Pearl Jam's latest Lightning Bolt is streaming on iTunes a full week before its October 15 release date. Check it out here (The stream is on Pearl Jam's artist page).
Everybody had a listen? Good, because now I'm about to lay into Lightning Bolt, an album that can best be described as Pearl Jam Lite.
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While many have questioned the more experimental bent of Eddie Vedder and company's last few albums -I, for one, enjoyed them- it seems on Lightning Bolt they've made an even more questionable step backwards.
Vedder has gone on record saying that this latest effort deals primarily with idea of mortality. As many people do when facing down a terrifying future, it seems that the grunge veterans are regressing into their past. The new album finds the 23-year-old group trying to rekindle the magic of their early '90s heydey, and the results sound just as forced as you'd imagine.
When Pearl Jam moved on from the hippie-grunge sound that made them famous, plenty of second-wave bands stepped in to fill the void. Many made a successful career out of doing their best impersonation of Vedder and his Seattle compatriots: Bush, Seven Mary Three, Stone Temple Pilots (though it should be noted that STP is an older band than Pearl Jam) etc. On Lightning Bolt, it sounds like the band is trying to mimic the mid-to-late '90s alt-radio cash grab.
All the hallmarks are there: crunchy but decidedly empty guitar riffs, exaggerated baritone warbles, Moon in June rhymes (Hell, they even jack the "Jeepers, Creepers" melody for certain sections of "Let The Records Play").
That's not to say there aren't any good tracks on Lightning Bolt, lead single "Mind Your Manners" and downtempo ballad "Sleeping By Myself" show how good the band can be when they're firing on all cylinders. However, the rest of the sputtering cuts fail to justify Bolt's existence.
There's no doubt that the songs here address the band's fear of their own mortality. But maybe Pearl Jam should have learned from their ruminations and let the past die.
Lightning Bolt is out 10/15.