Pearl Jam - Ten - Anniversary Edition
Released in 1991, Pearl Jam’s debut album ‘Ten’ blasted onto a scene that had just began to reach it’s zenith, a vibrant American scene that the media labelled ‘grunge’ or the ‘Seattle sound’. Within a year it had become a global phenomenon , a viable commodity that became fat, bloated and a parody of itself. Shockingly bad bands were being signed for wearing lumberjack shirts and a pair of Converse baseball boots, the music was no longer important - the alternative had become the mainstream.
The legacy that remained after the deadwood had all but burnt away, was of course, all about the music and the people that created it. Amazing bands such as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins and a little act called Nirvana, all made music that can, quite rightly, be called essential. Pearl Jam, although criticised by some of their peers at the time, can and should most definitely be included as one of the greats that emerged from this scene, the scene that the world knew as ‘grunge’.
So, to celebrate the achievement of ‘Ten’, it is now re-released and remixed in an all new Anniversary edition that includes six unreleased bonus tracks. Unhappy that the cover for the album wasn’t quite the way that they had envisioned it, the band are now able to realise their original visualization by using the aforementioned artwork for this release. Of course, this new version of ‘Ten’ is going to have to earn its keep if it’s going to replace people’s existing copies, it is worth shelling out for?
Far from damaging the original album or attempting to resurrect it as something that it wasn’t, the new mix is entirely invigorating, bringing a subtle clarity to ‘Ten’ that doesn’t overshadow anything about the original record, just deftly adding touches to it. Eddie Vedder’s voice is lifted up in the mix, reaching out to you clearly with all its fierceness and frailty. The music benefits from a sense of space that has been injected into it, guitars that previously jostled for attention now fly succinctly together; everything can be viewed from its own individual platform in a way that the original mix didn’t quite allow.
Once sounds as exiting and vital as ever, “Back-street lover on the side of the road/I got a bomb in my temple and it’s gonna explode/I got a 16 gauge buried under my coat/I pray!” are among some of the most menacing and disparaged lyrics that Eddie Vedder has ever sung. The soaring melodies and choruses of Even Flow and Alive remind me of just how adept Pearl Jam were, and to a large degree still are, at delivering giant slabs of skyscraper sized anthems that have ‘classic’ spray-painted all over them.
The furiously paced Why Go drips with venomous guitars and frantic vocals, sounding like it’s been trapped in a corner and has taken to clawing its way out. Long time live favourite Black is as glorious as ever, and for me at least, it represents Pearl Jam at their very peak, an absolute gem of a song that keeps getting better. MTV absolutely wore out Jeremy when it was released and who could blame them? It was perfect for a disenchanted youth and still is, the chorus gets a slight lift courtesy of the remix and kicks dirt in the face of every school bully out there for a second time around. Oceans is as atmospheric as we get from a band that are anything but, and is, as this months TMF interview reveals, something of a group favourite. Album closer Release signs things off on a mellow note, a slow builder that burns its way into your head with its subtle but catchy melodies floating over you, bringing the trip to an end - and what a trip it was!
It’s the bonus tracks that will be the main driving factor behind you handing over your hard earned money or not, so, are they worth splurging the cash on? Brother, oddly, sounds like Soundgarden from back in the day, an interesting snapshot of the artist as a young man. Both Just A Girl and Breath And A Scream sound like the band discovering the dynamics that filled ‘Ten’, and either would find a place on the album had they struggled for tracks. Many people will already be familiar with State Of Love And Trust, it has been available in various guises and was featured in the movie Singles, this is a solid and worthwhile version to own alongside those others. 2,000 Mile Blue is an undiscovered jewel that leads into Evil Little Goat, an odd studio outtake that perhaps tells more about Pearl Jam’s playful nature than musical proficiency - if you’ve ever wondered what Eddie Vedder would sound like impersonating a goat, then this for you! Ultimately, these will only appeal to fans, who will be rewarded with six tracks of varying quality to digest and hopefully love.
What can I say? ‘Ten’ is an astonishing record, that really does have quality stamped all over it. With their 20th Anniversary looming, it’s a timely re-release that will no doubt spark many memories for lots of people. The verdict is easy, just go and buy it if you don’t already own it, and if you do, buy it for the mix and bonus tracks, it’s as simple as that. ‘Ten’ is an essential record, full stop.
*Please note, the full release also features ‘MTV Unplugged DVD’.