Ten is the debut album by Pearl Jam, released in 1991. It was one of the defining albums of the grunge era, and quickly established the band as one of the forerunners of the Alternative Rock and Grunge explosion in the early nineties, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and The Smashing Pumpkins. The songs became well-known for their prominent and complex guitar solos, and powerfully delivered lyrics centered on abusive relationships or disturbed young people. The singles "Jeremy", "Alive", and "Even Flow" forged a distinctive niche in the mainstream for angst-filled teenagers. Even "Black", though never released as a single, became one of the most recognizable rock anthems of the nineties.
Ten remains a seminal album in the darker repertoire of alternative since it helped usher in an experimental sound that had once been relegated to the Seattle underground. However, despite its overnight critical and commercial success, the album was widely panned by Alternative Rock purists. Kurt Cobain even called the band "commercial sellouts" and claimed the album was not truly alternative since the mixing was far too loud and it didn't resemble the minimalist style commonly associated with the genre. Nevertheless, Cobain would gain respect for the band following their continued experimentation on later albums Vs. and Vitalogy.
It is listed as the #209 greatest album of all time on Rolling Stone's associated list, and NME listed as the #339 best album. The band does agree that they are dissatisfied with the heavy mixing, and this was remedied somewhat with Brendan O'Brien's redux edition of the album in 2009.
- "Once" (3:51)note
- "Even Flow" (4:53)
- "Alive" (5:41)
- "Why Go" (3:20)
- "Black" (5:43)
- "Jeremy" (5:18)
- "Oceans" (2:42)
- "Porch" (3:30)
- "Garden" (4:59)
- "Deep" (4:18)
- "Release"note (9:05)
- Mike McCready lead guitar
- Stone Gossard rhythm guitar
- Jeff Ament bass guitar, art direction/concept
- Eddie Vedder vocals, additional art
- Dave Krusen drums
Even flow, tropes arrive like butterflies
- Affectionate Parody: "Dirty Frank" was recorded in the summer before the album's release, intended to parody Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give it Away" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
- As the Good Book Says...: In the music video for "Jeremy", among the shots of words depicting others' presumed descriptions of Jeremy, there are two biblical allusions: Mark 5:13 ("the unclean spirits entered [into the pigs]"), which is actually an excerpt from the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man (Mark 5:1-20; see also Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39); and Genesis 3:6, which is also an excerpt from the creation of sin and the fall of man (Genesis 3:1-24).
- Ax-Crazy: The protagonist of "Alive" has reached this point by "Once", having turned into an out-of-control serial killer whose murders have become more or less indiscriminate and whose ability to resist his urges has long since disappeared.
- Bedlam House: "Why Go" is about a girl confined to a psychiatric hospital, tied up so she can't leave.
- Big Rock Ending: "Alive", "Jeremy", and "Black" are the most remembered examples.
- Bookends: "Once" begins with the intro to "Master/Slave". "Release" ends with "Master/Slave" as its Hidden Track.
- Break-Up Song: "Black". The song is so emotional that the band refused to market it as a single or as a video, claiming that would destroy the poetic beauty of the song.
What the fuck is this world running to?
You didn't leave a message
At least I could have
Learned your voice one last time.
- B-Side: "Brother", "State of Love and Trust", "Just a Girl", "Breath and Scream", "2000 Mile Blues", "Wash", and "Dirty Frank" were included on compilation records years later. "Brother" even became an alt-rock radio hit in 2009, eighteen years after the album's release.note
- Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Mentioned in "Even Flow". It is about an illiterate homeless man whose thoughts "arrive like butterflies", and who will escape this life to be reborn into a better status.
- Dark and Troubled Past: "Once", "Jeremy", and "Even Flow" have characters who want to escape their crappy lives. Music critic Robert Christgau even stated that while he didn't like most of the album, he especially liked these tracks since the abuse in these tracks seemed to justify the catchy riffs.
- Deadly Euphemism: "Jeremy" has one of the most iconic (and ironic) ones of the genre:Jeremy spoke in class today
- Design Student's Orgasm: Ament actually constructed the "PEARL JAM" woodcut found on the front cover, before the band posed in front of it. He intended for the picture of the band to be black and white against a burgundy background, but the colors were changed to the distinctive magenta hue.
- Disappeared Dad: "Release":Oh, dear Dad can you see me now
I am myself like you somehow
I'll wait up in the dark for you to speak to me
How I've opened up, release me
Release me, release me dad, release me
- Downer Ending: The ending of the music video for "Jeremy" has the titular character committing suicide in a classroom.
- Hidden Track: "Master/Slave". It continues to remain unseparated from "Release" even in mp3 format, since it bookends the album.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Done somewhat intentionally, since Vedder wrote the lyrics after Ament and Gossard had written the melodies.
- Instrumental: "Master/Slave", though it does have some creepy, indecipherable mumbling courtesy of Eddie Vedder.
- Lighter and Softer: This album was one of the first mainstream, accessible LPs to come out of Seattle, and even softer than the band's previous work in Mother Love Bone.
- Do not, however, make the mistake of assuming that being "lighter and softer" than most of what came before it means that Ten is a lighthearted album.
- Loudness War: The band has said that the original mix is outright overproduced and deafening, and disavows much of the recording to this day. This was rectified after producer Brendan O'Brien modified the tracks to make them sound better on a reissue, though that got complaints too.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Garden", "Why Go", and "Porch" are short compared to the other, much longer songs. However, longer versions of these tracks do exist on EPs; "Porch" reaches a length of about 13 minutes.
- One-Word Title: The album title, along with "Once", "Alive", "Black", "Jeremy", "Oceans", "Porch", "Garden", "Deep", and "Release".
- Pan and Scan: The more popular album cover features a closeup of the band members' hands, which resembles a wave. The above cover is usually reserved for LP versions of the album, most likely because it appeared visually unappealing on small CD covers.
- Parental Incest: "Alive" can be interpreted as being about a woman who seduces her son so she can vicariously have sex with her dead husband. Vedder has since modified the interpretation to being more about a man grieving his father's death before realizing his strange, unreciprocated attraction to his mother, and about how that makes him feel alive.
- Playing Sick: Invoked sarcastically in "Why Go", where the girl considers malingering in order to get back at her parents and doctors for having deemed her insane.
- Recurring Character: The kid of "Alive" faces a backlash in "Once", before waiting to be executed for his crime in "Footsteps" (a B-side).
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Jeremy" was directly based on a boy of the same name who committed suicide in front of his classmates. The music video includes headlines and excerpts from news articles about school shootings.
- However, the second verse includes a description of a fist-fight Vedder had had in grade school with another boy. This is intentional, in order to leave the listener to wonder just how many kids could have turned out like the Jeremy from the headlines and done something self-destructive.
- Self-Titled Album: Zig-zagged. The band's original name was "Mookie Blaylock", who was a professional basketball player. When the name was disallowed due to copyright issues, the band changed its name and decided instead to name the album Ten, after Mookie Blaylock's jersey number.
- Society Is to Blame: "Garden", where the narrator walks through a graveyard and blames the dead and previous generations for having instituted absurd expectations on the living.The direction of the eye, so misleading
The defection of the soul, nauseously quick
I don't question our existence
I just question our modern needs
- Spoken Word in Music: During the instrumental of "Even Flow", Eddie can be heard doing an impression of a homeless man asking for spare change on a street, which lends to the song's subject.
- Surf Rock: "Oceans" was inspired by surfing in general.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Oceans", "Black", and "Release" became famous amid all the other, harder rocking tracks.
- There Are No Therapists: No decent therapists, anyways, according to "Why Go".She's been diagnosed by some stupid fuck
And mommy agrees
- Through the Eyes of Madness: "Why Go" is told from the perspective of a woman confined to a psychiatric hospital. "Once" is about a guy who murders a prostitute after feeling bad about sleeping with his mother and meeting his true biological father who left when he was a kid.
- Writer's Block: Mentioned in "Black":Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn
And all I taught her was everything
I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything
- Yarling: This album pretty much codified this style of singing, along with Nirvana's Nevermind, among others.