Friday, April 24, 2009

Listening Post


Conventional wisdom holds that Nirvana's Nevermind was the best album of the 90s. I've never agreed with this; I always thought that if any record deserved that title it was Radiohead's OK Computer, which held up far better over time.

That said, last night I picked up the new Legacy Edition of Pearl Jam's stunning 1991 debut, Ten, featuring an updated mix of the record by Brendan O'Brien, and you know something? It affected me the same way it did the first time I heard it. The thing is simply a fucking masterpiece. It's painful and chilling and ferocious and lovely and powerful and heartbreaking and earnest and hopeful. It reminded me of what it was like to be young, in the best possible way -- maybe because no one makes music like that anymore.

Listening to it left me believing that there was no question that it was and is the best album of the 90s.

Here's a live performance of Jeremy.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me Nevermind was/is not only the best album in the 90's but the best album ever - or least in the top five. Don't get me wrong, Pearl Jam's Ten is a great album. Then again, I haven't heard the remastered version yet... Hopefully they come out with a re-mastered version of Nevermind

Chris said...

My vote is for The Bends.

But 10 is an awesome album, need to go dig out my copy, been too long since I've listened to it. It reminds me of one blissful summer kayaking in the Alps.

Girl With Curious Hair said...

1991 was a big year for me. I was a FOB finding and forming my new identity. Ten was different from anything else I had ever been exposed to and it changed everything.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm the only person I know who thought that the B side to Ten was the best music on the album. Songs like Deep and Release, which never got the airtime.

Lee said...

I listened to a crappy cassette copy of "Ten" many, many times while driving alone to Seattle (cliched much?) Driving through the Badlands with this album blasting is really a singular moment of my life.

Chez said...

Release holds a very special place in my heart.

hecubus said...

"release" could be the best song ever written, in my opinion. and ive yet to hear a better opening song for a show than when pearl jam opens with it....gives me chills every time.

dick_gozinia said...

I'll pull the voting handle for FNM - Angel Dust.

slouchmonkey said...

"Clearly I remember
Picking on the boy
Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed a lion
nashed his teeth and bit the recess ladies breast
How could I forget
And he hit me with this surprise left
My jaw left hurting, dropped wide open, just like the day I heard."

This pretty much sums up the talent of this band and Ed, in general.

It isn't a musical passage and yet the phrasing and music underneath perfectly blend together to create something startling and powerful.

Off Ten, I think Once captures a very specific time in my life I'll never forget and Release is going to be a song I take with me forever.

Lost Dogs is all previously unreleased material that contains some of their best stuff, in my opinion.

I like this band.

the sieve said...

Holy crap. I was at that show. The Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands. My mother lives on the German side of the border.

That was the first time I ever saw/heard of PJ Harvey. She blew my mind.

David Byrne also opened his set with a kick-ass solo performance.

Thanks for the nostalgia hit, Chez.

drater said...

I saw Pearl Jam soon after Ten came out, at a junior college gymnasium on Maui with maybe 2000 people. Absolutely unbelievable show, it was the first time I heard Jeremy and I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

I think it was one of the guys' birthday, when they were done they brought out a huge cake and tossed pieces to the audience. You could tell they were having the time of their lives with their first album storming the charts. They stayed at the hotel I was working at and did the obligatory rock diva room trash, but most of the furniture survived.

kanye said...

Summer of '91 Soul Asylum was in town. I'd seen them before and I liked the Hang Time album a lot, so grabbed a couple of tickets. There were two bands playing with them: The Jayhawks, who I'd heard of but hadn't heard, and Pearl Jam. I had no clue who Pearl Jam was, but I remember thinking, "What a stupid fucking name." Sounded to me like they named themselves after their grandmother's homemade preserves. I half-expected them to be some kind of Janis Joplin tribute band.

Yeah, tribute band...they killed. Partly because of how good they were, but also because they were playing in front of a crowd that had no preconceptions; a blank slate. They absolutely overwhelmed the room in every sense of the word. I felt bad for the Jayhawks, having to come on after that.

Not too long after that, they released Ten. I bought it right away along with a 10-pack of Maxell UDXL-II's. Made a copy for everyone that I knew who was really into music. Funny thing, my friends all had pretty much the same reaction--"Yeah, it's alright," or "It's okay, but why are they so angry?" I wondered if we were listening to the same album.

Turns out that my friends weren't the only ones who had that reaction. Alive got some airplay later in the year, and that was it. It languished, and then it died. I figured it was just another one of those great albums that was never going to be heard...no shortage of those in my record collection. I had a separate shelf for those albums; probably filed it between Let It Be and Flip Your Wig.

I don't know exactly how it got a second chance...not many albums do, but a year later it exploded. Seemingly out of thin air, it was everywhere. It's pretty amazing how close Ten came to being a footnote instead of a career maker.

Best album of the '90s? Not sure...Slint's Spiderland and Jesus Lizard's Goat are two that I still come back to.

MelodyLane said...

10 was the first album actually make me feel something. I still love this album.

Christine said...

Strangely enough, I was just having this conversation with someone at work not a few days ago, and said the same thing. Sure, Nirvana was good, but for me, it was Pearl Jam all the way. Nirvana felt detached and pissed off, where Eddie's voice and lyrics were so passionately in the middle of being angry and upset and HURT. And where I feel nostalgic when I listen to Primus or Dinosaur Jr., Pearl Jam's Ten still has that emotional kick to the gut that it had back then.

celery said...

i'd throw "ritual de lo habitual" and "badmotorfinger" into the best of the 90's game.

Trixi said...

Fu uhk. I forgot. Thanks, Chez.

Alice said...

y'know? it's funny -- just as I logged in here to DXM, "Black" was on the radio.

I never, and I mean NEVER, tire of the pain in Ed's voice when I hear it. I'm like, 'been there, done thst, man'... *sigh*

becky said...

Chez--thanks for this post. I agree with you about OK Computer. and I have been obsessing over this new Pearl Jam release for a few weeks. so amazing.

Artemisian said...

I'm going to vote NIN's The Fragile, even though it only just scrapes in for the 90s. The Bends is fucking awesome though, great solid songs. And The Tea Party's Edges of Twilight; that'd be a close 2nd best for the decade.

Milton said...

i completely agree. ten was the best album of the 90's. i love Ok Computer and it does stand the test of time, but this album is amazing and it leaves Nevermind miles and miles behind.