Epic Associated Records, 1991
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/30/1997
When you think of the grunge movement, one name originally comes to mind - Pearl Jam. With their debut album Ten, they won the hearts and acclaim of millions of fans, and set a standard for the alternative world.
So I guess you'd expect me to hold this album up on a pedestal and praise this album to the point of nausea.
Well, get your flame mail ready, 'cause it ain't gonna happen. While this album has some very solid performances and is worthy of some praise, Ten is not the masterpiece many people want to make this album out to be. It is, in fact, spotty.
Eddie Vedder and crew deserve great praise for their two hits, "Alive" and "Jeremy," songs which defy the rules of radio success because of the common lack of rhymes. Maybe this is what makes these songs so appealing - the fact that they break the mold. The dual guitar attack of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready is a powerful force that hasn't been heard often in rock music, and Jeff Ament's bass work is subtle but as powerful as a sledgehammer.
Two other songs stand out as solid efforts from Pearl Jam. "Evenflow" is another song released as a single with a scorching guitar line. However, the surprise here is "Release," a song whose power is in its gentleness. Vedder's vocals build from a soft hum to a wail that chills to the bone. Some versions I've heard on low-quality bootlegs from their first tour are quite powerful - even blowing away this version.
But the rest of Ten is quite stagnant. "Why Go" is a little too wild and uncontrolled, while "Black" tends to ramble.too much. A good portion of the second half of the album is made up of sheer filler, songs which are nothing special. In fact, if it weren't for the two hits, Ten would merely be an average debut album, not the multi-million seller it became.
So what caused Ten to build from sluggish sales to the phenomenon it became? One word: airplay. Another word: overkill. While bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana earned their dues and took their time building up a fan base, Pearl Jam seemed to come from nowhere and overtake their competition. (And please don't flame me to remind me about Green River and Mother Love Bone - if it hadn't been for Andrew Wood's overdose, Pearl Jam would never have happened... and they were together only for one album, for Chrissake.)
But with the advent of alternative popular radio (and a huge media push from Sony Music), Pearl Jam went from nobodies to headliners. (I had the opportunity to interview Pearl Jam before their breakthrough - and I passed it by. Chalk up one of the few mistakes I've made.)
While the singles on this one are worth the effort and are justification enough to purchase this one, Ten is not the par excellence fans of Pearl Jam make it out to be. It's worth checking out, just be cautious on many of the tracks.
|I agree with Chris' overall outlook on Ten, but I think the strength of the singles, combined with the excellent album tracks "Release" and "Oceans" boost the overall grade to B minus. That being said, the second side of the record is a major letdown after the power-packed first side.|
|True story, Drifting1... when I was in college, "Ten" had just been released, and my contact at Sony Music asked if I wanted to interview Pearl Jam. I passed on the opportunity, saying I honestly didn't think these guys had that much to offer.|