infectious that when combined with the equally infectious guitar riff, makes for a dynamite one-two punch. While the bass lines are great, they don’t get drowned out, but they do get overpowered sometimes by the guitars. When the bass does become more audible, it makes for an all around great experience, example: Why Go. When the bass and drum combine on a track like Why Go, you can really tell just how well-written and catchy they are.

Conclusion

26 years later, Ten stands the test of time. It obvious that it was a successful album commercially as it was easily accessible grunge rock that turned into alternative rock. It is a classic album that features magnificent instrumentation, vocals, and songwriting. It is a spectacular musical experience that has yet to be topped. There is plenty of variety on the album from fast paced rockers like Even FlowOnce, Deep, and Why Go. To slower more ballady type tracks like Oceans and Release; to slower epics like Alive and Jeremy. It’s album that you can really feel the catharsis. The only problem of releasing album of this magnitude is trying to live up to it. Either way, Ten is an album that help propel grunge and eventually alternative rock into the mainstream.  A classic.

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