20 years later — nothing's changed
With Pearl Jam coming to town, A&E looks at their latest album
With the opening lyrics of “Getaway,” the first track on Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album, “Lightning Bolt,” lead singer Eddie Vedder propels the ‘90s grunge band back into the contemporary music scene. The album is a nice smorgasbord of alternative rock that accentuates Vedder’s diverse stylistic capabilities, aiming to appeal to a wide array of listeners.
Hard rockers will appreciate the first two songs, “Getaway” and “Mind Your Manners” especially. Both are on par with classic Pearl Jam hits like “Jeremy” and “Even Flow.” However, to get a real feel for the album, you need to get into the albums deeper tracks.
“My Father’s Son” is a look inside Vedder’s tumultuous relationship with his father. With cringe worthy lyrics like, “Now father you’re dead and gone/ I’m finally free to be me,” Pearl Jam decidedly takes daddy issues to a whole new level.
The next track, “Sirens,” is arguably the best on the album. This rock ballad has a simple arrangement, but a powerful message. Vedder’s tender singing and lyrics such as, “For fear that someday we’ll be over/ I pull you close/ So much to lose/ Knowing that nothing lasts forever,” force you to think about life’s uncertainties — something applicable to people of all ages.
The album title track “Lightning Bolt” comes next, and while it is not the best song on the record, it’s just the type of mid-tempo rock song you’d expect from Pearl Jam. The next two tracks, “Infallible” and “Pendulum” are just the opposite — they are much more pensive. While “Infallible” has a very bluesy feel, “Pendulum” is just full on depressing. The eerie guitar line complements the echoing percussion in the background. Despite the somber mood, I really enjoyed this track and think Pearl Jam should include more tracks like it on future projects.
“Swallowed Whole” brings the tempo back up and gives off an R.E.M. vibe. The up-tempo theme continues with “Let the Records Play.” This track joins groovy rhythms with a country sound, and I hated it. “Sleeping By Myself” is actually a revamped track from Vedder’s 2011 solo album Ukulele Songs. Vedder sings about lost love, “I should have known there was someone else/ Now I’m alone/ I always kept it to myself.” He takes on the “forever alone” mindset and concludes that love and disaster are synonymous.
“Yellow Moon” slows the pace down once more. The lyrics didn’t really make sense and the sound was trippy, so I’m not quite sure where Vedder’s head was when he wrote this. The album concludes with “Future Days,” which starts with a light piano melody and continues with piano, guitar and violin. It makes for a beautiful ballad about hope and love. “I believe ‘cause I can see/ Our future days/ Days of you and me.”
While some may ponder why Pearl Jam hasn’t changed their tune in 20 years, I’m glad Pearl Jam has stayed consistent. Why change a good thing? It’s refreshing to see bands stick to their roots and not be swayed into the normative Top 40s style that is so prevalent in music today. As Eddie Vedder said himself, “The best songs are the ones that make you feel something,” and this album definitely does not disappoint in that respect.
Make sure to catch Pearl Jam on Oct. 29th at John Paul Jones Arena. It will be interesting to see if their performance matches the intensity of the album — I have a feeling it will. Pearl Jam is here to stay and fans should remind them that we are too.