August 27, 2016

25 years ago today: Pearl Jam released its first album.

"25 years ago today, on August 27, 1991, Pearl Jam released its debut album, Ten, which most people would probably agree is the band's best...."
Pearl Jam has never been one of my favorite bands. But I give them a lot of credit: they sincerely tried to make a work of art with "Jeremy," and they succeeded....
So writes my son John, who played a lot of this genre of music (grunge) around the house — much of it not recorded music — in the 1999s. Very little of it was Pearl Jam though.

There seems to be a phenomenon — in every genre and in all time periods — of musical performers/groups that seem to be very popular but that actual people profess only to dislike or to concede to enjoying only as a "guilty pleasure" or hating except for that one song.

Anyway, back in 2008, John worked out a top 40 of grunge songs. It's extremely well worked out with explanations for all the choices. Example: "The labyrinthine nine-chord progression of the verse is a rarity -- more akin to the Beach Boys' 'Don't Talk, Put Your Head on My Shoulder' or the Beatles' 'Because' than the average song from the '90s."

18 comments:

Rae said...

I remember a local radio station playing their entire second album on its release day. It was nice, because I had an hour commute in those days. The album was good, too. Some of their later stuff, meh. But you have to admire a rock band that can stay together for so long. A lot of their contemporaries kill themselves with drugs. (Cobain, Staley, Weiland...)

surfed said...

Every Micheael Jackson album has at least one great song on it. Probably even Pearl Jam too.

surfed said...

@Rae: being in a band is harder than being married.

Kay Ford said...

Thanks. I will read his list. I wasn't paying attention to music much back then, but I remember liking grunge. Now I'm interested in exploring it.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Jeremy" always struck me as a song aiming to be portentous but instead settled for overwrought. The video only emphasized this, most emblematic in the close-ups of Vedder emoting in aggrieved constipation.

It was basically a Heavy Metal song for the kids who thought they were too clever for Heavy Metal.

As a side note, I am not picking just on Pearl Jam: Alice in Chains brought Overwrought to sludgy depths. Heavy Metal for the clever kids who wanted to pretend to be in Heroin's thrall.

Interesting that Pearl Jam mutated from the superior Mother Love Bone. Many similarities musically, except with a singer who was not afraid to swagger (if ironic) in a rock star way, which also allowed for guitar solos. Of course, heroin got Andrew 'Landrew the Love Child' Wood, too...

(Mother Love Bone's "Stardog Champion" for comparison.)

If Love Bone had survived I think the kids would have got the 'new' rock star they secretly craved, undercutting Nirvana's arrival on the scene to some extent.

Ah, Nirvana. What separated them from the rest of Grunge was a knack for bubblegum melodies scuffed on the edges. Which means that maybe they weren't grunge at all, but a perfectly nice Pop Band.

Across the ocean Grunge did not take off to such extent: their bubblegum melodies and depressive emotions were already covered in their own way by the Smiths. Compare Morrissey and Cobain -- or, rather, compare their fans. The difference between England and the States, right there.

Jaltcoh includes Radiohead's "Creep" on the Grunge list, which does have sonic and emotional similarities. For Radiohead it was the first stop on a long twisting musical journey; would Cobain have done the same, or would he just become the American Elvis Costello, where everyone professes love but doesn't buy -- or even listen to -- the new music?

Or replace Elvis Costello in that sentence with Mudhoney...

Speaking of Mudhoney: I still have a hard time accepting thatthis didn't make the list...

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

PS: thanks Althouse for the link to your son's list. I quite enjoyed it, despite the lack of Mudhoney....

I am Laslo.

donald said...

Sucked then, sucks now.

Fernandinande said...

I've never listened to a Pearl Jam song all the way through.

Right now my er, playlist, is Clovers, Dion, Dixie, Everly Bros, Lulu, Mickey and Sylvia, Monotones, Ronettes, Searchers, Shirelles, Shondells, with a little, very little, Motley Crue and Metallica.

tshanks78 said...

Long time reader of yours and long time Pearl Jam fan club member. Been to 37 shows and counting.

tshanks78 said...

I guess I took the long road from alt music to the alt right.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Pearl Jam was simple music and decent rock but it was never as fun as the true works of genius. David Bowie, Guns n Roses, Metallica, Radiohead, Elton John. Or even Alice in Chains. The passion was generally phony in that "fun rock" stuff. Future generations will regard it the same way we do medieval festival music. Just nowhere near the same league as Thomas Tallis or Gregorian chants, etc. It was music made for commercials.

Dave said...

I was just starting 7th grade when this album came out.

9th grade for Vs.

10th grade for Vitalogy.

12 grade for No Code.

Freshman year of college for Yield.

(Also bought their next 2 records that came out toward the end of college and right after I graduated.)

So you can see I'm in the demo and was a fan. Saw them live twice in the late '90s.

But now this is one of the '90s band I now listen to (and thus like) the least. Don't know if I just overplayed them at the time or my tastes have changed or there's just better stuff out there.

I think it's because I just broadened my horizons. Being in the young in the '90s, I thought grunge invented alt rock.

But as I got later into college and my 20s, I discovered '80s British alternative and liked it much better, i.e. Joy Division/New Order, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cure, Stone Roses.

Once you hear that stuff, it's tough to go back to Pearl Jam and grunge.

And though my 17-year-old ears thought something very different 2 decades ago, my 37-year-old ears say Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, and yes even STP are all superior to Pearl Jam.

Unknown said...

"Don't Talk.." is a bit of emo-Wilson that is highly overrated. If you want non-hit Pet Sounds love songs, go for "I'm Waiting For The Day", or even better, "Love Is Here"

Unknown said...

Argh! "Here Today" I meant. Bad brain, no cookie.

Here Today (stereo mix, so some will quibble)

EMD said...

Your son should be commended for making such a list but shamed for including Blind Melon on it.

EMD said...

Also, his dissing of the Pixies is very naive I hope he's grown over the past eight years in his musical appreciation.

Anthony said...

Meh. I never liked PJ. Always seemed too pretentious to me. When I first heard my then-roomie's Nevermind album I thought it sucked. Then I listened to it a couple of times and I was hooked. I'm 54 btw, so I was around for the arena rock 1970s and then sort of fell out during the 80s when hard rock turned into hair bands. I moved out here to Seattle a few years before grunge really hit and was around when it took off but was in grad school by then and didn't do much locally so I sadly never saw any of those great local bands before they hit the big time. Of course, for about five years I couldn't visit Wisconsin without being constantly asked where my flannel shirt was. . . .

I always associated PJ with well-off Microsoft white boys since that seemed to be their main fan base, at least around here.

Still love me some Soundgarden (Badmotorfinger's the best IMO), Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins (even though Corgan is kind of an ass, but he loves Rush, soooooo), and STP.

Buy the Singles soundtrack if you can, it's a great little trip down grunge memory lane.

Qwerty Smith said...

I can understand getting caught up in Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden at the time. But anyone making a list in 2008 had ten years to stop listening to that stuff and to recognize the best album of the 1990s -- the Afghan Whigs' "1965." That should have made the top 11 tracks very easy.