Pearl Jam – Gigaton

Pearl Jam - Gigaton review. Grunge alternative rock band

I’m a big fan of Pearl Jam! I’ve felt strongly about them since I was a kid. Look, I can show you pictures of me putting on their records and videos of me singing their songs. See, I have a lot of emotional investment in the band! And, I am genuinely happy that they are making music. New music too! I just, for all my will power, cannot get emotionally invested in their latest record, Gigaton. Not more than I would about any hard-working group working on their sound in their garage. It’s a great idea! But, I guess their kids will just have to sit through it all.

I’m a big fan of Pearl Jam! I’ve felt strongly about them since I was a kid. Look, I can show you pictures of me putting on their records and videos of me singing their songs. See, I have a lot of emotional investment in the band! And, I am genuinely happy that they are making music. New music too! I just, for all my will power, cannot get emotionally invested in their latest record, Gigaton. Not more than I would about any hard-working group working on their sound in their garage. It’s a great idea! But, I guess their kids will just have to sit through it all.

Pearl Jam - Gigaton review. Grunge alternative rock band
Source: consequenceofsound.net/

With that being, I did sit through it all. And, lemme tell you this record does not go by in a breeze. There’s something to be said about a band refusing to play into its strengths. To the wider audience, Pearl Jam has always been the earnest grunge era group, capable of producing radio anthems.

Pearl Jam have embraced classic rock, palling around with some of rock music’s biggest names. And, they’ve been embraced in the process, with hardly a Rock n Roll Hall of Fame procession being organized without the intervention and approval of Eddie Vedder.

Pearl Jam concerts are true events, organized in a manner hoped to benefit their fans, not merely draw from their financial resources. These concerts are recorded and cataloged, making the group a virtual Grateful Dead for the digital age.

In short, Pearl Jam has survived when many of their contemporaries did not. And, they have wethered a few strong storms valiantly. They have produced more than a couple of classic albums. And their sound, a sound they’re looking to get away from even on Gigaton, has been perhaps the most often imitated style of bands trying to get on rock radio. Alright. Now that that’s outta the way.

Early Pearl Jam this is not

In appearance, Gigaton stands alongside No Code as one of the more exploratory Pearl Jam albums. To be fair, No Code is ranked highly. And, the influences the group draws from on this release, 80s alt-rock, indie and, even, world music, are well respected. All the ingredients are ripe and tasteful. But, woe is me, that formula may be enough to make Mike McCready want to start a reggae band.

Source:
Loudwire/Melina Dellamarggio

Who ever said is best experienced with headphones on, as the production sounds crisp and brings the individual member’s instrumental prowess to the forefront. Vedder is angry and means business. But, lyrics such as Home is where the broken heart is/Home is where every scar is make it difficult for listeners to jump on board with his cause.

Superblood Moon is the album’s best number by a longshot. It’s also the only fun number on the record. Not fun in terms of lyrical content. Instead, it moves away from the monotony of the rest of the record with a clear hook that has even Eddie Vedder humming la-la-las.

Dance of the clairvoyants, the first single of off Gigaton, is the group’s letter of intent for this latest foray into the recording studio. Its production is new territory for Pearl Jam. The disjointed vocal lines and funky bass tone echo the Talking Heads. Quite obviously! The eccentricity though risks being lost against lyrics that once again are semi-impenetrable.

The rockers, the experiments and acoustic numbers on the new Pearl Jam album

Quick escape, a song dominated by Jeff Ament’s basslines plays like a tense roadtrip song. It turns towards the band’s strengths, thankfully. Ament then provides another of the album’s more earnest moments, the song Alright, a poetry recitation marked by almost-tribal sounding drums.

What ever happened to Pearl Jam? Well, the good and bad news is that on some songs the Seattle band sounds just like you would expect. Seven O’clock, Never destination do that but don’t quite hit the spot.

Neil Young affected Comes and goes with its acoustic, campfire & heavy mind is a neat song. But, it unravels in 6-minutes of, basically, the same chord structure. River Cross, the album’s closer, and another of Vedder’s compositions is nearly as long. Indeed the singer’s songs tend to be the longest, most dramatic and least musically developed numbers on the record.

Eddie Vedder seems to have a lot to say on Gigaton. This, if you’re not new to PJ is what you’d expect. This is great in principle. But, what is the meaning behind these set of Pearl Jam songs?

Where other records expressed anger, joy, or despair, this one expresses concern. It’s not concern about one thing. It’s a general sense of dread about the world. That’s a bit vague for a band once capable of the simplicity and emotional punch of songs like Betterman and Black. Decades into our relationship with the former Mookie Blaylock garage rockers, is this the time to get subtle?

The single Stone Gossard contribution to the album, Buckle up

Pearl Jam songs have always benefitted from being assembled by elite personnel. Stone Gossard was the driving force behind the group’s magnum opus, Ten. Songs like Evenflow, Once and Black were penned under the weight of his tectonic arena-rock riffs.

Buckle Up is one of the most satisfying Pearl Jam numbers recorded in years. It’s no surprise then that it was written by Stone Gossard, the man who helmed the group’s early output. What is surprising though is that this is the single song on Gigaton that he is credited with writing on his own. It’s also one of the only songs on the record where the parts don’t sound stitched together from different songs. Concerned fans may want to get a Let Gossard to write the next Pearl Jam album petition going.

It’s not like Pearl Jam did not continue making good records after their first couple of releases. Vitalogy, their third album, already showed a winning combination of experimentation and bi rock numbers. On Yield and No Code the band disguised themselves to good effect. Riot Act had the band shedding all pretense once more. 2013’s Lightning Bolt was alright if a bit of a chore to play in its entirety.

There’s terrific pedigree to this assembly of Pearl Jam band members. Matt McCready was the Hendrix of a generation obsessed with power chord slacking. Matt Cameron, who also played with fellow grunge icons Soundgarden, is known as one of the best drummers in the known cosmos. Funkster bassist, Jeff Ament, has been the band’s animus. Then there is Eddie Vedder. If Fela Kuti described himself as The President of Afro Beat, then Eddie Vedder may be the world leader of alternative rock.

But, then here’s the problem. Even a speech from the commander-in-chief do-gooder can start sounding a bit dull after a while. Gigaton is one long speech from one of rock’s most recognizable voices. The only issue is that sometimes Vedder chooses to speak in tongues, while other times it’s a speech we’ve heard before. His attempts are valiant, but it’s difficult to feign an interest this time.

Look here! I adore Pearl Jam. I am more than glad that they are making records still. It’s just a shame that this one is very hard to sit through.

Author: Eduard Banulescu

Eduard is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications including FootballCoin, Extra Time Talk, Fanatik, Sportskeeda, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com Eduard is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.

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