Pearl Jam

PEARL JAM – Lightning Bolt

Pearl Jam - Lightning BoltWell well, look at this. Where is the world going? I mean, when I am actually reviewing a Pearl Jam record. Ever since the early 90’s when grunge first reared its ugly head, I have hated that kind of rock music. Nirvana were the worst, I loathed them – still do – but Pearl Jam weren’t far behind. Ok, so I kinda dug “Alive” and “Even Flow” off their debut album Ten (1991) and yes, I really liked Apple (1990), the only album from Mother Love Bone, the band that Pearl Jam grew out of, but that was it. Fast forward to 2009 and I get an e-mail from one of my best friends, we can call him Jake – a huge Pearl Jam fan, with a mp3 attached to it, saying “Give 3 minutes of your time and listen to this – I have a feeling you’ll like it”. The song was “Got Some” by Pearl Jam, the single from their then upcoming album Backspacer. So, despite my hate for grunge and Pearl Jam, I thought I’d just give ole Jakey the benefit of a doubt and listen to it. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t like it. Hell finally froze over. In fact, I liked it so much that I decided to give the whole album a go and what do you know? Backspacer now stands proud in my record collection. Because it was a great, great album. At the same time I gave the reunited Alice In Chains’ debut album a go as well and I loved that as well. Things has gone so far that I even dig the latest Soundgarden album as well. So for the first time in my life I feel excited about a new Pearl Jam release. I’m still in shock here, ladies and gents and the rest of you / us.

Now, one thing I know about Pearl Jam – and love them or hate them, but they deserve respect for this – it’s that they never work by a formula and that they don’t ever repeat themselves, which meant that no matter how much I loved Backspacer, this album could go in any way, both in quality and musical style. That meant that I really had no expectations on this album and I might just go back and hate them again. Well, the record’s opener “Getaway” told me that I would probably not go back to hate them again. The song is great and a real hard rocker. The first time I heard the first single “Mind Your Manners”, I was disappointed. The song had too much punk in it and it didn’t quite stuck with me. Although, after a couple of spins and through my head phones, I got the chance to really listen to it. Mind’s changed – great tune – nuff said. “Sirens” is a bluesy half ballad, brilliant with an amazing melody, the title track is fantastic, a hard rock song with some big pop influences and maybe it’s just me and some wishful thinking, but isn’t there a New Jersey Bon Jovi vibe in there? I say there is. “Pendulum” is just loveable – dark, mellow and moody, based on acoustic guitars, “Swallowed Whole” is an acoustic / electric rocker – very catchy and in “Let The Records Play” we get a happy rocker!!! From Pearl Jam!!! Damn, didn’t I just see a pig fly by? “Sleeping By Myself” is a brilliant and catchy pop song and finishing “Future Days” is a beautiful, mellow ballad.

Pearl Jam has once again surprised me with another killer record. It’s not as straight forward rock ‘n’ roll like the magnificent Backspacer was, but it looks like the doomy, gloomy and depressive grunge days are over for Pearl Jam. Today they are a rock band, nothing more, nothing less and the grunge label – or any label for that matter – feels both wrong and unnecessary. I know that there are rock fans that comes from the same place as me musically, that refuses to even give Pearl Jam a shot because of their grunge tag, but listen up – if I can appreciate them, then anyone can. Pearl Jam today is a rock band and they play what feels good at the moment. So lose the narrow minds and check this out. Because this really is a bloody good record!

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Getaway
2. Mind Your Manners
3. My Father’s Son
4. Sirens
5. Lightning Bolt
6. Infallible
7. Pendulum
8. Swallowed Whole
9. Let The Records Play
10. Sleeping By Myself
11. Yellow Moon
12. Future Days

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10 comments on “PEARL JAM – Lightning Bolt

  1. Jon! Great review! Although I didn’t loathe Pearl Jam as much as you did, I hated them in the 90’s. Hated. Was glad to see No Code flop (except for the 100 copies going unsold in my store).

    I don’t know what song it was that got me to change my mind, I can’t remember, but I remember Off He Goes was really special to me, as was a song called Wishlist. As far as ballads go, they are tops.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say here. I enjoyed hearing Pearl Jam audibly ENJOY playing music! I like that the band changes it up album to album, as you mentioned. That means that some albums I really like and some I don’t get at all. This one’s in the really like category and it was a last-minute addition to my top five of 2013 list. (It was a Christmas gift so really really last minute.)

    Regarding the grunge label not fitting — I agree and it hasn’t for a long time. It’s as bad a label as “hair metal” is!

    • Yeah. Hair metal is the most stupid term ever. The term hair metal is something useless journalist came up with after the whole glam / sleaze hard rock thing was over. No one ever called it hair metal back in 1989. In Sweden the call it poodle rock. Another daft term that was never used back when.

      And grunge was more a fashion than a musical style. I mean, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana didn’t sound the same at all. And then we had Stone Temple pilots who sounded like all of the above…

      What did you think of Backspacer, Mike?

      • I seemed to have missed Backspacer man. The last album I have before this is the avocado album. Based on this I’ll look for it on sale in the future.

        Grunge barely even qualified as a fashion…most people in Canada dressed that way anyway! As you said none of those bands sounded alike, they were just all from Seattle. STP sounded exactly like them and was not from Seattle. Go figure.

      • Yup. They were from L.A. Go even more figure. 😉

        Still, people did the same to the late 80’s / early 90’s bands. Apparently Skid Row, Tesla, Poison, Cinderella, Winger, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard played exactly the same music. They even lumped oldies like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and Kiss in there. Hair metal all of them…

  2. If I could offer my two cents, I’d say Pearl Jam has never released a bad record. Wait! Stay with me! See, it’s the very thing you said yourself about how they never work from a formula. That’s their strength. Yes, every record is different (while still sounding like them), and maybe one or another doesn’t click at the time with certain listeners, but those records all stand well on their own two feet, strong songs and creative inventions included. I dunno, maybe it’s time to go back to the records you didn’t like. They might hit differently now, at this point in your life versus then.

    Totally agreed on the new record, though. I love it. I loved it so much, I sent it to Mike for Christmas! Very strong effort, exactly what we needed from them right now!

    • Ah yes, maybe I should. I have close friends with exact same opinios as yours. But I dunno, I still don’t like the songs from Ten when I hear them today so I find it really hard to make the effort, to be honest. Maybe one day, though…

      • I hope you do it try it at some point, when you feel ready for it. I may be a bit more sympathetic, as I’m a first-day buyer for their album releases, have been since Vs. As you say at the end of your review, narrow minds can dismiss things that deserve more attention. This band always had a vision for a project, and each record tends towards whatever it was at the time. They move as a unit, and the end result i usually stunning.

        If the studio albums don’t do it for you, maybe seek out some of the live tracks to match the album tracks. There’s no shortage of those out there, with their bootleg series and all that. Often times a song becomes more in a live setting with them, too.

        Good luck!

  3. My Dad absolutely loves Pearl Jam. Owns every record and has seen them live a few times.

    Great review. Glad you gave them a go and liked them – win win!

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