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.
The most affecting song on the album was the third single, "Jeremy." When I made a list of "the 40 greatest grunge songs," I ranked "Jeremy" #2. I wrote:
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 this song, and they succeeded.
When it comes to musical composition, most bands are satisfied if they just write a nice melody for the verse and then another nice melody for the chorus. Not many bands are willing to devote this kind of care and attention to individually shaping the melody of each line to fit the lyrics and create a whole musical/dramatic arc.
Here's the disturbing video for this disturbing song:
"Even Flow" is Pearl Jam's take on homelessness.
Rests his head on a pillow made of concrete again . . .
Thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh he don't know
So he chases them away
He'll begin his life again
Eddie Vedder wrote "Alive" based on his own childhood. His parents divorced when he was a baby, and his mom quickly remarried. He grew up believing his stepdad was his dad. His mom finally told him the news when he was a teenager, but by then, his biological father, whom he had only briefly met, had died of multiple sclerosis.
"Black" is a transcendently beautiful breakup song.
I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a star
In somebody else's sky . . .