For an album that surfaced in the wake of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Ten doesn’t sound much like grunge; it has an anthemic, arena-rock quality, with a reverb heavy production that sounds more like the hair metal that the nineties rockers were replacing. The songs on Ten began their lives as instrumentals; guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament were in Mother Love Bone, which disbanded after their singer overdosed on heroin; they had written most of the music for the record before they hooked up with the rest of the group.
Because the songs were designed as instrumentals, there are plenty of memorable musical hooks: the vibrant introduction to ‘Alive’, the bass line of ‘Jeremy’, and the lovely verse melody of ‘Black’ are all fine examples. When vagrant surfer and service station attendant Eddie Vedder added lyrics about his personal angst -‘Alive’ is a biographical story about his difficult relationship with his father – the resulting band Pearl Jam was an instant success. There are strong songs – ‘Alive’ is a huge sounding anthem, ‘Black’ is sweet and melodic, and ‘Even Flow’ is driving with a soaring chorus melody – but I don’t find the lesser material memorable, and the second side is generally unremarkable.
Ten has some very assured songs, but Pearl Jam became more interesting as they matured and they had better produced records.