The Scratched Record: Ten
There was a friend from college who dreamed of the day the Pearl Jam played in Cuba. Two days before the concert, he would set up his tent near the stage to secure a position that would allow him, without much trouble, to get on and sing with Eddie Vedder and have the happiest moment.
My friend was one of the guitarists in the band that we put together with the same format as Pearl Jam: two guitars (one soloist and one rhythmic), bass (actually another viola doing that function with the help of the multi-effects), drums and vocals. Between us, during rehearsals, we sometimes called each other by the names of the members of the Seattle group. Everyone except the drummer, who was by far better musician than the rest, defined himself as repa, he liked timba, and he had neither listened to Pearl Jam nor was into groupie fantasies of others. My friend was Stone Gossard, and I was Eddie, in the same quantity, quality, and enthusiasm that had been one of the Backstreet Boys in fifth grade.
Of the four-star grunge bands, Pearl Jam is the only one that does not have a standout, distinctive, clearly identifiable element. In Soundgarden the vocal ferocity of Chris Cornell stands out, in Nirvana the lefty mystery of Kurt, in Alice in Chains the beautiful vocal arrangements and the unmatched pitch of Layne Staley. What does Pearl Jam have? I'm going to tell you: Pearl Jam is not a grunge band, or it is only due to a historical coincidence. A matter of place and time, but never vocational. Let's say that when it was their turn to get ready and go out, the store across the street sold only existential emptiness, contempt for California and plaid shirts, so they grabbed the first thing they saw on the hanger and ran away. It was too early for definitions and they were not going to burn their youth on that. However, the following decades would prove that Pearl Jam is a band. Already. That's why they were the only ones to survive grunge.
Eddie Vedder is primarily responsible. When he is not there, the group is classified better. He was not, or was very little, for example, in Temple of The Dog (A&M Records, 1991), a phonographic project of the band with Chris Cornell as vocalist, for me a manifesto of the style, with his heavy guitars, his extensive solos and his melodic gloating. The thing is, Eddie doesn't need grunge. He is more man than character. He does not need the darkness, the compunction, the myth. He uses them, but they do not define him as an extra in the rock and roll fairy tale. That is why he is visually flatter than Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell and Layne Staley, and who fits the acoustic guitar better. These three run; he jogs.
At the beginning, at the time of Ten (Epic Records, 1991), I was still trying to emulate the role of eccentric band singer, to fill the gap left by Andy Wood, crazy and sexy star of Mother Love Bone, essentially eighties group of which Pearl Jam is a direct descendant. In this first stage he could be seen perched on the iron structures above the stage, and launched into the crowd from there. Then, little by little, he was thinking and understanding more like an anti-rockstar. It is not that he lacks anger, sadness or self-destruction, it is that it IS not that. I do not know if it has to do, at least directly, but remember this fact: among the vocalists of the genre that I have mentioned so far, Eddie is the only one still alive. Andy died of an overdose, Kurt and Cornell committed suicide, and Staley did perhaps both, slowly. Eddie is still just a man who makes songs - very good - and sings them - very well.
It hasn't been that long since my friend from college and I stopped seeing each other, but in terms of events, what is needed have happened so that right now, if I am given the choice between going to a Pearl Jam concert or eating a chorizo steak, I think about it, and that's enough. I do not know in what variables his life has been given since then, but I am sure, very sure, that when the Ten plays there will always be, in my living room and in his, some object that acts as a microphone or rhythm guitar.
It hasn't been that long since my friend from college and I stopped seeing each other, but in terms of events, the ones that are needed have happened so that right now, if I am given the choice between going to a Pearl Jam recital or eating a chorizo steak, I think about it, and that's enough. I do not know in what variables his life has been given since then, but I am sure, very sure, that when the Ten plays there will always be, in my living room and in his, some object that acts as a microphone or rhythm guitar.
Carlos M. Mérida
Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.