Ten Sixteen years after its recording, “Oceans” remains one of Pearl Jam’s most delicate, haunting, and enduring tracks, though relatively unhyped in comparison to other monster hits from the band’s early days. As a testament to fidelity across distance the song is beautifully understated, relying on a modicum of words to effectively communicate its themes. The words themselves use ocean-specific language (“the currents will shift”, “please stand by the shore”) accurately and efficiently, matching the sea-sprayed atmosphere the band conjures.

The best part about “Oceans” is that the lyrics inspire confidence that they are referring to a very specific relationship, rather than a metaphorical one. When Vedder sings “hold tight the ring”, I know that its a particular ring he’s referring to, and not the universal love song ring of countless pop songs. At the same time, the song still allows my imagination room to wander within its brief two-and-a-half minutes. I can picture the ring, the beach, etc., however I want, to relate my own experiences of longing, though the line between the song being about its author rather than me is always firmly established. It’s a fine balancing act for an artist to make sure their work is unique enough to them, at the same time allowing audiences to participate. The best any of us can do as writers, actors, painters, or otherwise, is to get people to feel emotion, rather than just describe it. “Oceans” does this remarkably well for what was then a young band.


~ by Michael on May 3, 2007.

10 Responses to “Oceans”

  1. A beautiful song, the ‘damp” sounding drums mixed with Ed’s high notes is just moving. It feels like the title says.

  2. Oceans was the very first song on my very first boot (Surfer Eddie’s Sunshine State – Taken from the ’93 San Diego shows). The moment that I heard the begining of the song I had chills run through me. Almost spiritual, but that’s too much hyperbole for my taste.

    This song is one of many with great phrasing by Ed. I think Ben Harper said that Ed’s phrasing is what makes him such a great vocalist.

  3. Good point Mookie, I started to talk a little bit about Vedder’s phrasing w/ “Even Flow”, because I agree wholeheartedly w/ you and Harper.

  4. My only negative comment of Oceans is the production. I am not a fan of how Rick Parasher made the verses have that wave effect. Apparently the band felt the same way as me, and eventually released the Oceans remix on the Even Flow single. The vocal effect is gone plus there is another guitar added, and I really dig it. I read somewhere that Ed wrote the guitar parts while listening thru a wall as Jeff played a bass line in another room.

  5. That’s really interesting. I’ll have to go back to that remix to remember. It’s been a while since I listened to it. Cool information regarding Ed’s guitar parts too.

  6. A nice and rare opener. Great stuff, shows that PJ experimented with their sound from their early age as a band

  7. I recently read something that referred to Oceans as almost like the black sheep of Ten, being so much more experimental in its sound than the rest of the record. Probably a good reason why I like it so much. While it’s great on the live recordings I’ve heard, I still enjoy the studio version. In fact, other than Release, Oceans is the only song from Ten that I still regualry listen to the studio version of.

    The mental imagery that the song invokes for me is as dark as the rest of Ten, but unlike its bretheren, this is calm, almost inviting. The drumming is one of my favorite parts of this song, some of the best from their early songs, in my opinion.

    Finally, C13, my apologies for not commending you on this blog in my first comment. It’s great that I found this site when I did, as I’m currently going through a revitalization of my interest in Pearl Jam’s music. Keep it up.

  8. Thanks Brett–glad to hear your insights and comments here!

  9. Brett, you HAVE to hear the ‘Oceans remix’ if you haven’t already.

  10. i know the title is “oceans” but this reminds me way more of lakes, it reminds me of greenwood lake where i used to live and also the lake i worked at last summer. i associate so many great memories and feelings with this song. it might be my favorite song from ten, but i think its tied with “porch”. i love songs with great riffs but you cant beat a song that actually pulls off a great atmosphere like this one.

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