Seattle rock band Pearl Jam came to the forefront in the ’90s when grunge was moving far beyond the Pacific Northwest of America and was reaching an international fever pitch. 1991 became a monumental year in the the history of rock music as fellow Washington band Nirvana released their smash hit Nevermind and other grunge bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains were experiencing both commercial and critical success. These bands gained a huge following, especially among teenagers who moshed along to their songs with a similar appearance of long hair, denim and flannel shirts.
While Pearl Jam never managed to measure up to the godlike status of Nevermind, they put out some massively successful and influential releases, as well, like their 1991 debut, Ten. Released on this day 27 years ago, Ten didn’t catch fire immediately, but just a year later, it reached number two on the Billboard 200 chart and remains their most popular album to date, as it achieved 13x Platinum status. The album was instrumental in popularizing alternative rock in the American mainstream, particularly through radio play and with their music videos all over MTV.
Ten contained singles like “Alive,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy” and “Oceans” and critics praised Vedder’s passionate vocal performances and confessional yet fiery lyrics as well as the band’s larger-than-life power chords. After the album’s release, Kurt Cobain accused Pearl Jam of being “corporate sellouts” and argued that the band didn’t play alternative rock because of their prominent use of guitar leads. Whether you agree with Cobain or not about whether the band truly embodied the alternative or punk spirit, Pearl Jam have been cemented as one of America’s most successful and influential bands of the ’90s and Vedder’s trademark baritone growl has become one of the most essential and recognizable voices of the rock canon.
Stream Ten here and watch the band perform songs from their debut at Tower Records—just three months after its release—in Rockville, Md.