I have always loved Pearl Jam. They came along at a time in my life when I was struggling with what I was going to do the rest of my life. The album Ten has just been reissued, remastered, and remixed with some deluxe packaging and a DVD of MTV Unplugged.
As I sit and look back at what an exciting time that was I am amazed at several things:
1. I am still alive from that time period.
2. What intensity the band had
3. The songs from the record and singles are quite a collection
4. How well the record and songs have stood the test of time
I am alive…
Although it was the song that started it all, it has become the mantra for my life. Most people tend to sow their oats in their 20s and I was no different. I graduated from college in 1986 and did not find a job to suit my history degree right away (that would take another seven years). If anyone remembers music from the late 1980s, you know what a bunch of processed pop it was. From the hair bands to the teeny bopper set to rock. I had grown up loving the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Jimi Hendrix and Cream. The connection came from the fact that these guys were my age but also from the fact that we were both finding our way in the world. No matter how crappy the world was, or my life, the music always made it better.
Intensity: MTV Unplugged
I first saw the video of Alive and instantly connected to the song. The video itself was shot live and the solo was reminiscent of the solos of the 1960s and 1970s in that it was built around emotion and not the Eddie Van Halen style of how many notes can you squeeze into a bar. This guitar gymnastics of the hair bands was not my cup of tea. When Pearl Jam appeared on “MTV Unplugged”, the emotion of the band catapulted my fandom to another level. Case in point…
Born on a surfboard out of tragedy, the songs of Ten and its subsequent singles are still some of my favorite tracks of all time. Alone, Brother, State of Love and Trust, Breath, Wash, Dirty Frank, Footsteps, and Yellow Ledbetter are classic songs of angst and hope. And the amazing thing is these are the b sides. Album tracks like Once, Evenflow, Alive Jeremy, Porch, Release, and Oceans still show up at every Pearl Jam show.
What has always set Pearl Jam songs apart is not the angst. The difference is hope. For example:
Promises are whispered
In the age of darkness
Want to be enlightened
Like I want to be told the end
(From State of Love and Trust (c) 1991/1992 – Ament/McCready/Vedder)
The Test of Time
18 years later, the album is considered a classic by many. The songs and production have held up well but Pearl Jam has changed their sound drastically in the years since. They shied away from the attention, stopped making videos, and even took on Ticketmaster (but to no avail). Today’s Pearl Jam has become the 21st Century version of the Grateful Dead. Playing to sold out shed shows across the world, their catalog of songs has charmed many a fan and I still think they may be the most underrated band in Rock and Roll history. Sure they may be derivative of The Who, Neil Young, and any other 70s rock Gods, but they maintain their feet in the modern world. Ten’s place in it is secure. The reissue only cements the power of it all.