ARTIST: Pearl Jam
YEAR RELEASED: 1991
CHART ACTION: #2 US, #18 UK
SINGLES: Alive (#107 US, #16 US Mainstream, #18 US Modern, #16 UK), Even Flow (#108 US, #3 US Mainstream, #21 US Modern, #27), Jeremy (#79 US, #5 US Mainstream, #5 US Modern, #15 UK), Oceans
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Possibly all of it, but Black went to #3 on the Mainstream Rock and #20 on the Modern Rock charts without being issued as a single.
LINEUP: Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Dave Kruzen
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from band formed from the detritus of Mother Love Bone, and it becomes accidentally iconic for a scene.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I really don’t know if Pearl Jam was ever really trying to be grungy or alternative. Gossard and Ament had their run in Green River as a punkish band, but Mother Love Bone was more glam than anything. They just happened to be in Seattle, playing guitar oriented rock without trying to look or sound like hair metal, and thus ‘grungy’.
This album did take a while to hit, and it took touring to do so, but when it hit, it became a signpost for Seattle. Frankly, there’s nothing really edgy or alternative about the album. What it is are many straight, basic rock songs, mostly in mid-tempo, sung by a vocalist that eschewed the high notes and the glam posturing. Ok, maybe they were a BIT alternative in that way.
As a rock-and-roll album, it’s good with some great songs. It’s not the best debut of all time as some say. My issue is that there’s a few too many mid-tempo songs and they wreck the pacing a little bit toward the end. The last few cuts aren’t strong after “Jeremy” and it just meanders to an end. Still, “Even Flow” is an all-timer and I’m even warming now to “Black”. (I really didn’t like it when it came out). But it’s a pretty solid debut, even if it put them in a category where I don’t think they really belonged anyway.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: As you probably know, they were called Mookie Blaylock before settling on Pearl Jam (unfortunately – and that ended my dream of naming a band after former University of Texas forward Locksley Collie).
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A new mix, b-sides and outtakes galore. Happy hunting for all the versions!
GRADE: A-: About 15 years ago I probably would have given this a “B” but I’ve warmed to many of the songs now. The back end is still slow for me though.