Music Review: Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt (2013)

Pearl Jam Lightning Bolt

Purchase Pearl Jam Lightning Bolt

The anomaly that is Pearl Jam continues to roll on with the release of “Lightning Bolt.” Somehow Pearl Jam became the forerunners of the grunge movement based on their look, their geographic location and their surroundings. “Ten” had many elements of the grunge sound, but was always firmly rooted in the classic rock sound. While other bands bands of that movement, namely Nirvana practiced what they preached during the grunge era, Pearl Jam continued doing their thing.

While none of their releases have come close to “Ten,” we are always hoping that the lightning caught in the bottle would come back one day. That is not to say that nothing that they have released is good. On the contrary, each album has become its own statement on society at that point and there have been some really good songs, but as a collection, “Ten” is their one complete album that everyone refers to them by.

Their tenth studio album, “Lightning Bolt,” surely packs a punch with many elements on display throughout its entire run time. The first two songs come out of the gate like ass-kickers. Getaway is innocent enough from the outset, but turns into a charger that gets the energy charged up for what’s to come. With its pointed lyrics and great vocal melodies, it is a great way to open the album.

Mind Your Manners is a throwback piece to their punk roots and comes out as one of the better fast songs that they have written in quite a few years. My Father’s Son is a song with some deep lyrics that you need to dig in to.

Sirens could well be the standout of the album and it is oddly enough not a very Pearl Jam-like song. Eddie Vedder puts his melodic vocals on display on this one and it ends up being one of the most beautiful, melodic songs that I have heard in a long time. The guitar lines are layered and smooth and the melodic solo is perfect for this one.

The title track, Lightning Bolt, has a sound and feel to it like a song from Bruce Springsteen himself, which is one of the few remaining rock acts that is still releasing solid music. Its sound is huge and should be one of the songs that appeals to the older audience of which has become a large part of the band’s audience.

The ambient Pendulum is not your run of the mill Pearl Jam song with its tone or pace, but becomes a deep piece with some solid acoustic guitar tones.

After midway through the album, there are some good ones and some forays into various sounds, some which work and some which do not. At the end of the album, you want nothing more than to put the album on again, so that is a true sign of a successful release.

Lightning Bolt” finds Pearl Jam getting deeper and deeper into the genre that fits their age and could be one of the best options out there to go to for “new” classic rock. Most of their once rebelious youth fans have already moved on, but coming from someone who was there since day one, Pearl Jam is still a highly impressive band. Perhaps older and wiser, Pearl Jam displays that they can play like their were still young with the angst that they once had. Regretfully, “Lightning Bolt” comes out as a safe play, but still pretty good.

Lightning Bolt Track Listing:
1. Getaway
2. Mind Your Manners
3. My Father’s Son
4. Sirens
5. Lightning Bolt
6. Infallible
7. Pendulum
8. Swallowed Whole
9. Let the Records Play
10. Sleeping by Myself
11. Yellow Moon
12. Future Days

Pearl Jam Line-up:
Jeff Ament – bass guitar, background vocals
Matt Cameron – drums, background vocals
Stone Gossard – guitar
Mike McCready – guitar, six string bass
Eddie Vedder – vocals, guitar, ukulele

Lightning Bolt Additional Personnel:
Ann Marie Calhoun – strings
Boom Gaspar – piano, keys
Brendan O’Brien – piano on Future Days, mixing, production

  • fearshop

    I hear you. I was never a believer in them being lumped in as grunge. I can see their work with Temple of the Dog as being grunge. Ten had some elements, but was always more rock. They had more of the grunge look than the grunge sound.

  • Devil’s Chord

    I’m hugely into metal, but Pearl Jam greatly appeals to me. They seem down to earth and sincere and put out really high quality rock. I never considered them grunge at all. Grunge to me is Mudhoney, Nirvana, and the like. Pearl Jam never had that wreckless, sloppy, noisy sound that I think defines “grunge.” (Which, I love as well, by the way: Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, SoundGarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Melvins – all good stuff.)

  • James DePaolo

    I knew one of us would review it. I am such a huge fan of Pearl Jam, great live band. The new record I think is their best record in the last ten years easily. I am starting to see this tilt towards adult contemporary with some of the ballads…Just Breathe last time around, Sirens this time. Hard to believe this band has been around for what 22 years now…