Is Pearl Jam's New Album "Lightning Bolt" THE SHIT Or Just Shit?

Reading reviews these days is essentially pointless because you could just as easily truck on over to your streaming site of choice, listen to the album, and form your own opinion.  Buuuut, since you're already here, then allow us the pleasure of listening to the new Pearl Jam album for you.  Afterwards, we'll tell you whether you like it or not.

Keep in mind that we are not, by any stretch, big fans of Pearl Jam.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  See, back in the day, a rave review of their first album, Ten, led us to investigate this new "grunge" movement.

Needless to say, we weren't nearly as impressed as the millions who raised the band's profile to that of the Stones to Nirvana's Beatles and so began our decade-long loathing of everything Pearl Jam.
But a funny thing happened on our way to listening to the band's last studio album, 2009's Backspacer.  It turns out that when PJ dispense with the grunge posturing and just kick out the jams motherfucker, they're actually capable of turning in stellar tunes like "The Fixer" and "Just Breathe".

Was Backpacer a detour or a sign of things to come?



Four years later, we get our answer in the form of Pearl Jam's tenth studio album, Lightning Bolt.  Whereas Backspacer showed the band embracing a more pop-oriented writing style, Lightning Bolt sees them eschewing such  immediacy for a slow build that grabs you without knowing and then refuses to let go.
The title cut and "Let The Records Play" are both energetic doses of guitar-driven commentary delivered by a singer in Eddie Vedder who has obviously learned a few tricks over the years.

Sure, there are the occasional songs that see him fall back on the mewling vocal style that influenced the likes of Scott Stapp, but Lightning Bolt is most remarkable for being a showcase for Vedder's intensely nuanced vocals.  In other words, the man can really fucking sing and, on this record, its all the rest of the band can do to keep up.

Will old school PJ fans dig the new LP as much as we did?  The answer, of course, depends on whether such fans merely want their heroes to record Ten, Part Two or to continue to push against those confines.  While both factions will find at least something to like on Lightning Bolt, the latter will flip their wigs at how Pearl Jam has managed to relay outrage and urgency in subtle ways rather than by trying to hammer their way through like they did through much of the '90s.

Verdict:  It's a winner.

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