I was all set to go on “Go”, until the intro to the Grateful Dead’s “New Potato Caboose” from Live From the Vault inexplicably came out of the speakers and sounded eerily close to “Garden”. That’s just the first of several strange thoughts now caroming around my skull while I look for a suitable angle on what I’ve always found to be quite a mysterious song.
If any song on Ten could be classified as unsung (kind of a stretch), it might have to be “Garden”. It’s one of the few songs from their debut album not to have appeared on any of the demo tapes, which suggests it was written close to or during the London Bridge recording sessions. And though it was played with frequency during their first few tours, it disappeared from 1995-2000, and has received only occasional (and in 2006, re-worked) treatment since.
If “Garden” was written in the studio, it might have been specifically worked on to add a different dimension to Ten that was otherwise missing. Had the album included “Alone”, “Brother”, “Girl”, or even “Breath” in its place, Ten would have been one fist-pumping rock anthem too many. “Garden” is spooky and atmospheric in ways to which no other Ten-era track can lay claim. It’s no less heavy however, particularly at its climax, an aspect the band amplified in support of Pearl Jam.
“Garden” also contains, in seed form, a lot of the themes Vedder would explore in more and greater depth on future albums. “I don’t question our existence / I just question our modern needs”, he sings vaguely, though he’d elaborate on “Do the Evolution”, “Present Tense”, and “Education”. Still, “Garden” is beautifully moody, and lends its album a haunting, pensive quality to balance its more straight-forward aggression.