This past Tuesday, Pearl Jam released their 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt. Prior to the release of the record, there was a lot of buzz and hype. The two singles that were released over the last three months, “Mind Your Manners” and “Sirens” had me excited that this new record could be their best album since the self-titled avocado release. Not only could it be their best album since then, Lightning Bolt could be their best album since Yield.
If you haven’t checked out Pearl Jam in a while, Lightning Bolt is a great place to get back on board with the band. They are currently on a fall tour of the U.S., and for anyone who has never seen them live, I say this: Pearl Jam is one band that you must see in concert before you die. Most of the shows for this fall tour still have tickets available for purchase, albeit not many and not the best seats. Key venues like Brooklyn and Seattle have been sold out since the minute tickets went on sale, so fans in that area (yep – that’s me) are out of luck unless they take a road trip. And if you’ve never seen the band live before, a road trip is worth the cost, time and effort. Pearl Jam is one of the greatest live acts I’ve ever witnessed.
It’s amazing to see that after 22 years, this band is still making solid, meaningful music. The latest single, “Sirens,” is the new “Black.” It is also the greatest Pearl Jam song ever recorded. Between the emotion with which lead vocalist Eddie Vedder sings, the brilliance of Mike McCready’s guitar solos and the haunting piano chords from Boom Gasper, “Sirens” hits every nerve in the soul of the listener. The lyrics are outstanding, highlighting Vedder’s skill in crafting a masterpiece with meaning. The song is also a perfect example of how well the band has aged over the years.
“Mind Your Manners” is reminiscent of “Spin The Black Circle” (from Vitalogy), but stronger and more enjoyable. “Lightning Bolt” is a phenomenal song that captures the Pearl Jam of today and includes another stupendous solo from McCready. Other notable tracks on the new album include “Let The Records Play” and the beautiful ballad, “Yellow Moon.”
Early era Pearl Jam is well represented on this album, although with a modern twist. Influences from Ten, Vs,, and Vitalogy can all be heard with clarity. Yet they are no longer singing about the youth movement and overtaking the world, Pearl Jam have now looked inward and are starting to feel the effects of aging and mortality. A lot of that emotion shows on Lightning Bolt, and is put to good use by the band. Themes of aging, doubt, uncertainty, and the end of life are all captured and exploited in a manner that only a magnificent veteran rock act like Pearl Jam could manage.
It’s been four years since Pearl Jam released their last studio album (Backspacer), but the long wait was well worth it. Lightning Bolt displays only the best of this storied band. Producer Brendan O’Brien worked closely with the group to ensure that only the highest quality was memorialized for this record. The hard work and long hours paid off, as Lightning Bolt is destined to be a number one album and help Pearl Jam reclaim the title of “most talked about rock band.” Although these days, it won’t be for their boycott of ticketing agencies, or their feuds with other famous musicians—this time it will be all about the performance.
In a couple of months when I am pouring over all of the new releases that I’ve heard this year, trying in earnest to pick my ten favorites of 2013, I can guarantee that Lightning Bolt will be battling for the top spot. If you get one new record this fall, Lightning Bolt should be it. And if you go to see one concert this autumn, Pearl Jam should be your concert of choice. And if you have an extra ticket and need a huge fan to keep you company, feel free to get in touch with me. I’d be happy to attend.
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