Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt


"Everyone's a critic..." sings Eddie Vedder on the first track of Lightning Bolt. After the lackluster response to 2009's Backspacer, Pearl Jam settle in on a roots rock, soulful kind of sound. Much like The Rolling Stones in their "Tattoo You" phase, classic riffs and old-fashioned lyrics like "She's a lightning bolt", the band show they age gracefully on this one. It's a raw rock and roll record, made by a twenty year old band, much different from their previous work, but still hangin in there. Pearl Jam are fueled by perseverance. They have changed forms over the years, but there's always 'that' energy. Lightning Bolt features "Getaway",  a mid-tempo number with a punk attitude, the Neil Young inspired "Future Days" and the title track "Lightning Bolt" go in unique and unexpected directions.  Pearl Jam are somewhere in that experimental period for a band that's been around this long. There isn't a single vision as there once was, a more democratic approach to making records, but they stay true to their influences. This album is looser than the last, the band plays more laid back, they let songs wander. There are less guitar solos, and more colorful patterns in dynamics. Drummer Matt Cameron's style gives a twist to the softer, country-rock ballads. There is intelligent and interesting three guitar interplay between Gossard, McCready and Vedder. "Sirens" is the new single, which truly focuses on Vedder's vocal capabilities. It's an impressive performance. In essence, the new album is somewhat of an unexpected 'comeback' for Pearl Jam. It sounds like they stopped trying to appease a certain kind of audience and do what they want. It's more ambitious than commercial. If they quit now, they'll be able to say they had a good twenty year run and end on a good note. But something tells me they don't plan to quit. It's become their day job. We'll see how the fans react. 

Lightning Bolt is a solid 8.