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Album Review: Pearl Jam – Dark Matter

2 min read
Album Review: Pearl Jam - Dark Matter

Pearl Jam have released their twelfth studio album, Dark Matter. The album was produced by Andrew Watt and recorded in the famous Malibu recording studio Shangri-La. The album marks a retreat from experimentation, featuring catchy, punchy tracks that seek to stand the test of time.

Scared of Fear kicks the album off with classic sounding drums and grinding guitar riffs. Eddie Vedder’s voice is gruff and grungy but crystal clear as he expresses sentimentality towards the days of old and keeps up with the song’s pace. React, Respond deals with inertia in an age of increasing political and social threats. The chorus is fairly catchy and the rhythm section and guitars feel spontaneous but tight. The statement ‘Don’t react, respond,’ however, almost sounds like a LinkedIn post.

Wreckage, produced by Andrew Watt, is a mid tempo ballad. According to Eddie Vedder, the song is about Donald Trump playing the victim – ‘Crawling through the Wreckage.’ The angsty track features some nice layering and backing vocals. It’s a classic Pearl Jam song that ends with a signature rallying cry.  Title track Dark Matter features classic-rock guitar riffs, pounding drums, and screeching solos. Vedder’s vocal delivery is furious and deep as he rails against right-wingers. It’s a 90s sounding track that’s tight when it needs to be but loosens up with driving force.

Waiting For Stevie is an anthemic track which covers topics such as depression and self-doubt. By many measures it’s a strong single but somehow feels safe and repetitive at times. Running is a punkie moment that explodes like a Green Day track. Again, it veers on the mediocre.

Something Special is a gentler pace. The message from father to daughter might be a bit corny for a younger generation but it’s a sweet reflection of the artist’s age and life stage. The final track Setting Sun is a wonderful folk-rock closer lamenting a love lost. It’s a touching, almost spiritual ending that will leave the core fan base wiping away the tears.

It’s clear that Pearl Jam have dropped any neediness to stay relevant and have focused on making great Pearl Jam records. While the album is let down by some samey tracks in the middle, Dark Matter is a solid release for a band with a career spanning over three decades. The decision to step away from experimentation, as heard in previous Pearl Jam releases, is a wise one.