Pearl Jam’s rejuvenation in the last couple of years as both a relevant musical institution as well as a creative force is a success story in more ways than one. Since 2000, the Seattle-raised act has, arguably, delivered four consistently good albums (from Binaural to Backspacer) and proved that it can survive the times without softening the sides and losing its identity.
The forward momentum, if anything, continues with the lean and mean sounding Lightning Bolt, the band’s 10th studio outing.
Not to worry about frontman Eddie Vedder getting all “folk-some” on this new album, featuring 12 cuts. He has left the ukelele at home.
In the band’s pursuit of industry idealism, the quintet left the one thing that made it such a musical powerhouse in the early 1990s – its seemingly effortless ability to raise rock ‘n’ roll temperatures. But better late than never, as they say. Just like Pearl Jam’s last record Backspacer in 2009, there is a lot of raw crunch on Lightning Bolt to savour.
On this highly inspired record, the Seattle band has evidently rediscovered the joy of writing and playing music, and with that, comes great songs. The fierce punk blast of Mind Your Manners recalls the primal force of Go (from the Vs album), but played with a certain maturity and control that shows the veteran group (23 years and counting) can handle a stormy cut in a bruised yet dignified manner. It’s also an album where guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready sound like a riot act.
You really don’t need Pearl Jam to unleash a pop punk onslaught or a dubstep mash-up. This bunch can do “heavy” on their own terms.
If quiet is a your thing, then Sirens is probably the standout cut here. A slow-burning ballad that stirs soulfully enough before it gradually embraces bluesy riffage. It’s the kind of heartfelt song that really only Pearl Jam is able to pull off without a hint of cringe.
The consistency of the record is remarkable. The best part is that most of Lightning Bolt manages to remain memorable, especially the snarling sarcasm on My Father’s Son and the moody soundscapes onPendulum. Vedder’s lyrics – be it poignant, instrospective or angst-riddled – also cut to bone.
From start to end, the band’s musicianship is top notch, even if Vedder had to have his little moonlight sway on Sleeping By Myself, which really isn’t too bad.
is not a record that will have critics baffled by any futuristic turns. Instead, this is Pearl Jam having a blast with rock ‘n’ roll. No apologies at all.