Release Date: Mar 24, 2009
Record label: Sony Legacy
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Nirvana's Nevermind may have been the album that broke grunge and alternative rock into the mainstream, but there's no underestimating the role that Pearl Jam's Ten played in keeping them there. Nirvana's appeal may have been huge, but it wasn't universal; rock radio still viewed them as too raw and punky, and some hard rock fans dismissed them as weird misfits. In retrospect, it's easy to see why Pearl Jam clicked with a mass audience -- they weren't as metallic as Alice in Chains or Soundgarden, and of Seattle's Big Four, their sound owed the greatest debt to classic rock.
I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person who felt a slight sinking feeling upon first seeing the full cover art to Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten. After years wondering what the pyramidal thing at the bottom was, I finally bought the record and discovered the sleeve folded out and that the strange shape was the band, locked in a hairy hi-five. And they were wearing shorts.
Ten may be classic rock today, but it's easy to underestimate how radical Pearl Jam sounded back in 1991, even with Nirvana ascendant. After several long years of hair metal dominance, here was a band that could jam stadium-large, texture their sound darkly and densely, and explode the blues-rock template. Here was a frontman with an entirely new stage presence, whose voice strained hard for sincerity and whose songwriting expressed grave self-reckoning without resorting to easy sentiments or self-glorifying choruses.
While some artists distance themselves from their early breakthrough records, Pearl Jam continue to play songs from Ten. Now they've re-released the 18-year-old album, complete with two discs - a remaster of the original and a remix by Brendan O'Brien with six extra tracks. [rssbreak] The remix supposedly reflects how the band always wanted the album to sound, but it's hard to tell what O'Brien did.
Released the year punk broke, 1991, Pearl Jam's Ten proved an unabashedly classic rock LP informed by post-punk aggression and the strangled sincerity of singer Eddie Vedder, who gave voice to a generation's disillusionment. Except for "Release," the New Age meditation closing the album, Ten remains a near-perfect showcase for some of the decade's most enduring singles ("Once," "Even Flow," "Jeremy"). The Seattle quintet's MTV Unplugged session the following year helps complete this 2-CD/1-DVD time capsule, Vedder, trembling atop a stool, seemingly possessed during "Alive" and scribbling "Pro-Choice" across his forearm during monumental closer "Porch.