27 August 2013

27th August - Pearl Jam's Ten

Artist – Album: Pearl Jam 
Released:  27th August 1991
Sounds Like: The grunge-on masters

It’s rare that a genre of music explodes fully formed into the mainstream consciousness; more often than not, music styles flow from one to another, as easily as Merseybeat led to pop rock led to psychedelic pop (well, that one was all under one particular band’s duress, but still). The few singular occasions of dramatic revolution include punk’s utter devastation of the music landscape in 1977, and the unprecedented dominance of hip hop and R&B over the last decade, which is yet to be stemmed. The early Nineties saw a sea change of its own, as the Seattle sound suddenly became the popular rock form for the flannel-shirt wearing, disenfranchised generation.

Grunge, the label for the Northwestern scene that married hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock, had many forefathers – Neil Young was given the moniker “the Godfather of Grunge” thanks to his Crazy Horse days, whilst influential alternative rock luminaries such as Sonic Youth, Pixies and Black Flag each had a considerable influence. The first practioners, such as Mudhoney and Soundgarden had modest success, but it was Nirvana’s Nevermind and this album, released a month earlier, that were the catalysts for the distorted-guitars-driven, angst-ridden onslaught.

Ten does a nice line in punk inspired aggression with the likes of ‘Once’ and ‘Why Go’, but as a whole Pearl Jam seem more inclined to the rock side of things. ‘Alive’ is festooned with spindly guitar riffs and solos that would make a true punk sick, whilst ‘Oceans’ and ‘Release’ are languid and experimental, as far removed from thrash or metal as possible. Elsewhere, the ballad ‘Black’ is stately and moving, with Eddie Vedder’s smooth baritone rendering the track similar to something by the indie rockers American Music Club. The highlight of the set is unquestionably ‘Jeremy’, an epic that recounts the true story of a high school student who suffered bullying and was eventually driven to shooting himself in front of his classmates.

Some, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, labelled this album as a commercial sell out, and its monumental success, which thereby thrust the unlikely and unwilling exponents into the limelight, would eventually lead to the genre’s grisly implosion. That may be a little unfair, as members of the group were there as Mother Love Bone in Grunge’s deepest darkest beginnings, and the music here is hardly more accessible or commercial than Cobain’s own breakthrough, Nevermind. Still, as a representation of a nascent genre on the brink of the big time, it can’t be bettered.

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Once – 3:51
2.       Even Flow – 4:53
3.       Alive – 5:40
4.       Why Go – 3:19
5.       Black – 5:44
6.       Jeremy – 5:18
7.       Oceans – 2:41
8.       Porch – 3:30
9.       Garden – 4:59
10.   Deep – 4:18
11.   Release – 9:05

Listen to ‘Jeremy’ : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS91knuzoOA

Also released on 27th August:
2001: Bjork - Vespertine
Also released on 27th August:
2002: Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf

Also released on 27th August:
2007: Tungg - Good Arrows

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