on 17 October 2013
If I had reviewed this album last week when it was streaming on i-tunes I would have given it 2 stars. A few days later 3. A day later 4. And today 5. And in a year or 5 or 10 or more, I know this album will be one I revisit. Its Pearl Jam. I should have known not to trust my first listens. For me, the best Pearl Jam albums have been the ones I have grown into, No Code, Binaural and now Lighting Bolt. This is a band of unrivaled musicians. They are capable of crafting deep, multi faceted rock songs that don't just invade your head they invade your very soul, the very essence of who you are. Vedders vocal melodies are at times so odd you don't know how in the world it could ever be a singalong song, but there you are, belting it out at the top of your lungs. Pendulum is a stunning masterpiece, a new career high, it parts the album like Moses and the red sea. The first half is biting, fierce and infectious. The second half, deeper, more introspective, a little more soulful, and equally as brilliant as the first half. What an album. What a band. Listen and learn.
on 4 November 2013
As others have said, this album deserves a few listens and a little time to sink in before you make up your mind - if you're a Pearl Jam fan already, that probably isn't a surprise (No Code, Binaural, Riot Act - I'm looking at you). My opinion has changed dramatically since I first heard it. On first listen, I wasn't sure I liked it at all, beyond the singles Mind Your Manners and Sirens. Now, I'm sold and I finally get that this is meant to be an album of two halves. I just needed to go with the change in mood and tempo - you can't 'make' the second half keep up its momentum of punchy, punky, attitude, you just have to give in to the introspective, haunting, melancholic and atmospheric as soon as Pendulum hits. Interestingly, we seem to have two distinct moments in the two halves where a track stands out for being a little different. During the first half, it's Sirens, with its song of uncertainty and the fragility of life and love sandwiched between the biting, satirical notes of My Father's Son and the indomitable force at the heart of Lightning Bolt (whoever the female subject is, she kicks quite some arse). Despite the deep, dark theme, Sirens soars, lifts and ultimately gives us the possibility of hope and holding on to love, if only for the present. After Pendulum hits, we don't really get back up to the hard-hitting heights of Getaway and Mind Your Manners, we have to give in to introspection, a crepuscular atmosphere and the kinds of things that prey on our minds in the dark. Yet, among these songs of fear, longing and reminiscence, Let the Records Play bounces in with the feel of a 'last hurrah' (or 'Dad dancing at the disco', if we're going to be mean - tee hee), in all its glam-rocky pants-swinging glory. The second half of Lightning Bolt seems complicated, slightly hard work and initially less satisfying than the first but if you give it a chance to creep in, there is beauty and delicate, dark poetry to be had here - Yellow Moon is a sultry, Mark Lanegan-worthy example. The only part that jars with me is the version of Sleeping By Myself, which seems a facile, jaunty revamp compared to Eddie Vedder's sublime offering on Ukelele Songs. On that album, the simplicity of one tremulous voice and a ukelele deftly and subtly reveals the raw vulnerability which I feel is totally missing here - I feel incredulous and that's not something I thought I'd ever write about a song by a man who pretty much bleeds emotions into his music. Oh well, one dud on an otherwise sterling job of an album. I think, in time, I will grow to love Lightning Bolt even more.
on 18 October 2013
There's something very different about Pearl Jam on Lightning Bolt. Even though the opening three songs remind the listener of their hard rock roots, they retain much of the power we associate with them but there are a few unusual diversions along the way. Some of these work after repeated listening but others do not.
The opening track "Getaway" starts with an unusual groove before launching into a familiar emotive chorus. "Mind Your Manners" marries a punk ethos with Vedder's diatribe. The first of four songs that Jeff Ament is involved in writing, "My Father's Son", features some quirky but powerful lyrics. "Sirens" and the title track ease off the tempo. The former is unusual at first but it is a beautiful ballad that eases itself into your mind with each listen. The title track builds strongly but is let down by a slightly formulaic chorus.
With the strongest lyrics and melodies on Lightning Bolt, "Infallible" is one of the best things Jeff Ament has written. Another of his songs, "Pendulum", follows. It's dark and intense, with shades of "Nothing Is As It Seems'. With it's eerie sound effects, along with the other instruments that introduce themselves to accompany Vedder's quivering vocals, it is another highlight. Vedder's "Swallowed Whole" completes this middle section with another quality tune.
After a strong start Lightning Bolt gets bogged down with a few ballads. The best of those, "Sleeping By Myself", gets a different treatment compared to the version on Eddie Vedder's Ukelele Songs. Here it is upbeat and comes with a catchy, toe-tapping groove. "Yellow Moon's" refrain and lyric brings to mind CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" but sounds weak by comparison to his earlier contributions. "Future Days" starts like a pop ballad before a fiddle turns it into a dreamy ballad but it sounds unsure of itself.
While their self-titled album and Backspacer, they sounded reinvigorated as a band. With Lightning Bolter they sound settled into a groove and comfortable in their own skins whether they are playing hard rock, rockin' out or playing ballads.
on 15 October 2013
This is easily there best album in years. Most songs if not all are all worth listening to more than once, where as in the last four to five albums there as been more than one song on an album you will skip!
Such a good mix of tracks and Eddie is on superb form with his wonderful voice and lyrics.
This is up there with TEN, Vs. & VITALOGY and enjoying listening to whole album!
I am a first generation Pearl Jam fan. I was sixteen years old when "Ten" was released and they, together with Nirvana, Metallica, Guns 'n' Roses and Extreme, provided the soundtrack to my 1991, probably the first year in my life I actually started to pay attention to new music. Although I loved "Vs." almost as much as their first album, other albums after that didn't quite all hit the spot for me and Pearl Jam albums, over the years, have been hit and miss, although they nearly always have at least one or two worthy songs on each release. Still, I think it is fair to say that my love for Pearl Jam had seriously faded over the years, although a new album by the band is always of interest. I had already started to hear some positive noises about their tenth album, "Lightning Bolt" before its release, so I was expecting quite a good album when I first played it. On first listen, I was slightly nonplussed; it sounded fairly decent, but nothing special. On the second and third plays, some songs started to stand out and the album, as a whole, began to have a quality feel about it. After that, each time I have played "Lightning Bolt", I have pretty much loved the vast majority of it and it's now, to me, the best thing they have released since "Vs.", back in 1993. Yes, it takes a bit of time to get to know, but when you do, what a brilliant piece of work it really is.
Although not every single track is musical gold, the vast majority of the songs on this album are superb. The punky "Mind Your Manners", although slightly similar to "Spin The Black Circle" from 1994's "Vitalogy", provides an early highlight and the angry, throbbing rock of "My Father's Son" keeps the impetus going. "Sirens" is the first softer, melodic piece on the album, but definitely doesn't lack power, featuring an emotive guitar solo and wonderful vocal from Vedder; it's really beautiful music. "Infallible" is one of my personal favourites from the album (even if the chorus reminds me a little of Crowded House's "Pour Le Monde"), utilising the trick of having a minor key, bluesy verse and then a deeply melodic major key chorus perfectly. With its acoustic guitar riff, the utterly magnificent "Swallowed Whole" almost has an R.E.M. vibe to it and is a very strong challenger for best song on the whole album, as is the dark grooves and catchy chorus of "Let The Records Play". The charming, likeable "Sleeping With Myself" is my last pick from the record, with its ukulele and near-folky, bouncy feel, it's only the chiming, shimmering guitars that remind you that it's a Pearl Jam track. The album finishes with a couple of perfectly lovely songs, "Yellow Moon", which sounds like a number of other Pearl Jam songs, and the gentle, almost hymnal "Future Days"; not quite my favourite tracks from this release, but they're more than listenable and the latter, especially, has really grown on me.
Quite honestly, I love this album and "Lightning Bolt" has definitely rekindled my love of Pearl Jam. I saw them at the Isle Of Wight festival in 2012, before abandoning their set not even halfway through in favour of The Charlatans. If they were there next year and were playing the majority of this album, I really couldn't see myself doing that now. They've always been a very good band, but I've been waiting a long time for an album from them to rival their first two releases, in terms of enjoyment and quality; with "Lightning Bolt", it has finally happened. In fact, enjoyment is the key word here - I can't remember a Pearl Jam album that I've actually truly enjoyed this much for such a long time. These songs make me grin, they make me want to punch the air in time with them... hell, they even make me want to dance and I just don't do dancing (not when anybody is watching, anyway). Big fans of Pearl Jam will already have this album but I'd urge those who have fallen by the wayside over the years and have almost given up on hearing something truly special ever again from Eddie, Mike, Stone, Matt and Jeff to give this one a go, because it really is one of the best pieces of work they've ever put their name to.
on 14 October 2013
Intriguing, vibrant , heavy, textured, layered, rhythmical, rocky, raw, polished, and eminently listenable. Music with attitude. Attitude with style. Style with class. Top notch.
on 15 October 2013
....studio albums. And prior to the release of each one since 'Ten' I've asked myself "Will it be better than". It's a big ask, since 'Ten' is the best album I've ever heard.'Ten' has angst, mystique and a brooding, menacing sinister feel to it that has not been replicated by PJ over the last 22 years imo. The band is no longer a collective of angry young men, if indeed they ever were but they are older and wiser now and 'Lightning Bolt' is a reflection of that confident maturity. I'm usually not a big fan of Brendan O'Brien's production. I think he sometimes applies so much polish to the music that he renders it sterile however he always comes up trumps with PJ, they work well together. 'Lightning Bolt' feels like an extension to 'Backspacer'. A no frills example of perfectly executed rock music performed by musicians who proved, beyond doubt, many years ago that they could play. I've never been disappointed with any of their albums, they continue to never put a foot wrong imo which may render this review unhelpful however if you like just one of PJ's other albums you owe it to yourself to give 'Lightning Bolt' a try. You might not be disappointed.
on 16 October 2013
Pearl Jam have been the soundtrack to my life to date. I've followed their career from Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog days, and this is one of their best albums to date. All their previous albums have had some great tracks on them, but on this album, it seems that the moon and sun have aligned for the band...buy it, you won't be disappointed!
on 17 October 2013
I noted one review didn't rate the last 5 tracks as much as the first 7 and so I did listen thinking it would tail off. Far from it, the last 5 tracks are superb, they are accomplished and less rocking but more thoughtful and delightfully put together. Track 11 'Yellow Moon' is perhaps my favourite on the album, and I love them slipping into an almost country fused track in 'Sleeping By Myself'. 'Sirens' is another soaring stand out effort in which Vedder's voice conveys all his emotion.
If you've ever liked Pearl Jam at any part of their career, you'll love this I think. It is a superb listen.
It is also a great place to start if you've never bought one of their records before.
on 14 October 2013
This is a decent album. I'm a huge PJ fan and have to admit I wanted the album to be better than it actually is. That's not to say it's bad, not by any means. In fact the opening 8 tracks are pretty great. Yellow Moon too is good. I do however have some issues with the other songs. They're average at best and even contain some pretty cringeworthy lyrics. The net result is an album that teases the Pj fan with glimmers of greatness but ultimately falls short. A good album - yes. Will PJ fans like it? Yes. Do I like it? Yes. But it's not classic pearl Jam in the vein of Ten, Vs or Vitalogy. Nor can I honestly say it's better than Backspacer. At the end of the day it's a decent Pearl Jam album. Nothing more, nothing less. That leaves me with mixed feelings about what might have been - especially if they'd continued the momentum of the first half of the lp.