‘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