In 1983 on a cold day in early January, my parents pulled a broken-in LP of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac out of its sleeve and proceeded to get it on. This is how I was conceived or at least it’s the story my mother told me.
This act set the course of musical life (the LP that is, not the sex ... well I guess the sex did, too). I am forever bound to have a deep love for bands that are legitimately talented but are cursed by mainstream appeal. I will now confess that I love Pearl Jam. Call them clique or sell-out, but Eddie Vedder sings better than you and most likely whoever you’re listening to right now. And any guitar solo from their early work would melt the fingers off most players.
Pearl Jam has just released a re-mixed version of their debut album, Ten. Brendan O’Brien took on the task of reconstruction. O’Brien has produced all of Pearl Jam’s albums since Ten along with albums for the Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Bruce Springsteen, Dan Baird, Bob Dylan, Velvet Revolver, AC/DC and many others.
Pearl Jam was noted for their instrumental take on Grunge music, which some blame for their popularity. They took Grunge to the masses or possibly jumped on board as just before it arrived. But the instruments are the backbone of Ten. Hell, Vedder's audition into the band was adding lyrics to some already-formed songs.
For the uninitiated, the re-mix of Ten isn’t wildly different from the original. But O’Brien has brought the instruments forward, showcasing the complexity and originality of the guitar riffs and the no-speed-limit driving force of the drums.
Vedder was what brought me to Pearl Jam, but this new sound does not mask his influence or identity.
It frames it better than before. Before you saw the image of the band rocking out together in a dirty room, trying to break free, like in the first Saw movie. Now you get The Shining with the guitar riffs hacking through a door Vedder sticking his head through and screaming at you.
The re-released edition of Ten comes in four different packages. These range from a double-CD set to a monster $140 library including some vinyl LPs, DVDs, CDs, a cassette and other memorabilia. The marketing is good. It’s too good. $140 would have stocked the band’s shitty apartment with beer, pizza and weed for months in 1991 when the album was released.
For a fan and complete vinyl addict, I went for the double LP set that sells for less than $20. The set includes two 180 gram records (that's heavy for record); one record pressed with the original Ten and one with the Ten Redux. But I would recommend getting the digital download from your favorite online store. It will include the original tracks, the Redux tracks and some solid B-Sides that until now were really hard to come by.
My favorite track on Ten is "Why Go" about a girl in a mental institution. "She's been diagnosed by some stupid fuck, and mommy agrees, yeah," Vedder roars in the first verse. The entire album was forged out of the culture of the early 90's, and I hate to think that we're still stuck there, but the words are current. "Jeremy," with its Basketball Dairies/Pre-Columbine lyrics, was brought up in conversation the other day when I was speaking to a friend about the March 11 school shooting in Germany. In a sad way, the album showed me that very few of the problems of my generation have been solved.
For a Pearl Jam fan, this new release of a classic is perfect. Ten has those character-defining anthems that can reach down and pull the angst-ridden teenager out of the depths and into your passenger seat. But the new Ten is even more immediate, personal and close.
It is like walking down a dark alley after a long day at work. Steve Gossard, Jeff Amant and Mike McCready sneak up behind you and push you to the pavement. They stab their guitar and bass plugs into your spinal column. Dave Krusen starts beating out a rhythm on your bowels. And Eddie leans up to your face and spits into your ear. Lubing you up … for his comfort, not yours. After an hour of feeling them all inside you, Eddie says, “remember that.” It’s a question and a command.
Then you drive home in your Buick and wonder where those flannel shirts went that you had in high school. You throw your tie out the window. You feel like a sell-out and maybe you are, but that still doesn’t make what just happened any less amazing.