Back in the depths of time, before Brit Pap and Oasis, before iPods and laptops and when Madonna still looked like a lady, there was grunge. It came from America, whose disaffected youth found solace in the laconic vocal delivery of Kurt Cobain and the Black Hole Sun of Soundgarden. Whilst the world embraced Nirvana and quibbled about a babies penis, Pearl Jam were being lambasted by all and sundry for being corporate sell outs even before Ten had seen the light of day. Whilst Kurt and Courtney lived their lives through the media, Eddie Vedder and his band toured relentlessly and earnt their respect the hard way. More often than not, the Pearl Jam live experience was enough to persuade the paying public that the critics were wrong about Ten. And history tells us that ten million units have been shifted in the grand old USofA since its realease in 1991.So just in case anyone missed it the first time, Ten is back, remastered and remixed by long term Pearl Jam collaborator Brendan O’Brien and with a whole host of bonus bits and bobs.
Is it worth it? Should the kids of today rush out and buy a crusty old rock record? Too fucking right they should.
Ten was, nay is, a genre defining record. It is ram packed with great musicianship, great lyrics, great riffs and great songs. Without wishing to sound sentimental, this is a better record than Nevermind ever was. Almost all of the songs here have single potential. From the opening bars of ‘Once’, there are aural delights aplenty. This is the sound of a young band totally at ease with each other, no baggage, no pretence just straight forward good music. After ‘Once’ has finished reverberating, Even Flow and Alive bowl in and blow you away.
Sometimes you can have a five piece which sound superfluous but on Ten, Pearl Jam utilise each and every member to their ultimate, the bass and drums (which sound much clearer on the remix) provide the skeleton and the lead and rhythm pile on pound after pound of flesh. Vedders vocal squarks make for the fifth instrument and it all pulls together time and time again. ‘Why Go’, ‘Black’ and ‘Jeremy’ are a mid album trio that pack a powerful punch. ‘Jeremy’ would vie with ‘Alive’ as the signature of Ten, but the real gem is ‘Deep’, hidden at the back end of the album. Vedder screams “Can’t touch the bottom/Cos I’m in too deep” is sure to invigorate mosh pits even now.
So does Ten warrant the mixing and mastery wizadry? The original sounded dirty, tinny and cheap, and had its charm. Having had the treatment, the new version sounds cleaned up and the benefits are there to hear, it is easier to pick out the instruments from the wall of sound, that dicates Ten at its most visceral.
There are several formats to choose from, or for the full retro effect – save your money and buy the original, you will not be disppaointed.