Pearl Jam's New Album 'Lightning Bolt' Hits: Verdict?

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Rockers Pearl Jam have finally released their first album in four years, 22 years after their debut album Ten was released in 1991. Such a remarkable decade-spanning career in alternative rock is admirable, not to mention not losing any members, not selling out, and no major inter-band fight implosions.

Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder's Back After His Ukulele Break.

The first single from Lightning Bolt, 'Mind Your Manners,' was released in July and brought three-minute, full-thrash and sing-along punk under a fast and shouty tirade from lead singer Eddie Vedder about religion. The song provides contrast against the more 80s power ballad stylings of 'Siren' and the REM 90s rock nods of 'Swallowed Whole.'

"I was listening to some Dead Kennedys at the time and I felt very moved by how East Bay Ray played guitar or what an anti guitar hero he was. I wanted to try to explore that," says lead guitarist Mike McCready, who wrote the 'Mind Your Manners.' "[...] Ed gravitated toward the lyrics and was just screaming and really into it," he added, via Billboard.

Pearl Jam
The New Album Employs Some Moshpit-worthy Punk And Incisive Lyrics.

Many fans will equate Lightning Bolt to the best PJ offering since 1998's platinum-certified Yield, perhaps on account of its straightforward, fiery rock and clear cohesive songwriting teamwork employed. Rolling Stone's Will Hermes is generous with his praise for Lightning bolt, saying "on their 10th LP, they overthink, overemote and overreach - fruitfully," and, unlike many reviewers, suggest that the band's continued success, focus and drive could have been helped along by Vedder's Ukelele Songs side project.

Listen To Pearl Jam's 'Mind Your Manners':

However, NME's Kate Hutchinson fails to be impressed by Lightning Bolt, writing that "if Eddie Vedder didn't have the rest of his band in tow he would just sound like a loon at the back of the bus," whilst mocking the band's "turgid rock blub-fests."

Noting that Pearl Jam will be eligible for the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2016, Spin's Rob Harvilla gives a slightly more favourable review, remarking that the album is imbued with "grouchy guitars, Vedder's surfin'-on-a-minivan snarls, [and] a general air of "Spin the Black Circle"-style eight-car-garage ardor."

Pearl Jam MEN
Fans Are Hailing 'Lightning Bolt' As The Greatest PJ Album Since 'Yield.'

Spin also notes the relevance of Pearl Jam's new album release in the same year as the 20th anniversary of 90s grunge band Nirvana's In Utero, but sneers that the two bands are "sharing absolutely no DNA," explaining "It's far from an implosion, far from spectacular" and it's "a little too gentle."

Looking back over Pearl Jam's huge career, it's hard to see how a few grumbly albums in 2013 could extinguish that fire and it's positively futile to compare their latest efforts with In Utero. Their sound has changed, become lighter and more radio-worthy perhaps, but times have changed too and the melting post of grunge and angst they were formed into has morphed into a new climate.

Do the band care less then? In an interview with the Huffington Post, Vedder said in response to being asked what he'd like listeners to take away from the album. He replied, "Just take away that it's really great album artwork. That's a compliment I can accept."

Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt is out now.


Tags: Pearl Jam - Eddie Vedder

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