REVIEW: Pearl Jam ‘Lightning Bolt’
Let me tell you a short story. When I was fifteen years old, I spent several months in Seattle living with a family that hosted students from other countries. At the time, I was a normal kid that was discovering the energizing powers of music and Seattle, was the center of the whole world with their diverse music scene. Anyway, my host’s family’s son was a policeman in the city, and because he knew about my obsession with Pearl Jam, he took me to sight-see Eddie Vedder’s house.
The end of the story is not that good; the house was at the end of a cul-de-sac, with a basketball net and two body guards outside. Huge bodyguards. We talked to them and asked if it was possible for me to take a picture in front of the house but they said no: “Eddie is inside and he doesn’t like people taking pictures when he is in”. I don’t even know if that’s true or just a tactic to discourage fans but, no regrets Eddie!
I just told you this because after being such a longtime fan of the band, I have learned to love their albums as a representation of their member’s lives at the exact moment of the recording and not as pieces of music that need to be necessarily better than their classic albums. For me and for a lot of fans, growing up with the band has made all their albums essential pieces of our lives too and I’m sure this album won’t be an exception.
The production by Brendan O Brien is, as usual, huge, perfectly balanced and organic, with Jeff Ament’s creative bass and Boom Gaspar’s magical arrangements shining through the waves of sound. What about the songs? Well, again, you can forget about those surreal desires of wanting to hear Pearl Jam circa 1994, those times are long gone in their thunderous glory, instead, the band continues to write timeless rock tunes that are at times borderline punk like the first single “Mind Your Manners” and “My Father’s Son”, mature folk like “Sleeping by Myself”, previously released in Eddie’s solo album Ukelele Songs, and the beautiful closer “Future Days” or just epic stadium rockers exemplified by one of the best tracks, “Sirens” or even the title track “Lightning Bolt”.
As usual, Pearl Jam throws a few curve balls, and here they decided to give it a try and write some kind of honky-tonk blues desert stomper called “Let The Records Play” that successfully brings the swagger, “Pendulum” that reminds me of “Indifference” with the tribal drumming and the suffocating atmosphere, and one of my favorites, “Yellow Moon” an invigorating crescendo that has a great melody and tastefully put together solos.
There were a couple of tracks that didn’t do much for me, “Infallible” and “Swallowed Hole”, both good compositions with different flavors but that they didn’t impressed me like the rest. Knowing how Pearl Jam albums work for me these two could end up being my favorites in a few weeks, who knows!
Regarding the band, still no complaints; Cameron, solid as a rock delivers groove and style, Stone and Mike just complement each other with riffs and solos in perfect symphony, and Eddie is just as vital with his performance and lyrics. This is the sound of Pearl Jam and these guys are masters at getting it right.
In general, Lightning Bolt is another episode of the so-called “happy Pearl Jam” but that is highly superior to its predecessor Backspacer. Still, even when these albums share some qualities in sound and band ethics, I must admit that this last release is the culmination of the sound that they have been exploring for a while. Some tracks may sound like the band is running on autopilot, but at the same time is very hard not to fall in love with the formula that they have mastered.
While there is no way to deny that the self-titled (avocado) album from 2006 opened a new door for them after wandering under dark clouds during most part of the late nineties and early 2000’s, Lightning Bolt is a continuation of the legacy of a band re-energized by the incredible powers of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Dad rock, grunge, put the label you want, but just give them the credit they deserve as one of the biggest bands of our time.
02.”Mind Your Manners”
03.”My Father’s Son”
09.”Let the Records Play”
10.”Sleeping By Myself”