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Monkeywrench

Freshcut

‘Lightning Bolt’ Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt” is a rock jukebox set to shuffle.

The Seattle survivors’ 10th studio album is erratically paced and skips from punk rock attacks to power ballads to AOR offerings in a schizophrenic playlist. Recorded over two years with longtime collaborator Brendan O’Brien and with four songwriters writing independently, it’s no surprise the LP often feels like a compilation album rather than a fully realized collection.

Like its 2009 predecessor “Backspacer,” “Lightning Bolt” kicks off with three stadium-leveling belters. The solid “Getaway” is piggybacked by furiously kinetic first single “Mind Your Manners” – and accusatory scream-a-long “My Father’s Son.”

Then comes “Sirens,” a slow-burning torch song built around the importance of love in the face of mortality. This is the most unashamedly sentimental song the band has ever released and stands to become a first dance fixture at weddings across the globe.

Elsewhere, there’s the Eddie Vedder-penned title track and “Swallowed Whole” – two enjoyable, mid-tempo rockers about the majesty of nature – and the ethereal “Pendulum”, which marries echo-laden, snaking guitar work and a whispered, conspiratorial vocal to stunning effect.

Pearl Jam’s recent albums have started with a bang, but ended with a whimper and “Lightning Bolt” is no exception. As Vedder intones on “Getaway,” “Sometimes you find yourself being told to change your ways – there’s no way.”

– Matthew Kemp, Associated Press

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