Masterpiece: Ten

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[Today: The eureka moment that every music fan lives for...]

Pearl Jam - album

It may only happen a few times in your life, but you never forget when it does. “It” is the magic moment when somebody says something like “You should check out this album,” puts on said album, and completely blows your doors off. Of course, the first two parts of that equation happen pretty frequently, but it’s the third part that keeps music junkies digging and listening, asking for recommendations, and buying albums on a wing and a prayer.

During my senior year at the University of Oregon, I used to play a lot of pickup basketball – partly because it was free, and therefore within my limited budget. One day after playing a particularly intense game of hoops, my friend Dino offered to give me a lift home. As we piled into his pickup, he causally (Dino does everything casually) said “You should check out this group, I think you’d like ‘em” and popped a cassette of Pearl Jam’s Ten into his deck. As the opening strains of ‘Alive’ came cranking out of his car speakers, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: this album completely rocked and sounded fantastic.

Of course, I ran out and bought the CD the next day, and then proceeded to wear it out through repeated listens. It’s hard to overstate what a revelation this album was at the time. This was our music – an album created in the Pacific Northwest by guys who looked and dressed a lot like me and my friends (ragged flannel, Doc Martens, etc), an album that rocked out in a way that had more to do with funk than hair metal, and was intelligent and angry and sensitive all at once. Quite simply, this was the music that I didn’t realize I’d been waiting my whole life for.

Pearl Jam has continued to release albums regularly, and I’ve seen them in concert a number of times. Partly because of their prolific output and touring, they’re not the most fashionable group in the world to declare one’s love for. I can’t say that I’ve followed them unflaggingly, or enjoyed every album they’ve created, but for 6 months of my life, these guys turned my world upside down and gave me hope that better music was around the corner. And every time I throw on Ten (not often enough) I’m instantly transported back to that happy time and place, and overcome with awe in spite of myself.

Listen: Alive

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2 Responses to “Masterpiece: Ten”

  1. Notorious bWg Says:

    The last time I had an “it” album was about 3 years ago. Lhasa De Sela’s “La Llorona.” The instant I heard it, it was somehow both brand new yet shockingly familiar. That’s how “it” albums often are for me. Like music from a dream or from your imagination that you somehow “know” exists in the world before it’s ever made.

    It’s a tiny release in the USA—hard to find in brick-and-mortar shops—but worth checking out.

  2. Matty Says:

    this perfectly describes my reaction to this in 1992, when i was 1 or 12. Turned me on to a life of obsessively looking for new great music

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