As I’m getting fairly close to rounding out the regular studio albums (and trying hard not to make it a Lost Dogs fest at the end), I’ve been starting to consider what’s left, and each song within the context of its whole. Ten is a fascinating record to look back at for many reasons. The album is sixteen years old. When it was released in 1991, albums from 1975 were sixteen years old. Because Ten more or less introduced me to rock music (at least rock music worth listening to), it’s hard to believe it’s that freaking old. And like Nevermind, Loveless, and a few others from the era, it’s been canonized and is widely considered untouchable. But the album does have its flaws. The band itself has admitted (well, at least Jeff, I think it was) that it’d be nice to remix the whole thing with less reverb, as the versions of “Once” and “Black” demonstrate on Rearviewmirror. But what stands out to me while considering “Deep” is how well the song has aged, so well in fact that to me, in 2007 at least, it’s one of the album’s best tracks.
Mythical allusions, fierce squalls of guitar, and a breathless performance by Vedder, “Deep” executes all of the signature strengths of early Pearl Jam masterfully. The song is almost frightening in its intensity as Vedder rattles off what appears to be three separate stories of nameless characters spiralling down and out, just as bizarrely twisting guitar riffs swirl around each other. It’s like a nest of hornets all stirred up and swarming, claustrophobic, exhausting the listener before the cool salvation of “Release”. Fans were rightfully excited when the song reappeared on setlists in 2003, after a hiatus of seven and a half years, though it’s been shelved since for another four and counting. Unlike other recent live rarities, it’s not exactly clear what the band’s aversion to “Deep” is all about, as it clearly whips the crowd up, filled with tension building pauses and explosive returns. But there it is, on the outskirts of the repertoire, an underrated gem from the band’s turbulent youth.