Monday, April 03, 2006

Pearl Jam: Ten

With just FOUR WEEKS to go until the music event of 2006 (the release of the new Pearl Jam album, as if you needed to ask!!), I though I would do my own personal tribute to one of the finest rock bands of the past 15 years. Each week, I will pick one of their albums that I believe stand head and shoulders above the rest. Putting them in preferential order from fourth to first (no easy task believe me!!) I will examine each album and give you a rundown of the stand-out tracks - because, let's face it, come May 1st you will all want to buy albums from their back catalogue.

My first choice in the countdown is Ten. Now, for many fans (as well as non-fans) this is the definitive Pearl Jam album. This is mainly due to the many 'hits' that this album contains (Alive, Jeremy, Even Flow etc). However, although this is the album that made me sit up and take notice, it is not their best work. I had a real hard time deciding between this, and Riot Act for my number four choice. Ten just scrapped through as, if it wasn't for this album, I may never have discovered them and I would not be writing this list now.

From the opening Master/Slave, you know this isn't going to be an ordinary American rock album. It has a very different feel to it, and hints at the experimentation that is to come on later albums (it even contains the sound of a digital watch beeping at one point!). This brief snippet builds into Once and never looks back. Part of the 'Mamasan' trilogy, it tells the story of someone who has lost control after a life changing event. It is the second part in the trilogy, following Alive and preceding Footsteps. It is the sound of Eddie really showing the power and emotion in his voice.

Once is followed by Even Flow (about homelessness) and Alive (about the shocking event alluded to in Once), two classic anthems that need no further introduction. Why Go tells the tale of a girl who has been disowned by her mother for smoking a joint - a true tale of angst. Black is another classic that the band refused to release, despite pressure from the record label and radio. Jeremy opens with the familiar notes of Ament's bass before another emotional outburst about a victim of bullying, who subsequently shots himself in front of the class. A powerful song based on a true story, it won many awards particularly for the video. However, it was to be the last promotional video they were to shoot until Do The Evolution.

Oceans is a beautiful chill-out song amongst all the emotional out-pouring. The kind of tune that makes you imagine days the sea (funnily enough!!!). Then follows Porch. This is a cracking little tune that used to be stretched out for ten minutes or longer when played live - not as dull as you would think. The image of Pearl Jam playing this on MTV Unplugged is one that stays firmly in my mind. Garden and Deep are two weaker tracks on the album, but even then they are far better than some of the songs produced by other big rock bands of the time. The album closes with Release, followed by the full version of Master/Slave. Release is a good example of the now standard slow burner at the end of the album. Personally, I think this is the best example of their album ending tracks. It's a very relaxing tune played out over a gentle drum beat and soothing guitar. I feel chilled just thinking of it!!

Overall, although I do not believe that this is their best work (not mature enough in places - but then, hey, it is their debut!!), it is certainly a good introduction to the greatest rock band on the planet!!

Stand-out Tracks: Even Flow, Black, Jeremy, Release