Posted by: markfender | September 25, 2013

Headphone Diaries – August 27, 1991

Oh hey, some grunge.

PearlJam-Ten2Pearl Jam

Is it weird to realize that this album came out before Nevermind? I had never realized this before because, like everyone else, I was introduced to this album after hearing Nirvana. And, suddenly, Pearl Jam were the other shining stars of the grunge movement.

I was never a big fan of this album. I thought it was competent and I liked “Even Flow” but “Alive” never really worked for me. Something about Vedder’s voice left me annoyed with how that song never seemed to go anywhere. Pearl Jam, for me, never became a staple until their second album Vs. For whatever reason, I felt like that album actually rocked, unlike the relatively dreary Ten.

I was watching MTV one evening when I heard the following lineup of songs: Queesnryche’s “Silent Lucidity,” U2’s “The Fly”, and Pearl Jam’s “Alive.” And it felt like I was listening to entire genres of music die. Vedder’s nuanced growl was so much more visceral and powerful than Geoff Tate’s singing. The heavy production on “The Fly” just sounded quaint and overpolished to the raw blister of “Alive.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect, it became obvious that Pearl Jam in particular were speaking to a different audience of consumers. These new listeners weren’t interested in the flash of pyrotechnics that having an orchestra on “Silent Lucidity” offered, nor the rock star swagger Bono attempted on “The Fly.” They wanted raw emotion, raw heart, raw nerves, and Pearl Jam offered that. I always remember that moment as my own personal “Day the Music Died” (Not to say that either of those bands are bad. But the dramatic shift in sound and the feelings that evoked were never made more plain to me than that moment).

That sort of read like that was The Most Important Moment in All of Music. Which it obviously wasn’t. Like everyone, I have a deeper connection to the music of my youth. But, if I had to choose a Top 10 Albums of All Time list, which I don’t have to do because I own an iPod, I’m just about positive that no grunge band would make that list. It was kind of a revelation at the time and definitely impacted music, but it only barely manages to remain a musical genre I’d pay attention to.

Honestly, I don’t keep up with Pearl Jam. Listening to Ten again, I have a deeper appreciation for the album now, insofar as I actually like it. I’m still a fan of Vs. But nothing much else of theirs has made an impact on me. If anything I respect them more for their crusade against Ticketmaster. It’s a damnable shame that they lost.

Has it aged well? There is a definite production quality issue with Ten that isn’t there with later stuff. But I think it still works.

Should this go on your iPod? Ten is a seminal rock record. Everyone is gonna laugh at you if it isn’t.


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