Album of the Month: “Ten” by Pearl Jam
The early 90’s saw the explosion of the “Seattle sound”, grunge,producing some of the best albums of the 20th century including Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten. Perhaps their greatest work, Ten epitomised the powerful in-your-face nature of the grunge scene with its heavy distorted riffs and raw sounds while mixing in lyrical solos and vocals. Released in 1992 , Ten received mixed reviews ranging from a 5/5 from Uncut to a B- from Entertainment Weekly. However Ten has successfully stood the test of time reaching platinum sales thirteen times in the US.
Opening with the initially mysterious Once with Vedder’s haunting voice floating in and out of ear shot, you would be excused for thinking you were listening to a Pink Floyd B-side. The tribal drums are swiftly cut away replaced instead with searing guitar and cymbals. Then, like a fog horn in the mist, Vedder’s powerful voice roars into life. Much of Pearl Jam’s success can be attributed to the vocal skill of Vedder which, combined with the instrumentation of Jeff Ament (bass), Dave Krusen (drums)with Mike McCready and Stone Gossarrd on guitar, produced truly epic and anthemic tracks. Of the track list there are a number that make the album such a classic.
While grunge to some may just seem like angry noise, the lyricism of the emotion of the third track on Ten, Alive, is unmissable- partly autobiographical partly fiction Vedder found out as a teenager that the man who he thought was his father was not actually his biological father. Arguably their greatest track, Alive features Vedder’s iconic vocals carried by the energy of McCready’s solo which has been ranked number 44 on Guitar World‘s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos”.
While raw power and typical grunge features are present throughout Ten, Black (#5 on the album) is a welcome, highly melodic, lyrical and calm break. Described as “a central emotional piece on the album” the dramatic sounding piano chords that wouldn’t sound out of place in a tear-jerking-Adele-number, hidden underneath wailing guitar, captures the softer side of the grunge scene, very much in the same way Nirvana’s The Man Who Sold the World did.
The final of the stand out tracks is Jeremy. This by no means that there are no more great tracks on Ten but Jeremy epitomises the anthemic nature of many tracks on the album such as Even Flow and Why Go. While not as aggressive as other tracks Jeremy brings together Pearl Jam’s winning formula of emotion, exciting instrumentation and of course Vedder’s lion-like vocals. While the flannel clad days of the early 90’s may be well behind us Ten will forever be a testament to that golden age of music.