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A moody, evocative album…”: Our original review of Pearl Jam’s debut Ten

Seattle legends Pearl Jam released their debut album 30 years ago today. Here’s what Kerrang! said at the time…

This is a reprint of the original Kerrang! album review from the summer of 1991. When Pearl Jam were fresh on the alt.rock scene and the g’ word wasn’t even used once…

So finally, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard have come to rest in Pearl Jam. The bassist and guitarist who guided Mother Love Bone, then exorcised their grief over MLB singer Andrew Wood’s death, by creating Temple Of The Dog, have found a sort of peace in their new outfit. Indeed, the music displayed here distills many of their finer elements of all their previous work.

To be sure, there’s more Temple than Love Bone in the new group. Ten is a moody, evocative album, introspective and charged with a quiet emotional force that’s more subtle and perhaps richer than Love Bone’s starstuck flashiness. Black and Release are the best examples of this development, both enriched by start arrangements and the soulful vocals of Eddie Vedder. 

Exploring a style that falls between Soundgardens Chris Cornell and Paul Rodgers, Eddie brings the blues to Seattle’s towers of sludge-rock.

Interestingly, sludge is all but missing on Ten – oh, you can hear traces of it in Alive, Why Go, and Deep, but these musicians have made their point with that style by now and are more inclined to create texture and mood.

That doesn’t mean Pearl Jam can’t rock. Stone and second guitarist Mike McCready let fly with some searing riffs and leads, creating a blazing counterpunch to the LP’s more laidback pieces. And Jeff Ament leads the rhythm section with muscular, occasionally R&B‑based grooves that work at both a high boil and a low summer. 

If anything, Ten could use a little more fire in the proceedings, but that’s probably not where Pearl Jam’s heads are right now. Nevertheless, they rock in a unique, spontaneous fashion that promises many great things. Mother Love Bone and Temple Of The Dog, rest in peace.

Posted on August 27th 2021, 9:00a.m.
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