SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Ten (1991).
For me, Nirvana was the band that brought the 1990’s into alternative-rock-land. But, it was Pearl Jam that brought hard rocking music back to the masses. Like everyone I know, I loved Ten. But I gradually lost excitement about Pearl Jam over their next couple of records.
Then something interesting happened; in the span of a few months, someone loaned me a copy of Binaural and Pearl Jam released a whole bunch of live CDs all at once. (72 to be exact). Being indecisive, I decided to get the whole set (directly from the band), and so I immersed myself in Pearl Jam. (My friend Lar asked if it was because I wanted to have 72 copies of “Jeremy.” Amusingly “Jeremy” actually only appears on a couple of the discs, but I think there are 72 versions of “Do the Evolution.”) By the end, I had a fundamentally new respect for the Pearl Jam albums that I hadn’t really listened to. I also had some newly favorite Pearl Jam .
The interesting thing about the live discs was that many of the songs were performed faster than on the originals, but not so much with the songs from Ten…they kept all of the power and excitement and transported it perfectly to the stage.
Ten has just been reissued as a remastered disc and a remixed disc. (It comes in 4 different packages, but I couldn’t justify splurging on the big package even if I did splurge on the live discs way back when…I’ve got two kids now, after all). I’m currently digesting the remixed version of Ten, but I wanted to revisit the original disc for comparison.
Man, I must have listened to this disc a hundred times. And even though I haven’t listened to the disc in quite some time, I was amazed at how I remembered everything. And it still sounds amazing.
One of the things I noticed this time around that deepened my appreciation for the disc was Jeff Ament’s bass. Unlike some albums where the sound is consistent on every track, on Ten, Ament plays two or three different bass sounds that bring a strength of diversity to the album. He’s got a watery, fretless bass sound that brings fantastic fat bass to some songs, and then he’s got his hard, electric bass for some others, and the 12-string bass that you hear in “Jeremy.” He’s also not afraid to mix up the bass lines, so he’s not just keeping time with the beat.
And back to the album: there’s not a bad song on Ten. The first 6 tracks, in fact, would be classic tracks for anyone. “Once” starts of with a bang; “Even Flow” shows a slower and more melodic side; “Alive” introduces the anthemic chorus, “Why Go” shows their punk roots; “Black” has just about everything; and “Jeremy,” well, everyone knows “Jeremy.”
The next song slows the album down a little. “Oceans” is a bit of a misfit on this disc: it’s rather mellow, it doesn’t have a chorus per se and I don’t know that it would be anyone’s favorite song. And yet, that great watery bass plays through the whole thing making it exquisitely beautiful. It’s also a fun one to sing along to as it’s mostly just ooohs. They wisely kept it to under three minutes, providing a nice break from the proceedings but not losing the overall momentum of the disc.
And then we’re back: “Porch,” starts fast and gets furious as the chorus culminates, “Garden” is a slow but intense number, and “Deep” gives Eddie one more chance to scream before the conclusion. “Release” provides a great slow down after the adrenaline of the disc.
The entire disc is singalongable. And there’s not a bad thing I can say about it. Even after nearly twenty years the disc still sounds fresh and amazing.
[READ: April 16, 2009] “A Tiny Feast”
This has such a weird conceit for a story. A little boy has contracted leukemia, and his parents sit with him every day as they do the chemo. The twist is that his parents are actually immortal beings, and he is a human. They acquired the little boy (named Boy) when Oberon was feeling guilty for making Titania mad. He stole a human boy from a family and presented him to Titania as a gift. At first she was still mad at Oberon and wanted nothing to do with her new pet, but she slowly grew to love the Boy. And when the boy became sick they took him to a human hospital.
The immortals are charmed so that people can’t see exactly what they are. While in the hospital, we see both the human version (in which the boy has various names like Brad or Bob because people can’t accept that his name is just Boy) to the “real” version of things in which the carpet of the hospital room has been turned into clover and in which Boy’s favorite blankie is actually a living creature called The Beastie.
The supernatural quality of the story takes the edge off of what is, in fact, a story of a child dying of cancer. But since the point of view is that of immortal beings who simply cannot comprehend the details of medicine, cancer or suffering, it takes some of the pain away from the plot and focuses it on the parents’ frustration. The immortals feel grief for the first time and don’t know quite how to deal with it. And when they finally do return home, they feel just as lost as they felt with their new feelings.
I really enjoyed this story, it was quite odd, but very well done. I also appreciated how it showed the suffering that parents go through at a distance, allowing the suffering to seem more real for being so confusing. I can’t imagine what cuased the full inspiration for it.