When a band has been releasing music for over 20 years, the target audience of it’s listeners often change as time passes. Of course when every band start out they set out to attract a young and excitable audience, but as the years go on its fair to say most bands can rely on a fan base that has grown up with them. Pearl Jam are a band who you could probably argue fit that bill pretty well. Twenty-two years since their explosive and iconic grunge debut record Ten, the Seattle quartet have reached their tenth full length LP, Lightning Bolt. With the band proudly declaring themselves “the ultimate dad band”, can they still provide a record as euphoric as it’s title would suggest.
As ever, lead singer Eddie Vedder is an amazing man to listen to. Warbling vocal gymnastics with just enough grit to give it an edge, its hard to believe the man has aged at all (at least in sound). Opening track Getaway is a truly bombastic tune with the band providing signature rock ‘n’ roll fist pumping guitars whilst Vedder positively screams “it’s all right, I got my own way to believe”. The following lead single Mind Your Manners is a similarly aggressive moment on the album that sees the group resembling hardcore punk groups from Black Flag to Vedder favourites Fugazi. Its this thundering introduction to the album that makes the latter half a bit of a surprise.
The album as a whole isn’t the electrified affair the title seems to evoke, not to say this is a particularly negative aspect. Sirens is a total ballad that without the growly vocals and powerful guitars could probably pass for a Taylor Swift song, probably a popular one at that. Further somewhat calmer moments are echoed on tracks like the groovy Infallible and the cinematic Pendulum which holds the epic kind of vibe that wouldn’t be out of place in the opening credits of a James Bond movie. Closing tracks Yellow Moon and Future Days put the album to a bed far lighter place than where the album began with the former’s swinging rhythms and the latter being a delicately spiralling lament that sound like they’re coming from a celtic folk artist.
If Lightning Bolt is at all shocking, its more so for its slightly bleak outlook and softer moments that, whilst the band have delved into in the past, haven’t really been showcased on an entire album. Its a nice record that goes down easily for listeners new or old, it just seems to lack the bite that the opening tracks almost promise on the listener. All in all, its most likely enough for the fans and its easy to predict some of these songs will fit nicely with the band’s hits of yesteryear in concert. The ultimate dad band they may be, but I’m sure a few of their kids will dig it too.
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