Even Flow – Pearl Jam (1991, Sony Records)
When I was 16 I got this album on CD from the nan of my girlfriend at the time. It was a nice gesture bearing in mind I’d met the lady concerned only once and that was when I wandered into a kitchen with my top off to find her helping herself to some madeira cake. It was awkward shall we say, I’m not she should have been eating that cake, given her diabetes.
Anyway, let’s fast forward twelve months or so. In the spring of 1993, I swapped this album, which had been played precisely twice, for a 10” single by long lost crusty ragamuffins The Sea. I swapped it with a girl I knew from college who had abandoned her love of squat rock bands like Back to the Planet and The Sea and like so many others embraced the grunge scene. Even though The Sea were mostly terrible, I’ve never regretted it for a second. I told the new owner that ‘Ten’ was awful derivative nonsense and it was about as punk rock as eating a bowl of cornflakes before 9am.
Yesterday I switched on the radio and ‘Even Flow’ filled my kitchen whilst I was making a cup of tea and before switching it off in disgust, I decided that it was time to give ‘Ten’ another spin. I mean after all this is a record that some goon at Q Magazine once described as a “flawlessly crafted hard rock masterpiece, arguably the greatest rock debut of all time”. Such gushing praise can’t be that wrong can it…
Erm…yes it can apparently.
Much was made at the time of the fact that Pearl Jam had a social conscious and how they tackled difficult topics such as homelessness (‘Even Flow’), and death (‘Alive’) but it just comes across as a bit fake – I appreciate it probably wasn’t meant to. ‘Alive’ for instance is a cynical piece of work, the very sound that robbing teenagers of their hard-earned cash should make, an awful one with a wild haired banshee yelling in your face. It has all the social consciousness of a human trafficker. Oh and ‘Alive’ for those who don’t know is according to Eddie Vedder about a mother wanting to have sex with her own son because he looks like his dead father. Apparently.
Alive – Pearl Jam (1991, Epic Records)
But, its not all bad. ‘Once’ is a pretty decent song, when you get past the first forty seconds or so and if all of ‘Ten’ sounded as menacing and vengeful as that we wouldn’t be sitting here discussing the rest of it. The same can be said of ‘Jeremy’, and given the subject matter, that is quite an achievement
Once – Pearl Jam (1991, Epic Records)
Jeremy – Pearl Jam (1991, Epic Records)