Rock and roll is always going to need new blood in the mix to keep things going. Not every legendary band can keep the fire burning forever, and the only way for the genre to thrive is if it’s able to reinvent itself with some new bands leading the way. So when you have someone kill it on their first try, the entire music world seems to stand up and take notice.
On their first step up to the plate, every one of these bands seemed to knock it out of the park, coming through with a new sound or aesthetic that made the sound of rock and roll feel new and exciting again. Even if it didn’t reflect in sheer numbers every single time, you can see the seeds of these albums in the next few years, as the rest of the music industry caught on to what the album was doing and rearranged what their approach would be going forward.
Sometimes the change doesn’t even have to do with the music inside either, from the promotion of the record to the kind of attitude that the band had on and off the stage playing some sort of role in what rock and roll was supposed to be. Rock had already found some teeth, but these albums gave us the rules for what the next few years were going to be.
10. Ten - Pearl Jam
The minute that grunge hit the airwaves, you knew that all of the hair metal that had polluting MTV for the past few years was going to become a thing of the past. Acts like Warrant were starting to look way too artificial at this point, and bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden were going to take rock in a bold new direction with riffs that were a lot more sludgy than before. While the rest of Seattle was getting a little more gutteral, Pearl Jam hadn't forgotten the music that raised them either.
Throughout most of Ten, you do get the impression of the grunge era in the production, but the real appeal is the kind of '70s throwback sounds present here as well. Almost constructed like a Led Zeppelin record at points, Stone Gossard's riffs are already ready to fill out massive stadiums, from the opening sounds of Alive to the groovy as hell trip that comes on Even Flow. Arena rock is just one side of this though, and you can hear every member putting a different spin on their sound, like Eddie Vedder's punk side coming out on Why Go and Mike McCready tapping into some Stevie Ray Vaughan style blues licks.
There was a healthy respect for the past here, but their roots were always in Seattle, and a song like Once or Garden could be studied as perfect examples of what grunge was all about in the first place. It was noisy, angry, and a little bit scary if you weren't prepared for it, but you couldn't deny the heart that went into making it either.