Pearl Jam Album Review: Ten (1991)

I want YOU, the viewer, to leave a comment down below to request an album for me and Robby to review. Any artist, any genre, we’ll give it a chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Ten, the first studio album from Pearl Jam.

In green is my opinion. I am familiar with a few members of Pearl Jam, and have listened to this album before. Other than that, I am not very familiar with Pearl Jam’s discography or history.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. Being a 90’s kid, he’s heard Pearl Jam on the radio. Rob has always enjoyed their music.

Let’s start our track-by-track review!

Once

Once is a pleasant punch to the face. The mysterious introduction, guided by a gliding bass-line, is very reminiscent of the bass-line from Coldplay’s High Speed. It serves as a swelling, thought-provoking buildup to the explosion that is Ten. Eddie Vedder doesn’t hold back, singing (and yelling) with urgency. He certainly doesn’t sound bored. The Vedder growl and all that comes with it is showcased here, as well as a quick, shredding solo from Mike McCready. The solo, if it can even be called such a thing due to its brevity, is there solely to tell the listener that McCready is there. Once latches the listener on, energetic and excited in its sound.

ONCE UPON A TIME! This album begins with a song that is very intense. It does what all first tracks should do: excites the listener for the rest of the album. The guitar riff is unforgettable, and Vedder’s classic screaming is showcased well. If Once does not make you go crazy, then you seriously have issues.

Even Flow

Even Flow’s main guitar riff sounds a lot like the bass-line from Once. I enjoy Once, I enjoy High Speed, and so, surprise surprise, I enjoy Even Flow as well. The chorus of this song is light in terms of sound yet strong in terms of delivery. Vedder’s tone is full of attitude, oozing grunge. This track is easy to stomach. Think of it as a doughnut that is frothy on the inside and glazed conservatively. It’s smooth and easy to down.

Many know Even Flow thanks to Guitar Hero 3. It’s no surprise that this particular track was featured in the game, because the guitar is amazing. Even Flow is Grunge at its finest. This song always gets me pumped up! Even though I can never understand what the heck Vedder is saying, I still enjoy Even Flow.

Alive

This song bothers me. The problem I have with it doesn’t stem from the music, but from the lyricism. The verses are dragged down by Vedder’s poor lyrics. The only outstanding thing I can say about Alive is that the guitar solo is wicked. Mike McCready did a nasty job. There is no way his guitar made it alive out of that one. Alive is an underwhelming track that is made salvageable because of the outstanding solo.

I was first hooked to this song because of the guitar intro. Alive has a wonderful story to it, which I always appreciate in songs. This is my favorite Pearl Jam song, and that’s because of every single element the song has in it! The guitar solo that ends Alive can be considered one of the greatest solos of all time. I’m not going to lie. Whenever that solo starts, I blast the song and play air-guitar, even if I am in the car! Of course, I still have a hand on the steering wheel. I’m not that stupid!

Why Go

Why Go is a quick, breezy song. For the first time on this album, the drums caught my attention. The drummer isn’t doing anything crazy, but he’s playing pretty hard. Props to him for playing with energy. Once again, Mike McCready rips a solo that is remarkable. Eddie Vedder’s chorus is hard-hitting, memorable, and melodic. Why Go is a nice little song that feels whole despite its shorter duration.

Pearl Jam finally gives us a song with a drum intro and rocking bass. The guitar, as usual, is great, and this song definitely has that “classic” sound to it. Please do not think I mean classical music. I mean classic rock. You’ve got to love that screaming! Just remember: Do your best not to get diagnosed by a stupid !@#$.

Black

I have heard this song more than any other song on this album (thanks to my dad, who bought this album just for the one song) yet I cannot understand half of what Vedder is saying…but I don’t care. Black kicks ass. Vedder’s vocals are top notch. Backed by the powerful piano, he slays both the verses and the chorus . Black is one of the only songs on this album that feels like a band song. By that, I mean that the listener is conscious of everyone at once. McCready is shredding, the drummer is chugging along, and Vedder is vocalizing all over the place. Black just works. I love this song.

Finally, we get to hear a mellow song from Pearl Jam! Black is pure magic, and it really displays how great Eddie Vedder is as a vocalist. I love the piano in this song.  It is another song you can really rock out to. Black is a classic masterpiece that can be enjoyed by anyone listening to this album!

Jeremy

Jeremy is a dark song. Damn.  The story tied to the lyrics is haunting, to say the least. To appreciate the song, hearing the lyrics is essential. Prior to looking up the lyrics, I only got a fragment of an idea from Jeremy. Now that I am fully acquainted with this track lyrics-wise, I understand it. In terms of music, Jeremy has both dark and uplifting moments. It is a solid song that is strong not only in terms of the chorus, as is expected from Pearl Jam, but in terms of the verse as well. It’s a solid song. Oh, and (you knew this was coming) the similarities between Eddie Vedder’s and Dave Matthews’ vocal styles are on display here. Just wanted to point that out.

Keep those awesome bass intros coming! Anyway, Jeremy is another song off of Ten with a wonderful yet depressing story. It is deep and dark. I love songs like that! It is why many other people love this song as well. What is not to love about this song?

Oceans

Oceans is a Pearl Jam song with flavor. From the dipping and rising vocal effects slapped onto Vedder’s voice to his falsetto to the track’s progressive flavor, Oceans is different all-around. I find it intriguing to hear a different side of this band. I hear a lot of Chris Cornell in here, in both the vocals and in the music, which is awesome. I can’t help but feel, however, that Oceans could have been grander, or at least longer. Regardless, I really dig this track. That’s why I want more of it.

Damn it, why are all the songs I really like short? Oceans is one solid track! Hence the title, Oceans would be a great song to play on the beach. I do not know exactly why, but the guitar reminds me of Led Zeppelin, and that is never a bad thing!

Porch

I don’t care for Porch lyrically. The boys play too fast for any of the lyrics to soak in. It’s when McCready steps up to the plate when things get wild. He makes that guitar moan. As soon as he kicks into gear with his solo, the song takes a very dark turn that I dig…then Eddie’s back, and it’s a buzzkill. All of the darkness is expelled. Honestly, I just wanted him to shut up and give the stage back to that wizard with the guitar. Porch was wasted potential. McCready’s solo could have been used as a brooding base for a different song entirely.

Damn Eddie, you really wanted to start this song off angrily! The lyrics to Porch can be related to our world today, and that is just crazy smart. Once again, the guitar-work is stellar in this song, and the bass groove is nice as well. I love how fast and heavy Porch’s sound is.

Garden

Garden is smooth. The entrancing guitar and poetic lyrics swell to a satisfying explosion through the triumphant chorus that sounds warmly familiar. I hear faint echoes of Phil Wickham’s Must I Wait for a note or two in Vedder’s chorus. As much as I do enjoy this song, I feel that it has the potential to grow into a grand live song (if it hasn’t already. I don’t follow this band’s live shows). It seems to have spaces for sweet jams to sprout. I dig Garden.

Wow! You could just play me that guitar riff over and over again and I would enjoy it! Garden has a lot of soul in it, which isn’t usually expected from a grunge band. I love how Garden is quiet at some points and louder at others. It is amazing what Pearl Jam can do.

Deep

Deep is exactly what Porch should have been. The guitar-work is a sinful blend of mean and crazy. Hot damn. Vedder controls his yelling to deliver punctuate lines with pure anger and attitude. Deep is out of control and I love it. It is, without question, the heaviest song on Ten. This song is plain cool.

That intro really hits you hard, and I freaking love it! Deep definitely has that classic metal sound to it that was made famous by bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. I can really imagine Jimmy Page playing Deep, and I love this song because of that comparison! Deep is by far the loudest and heaviest song on the album.

Release

This song is a giant, relieved sigh. The long duration isn’t felt at all. It’s an easy listen despite its heavy nature. What I will call the “Once Reprise” at the second half of the song is a cool instrumental bit that isn’t anything crazy. Pearl Jam says goodbye properly: with confidence.

Release is a slow song, and you can easily tell that it is about fathers. I love how this cry for help serves as a closer to an album that is otherwise heavy. Release shows how amazing Eddie Vedder is as a vocalist, and how legendary Pearl Jam is!

All in all, Ten can arguably be called the greatest debut album of all time, and it is no doubt the best album of 1991. If you have never listened to a grunge band before, this is the place to start. In my opinion, there is not one bad song on this album, so do yourself a favor and pick it up! As always, thank you all for reading and stay tuned for more reviews!

My Top 3

Black

Garden

Deep

Rob’s Top 3

Alive

Oceans

Deep

Ten took a long time to grow on me, as it is heavier than what I typically listen to. In the end, it did grow on me. Pearl Jam’s debut album is one worth having in your collection. This high-quality, black-charred T-Bone is fantastic, full of energy and confidence. Hats off to Pearl Jam. Debut albums aren’t always this special.

~Juck 

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