We've reached the end of grunge appreciation month, and we're ending it all off with the only band whose lead singer is still alive: Pearl Jam. The band arrived on the scene late enough for them to be criticized for jumping on the bandwagon, but they truly owned the grunge sound.
Pearl Jam set the bar for rock high with Ten, their 1991 debut. In all honesty, Pearl Jam set the bar for grunge despite being criticized for trying to get with the trend - this album came out before definitive records like Nirvana's Nevermind or Soundgarden's Superunknown. Eddie Vedder and co. truly smashed it out of the park with giant riffs, powerful vocals, and everything that makes rock giant.
Ten begins strongly and stays rolling for its 78 minute run. 'Once' introduces the record with blistering drive, the huge roll and grand vocals leading to a powerful beginning. The guitar reaches epic heights - a characteristic that this record loves to establish time and time again without wearing it out. 'Even Flow' keeps that notion going with its wild rock atmosphere, 'Alive' following through again with a more alternative presence with a celebratory vibe, exploding with a huge guitar solo at the end.
If there was a single word to describe this record, it would be, undoubtedly, "epic." Every song peaks with some glorious expression of energy, whether its later in the record with the blues driven '2,000 Mile Blues' or electrifying sounds of 'Porch,' Pearl Jam starts on a high and never slows down. There are some truly epic moments on this record, especially at its core. After 'Porch' (which is a highlight on its own), 'Garden' with its thick riffs and beautiful melodies and 'Deep' with its epic riff and soaring vocals from Vedder dominate the middle of the record, giving the album a peak. Things so slow down after these songs, with no track really exploding like before, but nothing too considerable.
Pearl Jam doesn't shy away from emotion when delivering their frenzy of riffs. The emotions come out most most clearly on tracks where Vedder roars, like on 'Garden,' where you can really feel the emotion in his voice as he sings, and on 'Release; Master / Slave' when he triumphantly begs "release me." . 'Black' is the emotional highpoint of the record, the depression-laden song pretending all is happy around them when all there is is just darkness. The classic "upbeat vibe when singing of depression" found its foundations here. The anger and distraught of 'Jeremy' also comes out powerfully as the song tells the story of a boy who shot himself in his high school English class.
Peral Jam set the bar for rock high with Ten, and to this day their precedent still holds. The grunge era was a time of angst and sadness and seclusion, and most notably, a time when people who were afraid to speak their minds found comfort in music. Grunge tackled what it means to be a musician: to let your emotions run free. It's okay to be sad and angry. That's in part thanks to grunge, and all the music out there today telling you the same thing.
Favorite Tracks: Garden, Jeremy, Porch, Black
Least Favorite Track: Evil Little Goat
Rating: 84 / 100
Stream or buy Ten on Apple Music: