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Music / Ten (Pearl Jam Album)

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Now my bitter hands, cradle broken glass, of what was everything...

Ten is the debut album by Pearl Jam, released in 1991 through Epic Records. It quickly established the band as one of the forerunners of the Alternative Rock and Grunge explosion in the early nineties, along with R.E.M., Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and The Smashing Pumpkins, and is considered one of the defining albums of the grunge era.

The album's songs became well-known for their prominent and complex guitar solos, lyrics centered on abusive relationships or disturbed young people, and vocalist Eddie Vedder's powerful delivery. 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 modern alternative music, 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 it had production such as Echoing Acoustics on it 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.


  1. "Once" (3:51)note 
  2. "Even Flow" (4:53)
  3. "Alive" (5:41)
  4. "Why Go" (3:20)
  5. "Black" (5:43)
  6. "Jeremy" (5:18)
  7. "Oceans" (2:42)
  8. "Porch" (3:30)
  9. "Garden" (4:59)
  10. "Deep" (4:18)
  11. "Release"note  (9:05)

Principal Members:

  • 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 three 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 3:1 and 3:6, which are also excerpts from the creation of sin and the fall of man (Genesis 3:1-24).
  • Ate His Gun: The music video for "Jeremy" ends with the title character sticking a revolver in his mouth and pulling the trigger in front of his classmates, reflecting the fate of the real-life teenager who inspired the song.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: "Once" begins with the intro to "Master/Slave". "Release" ends with "Master/Slave" as its Hidden Track.
    • The music video for "Jeremy" begins and ends with the words "64 degrees and cloudy" and a dangling blackboard.
  • 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.
    • "Porch":
    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 
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: In the music video for "Jeremy", after the title character shoots himself in front of his class, the camera pans across a tableau of his classmates recoiling in shock as his blood gets all over them.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Homeless People: "Even Flow", about a homeless schizophrenic.
  • 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—this was restored for the Brendan O'Brien remix edition.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Timpani: "Oceans" has a prominent tympani in the percussion track.
  • Fading into the Next Song: A bit of "Black"'s lo-fi guitar intro can be heard trickling in at the end of "Why Go."
  • 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.
  • In the Style of: Jeff Amnet described the bassline on "Master/Slave" as "my tribute to Mick Karn."
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Jeremy" ends with Eddie Vedder repeating, "Ahh-ah-ahh", as the guitar winds down, followed by a hollow, echoing chord to end the song.
  • 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 daynote . 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: "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 and most of the songs therein, save for "Even Flow", "Why Go", and "Master/Slave".
  • 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" was originally intended 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.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • The start of "Porch":
      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
    • In "Jeremy":
      ''Clearly I remember
      Pickin' on the boy
      Seemed a harmless little fuck
  • 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: Played With. 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.
  • Serial Killer: The protagonist of "Once".
  • 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, anyway, 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: Along with Nirvana's Nevermind, Eddie Vedder's swinging, throaty singing style on this album quickly codified this type of vocal performance.

Alternative Title(s): Ten Album, Ten