Lightning Bolt Album Review
Monkeywrench, Republic Records
Released October 11, 2013
Genre: Alternative Rock, Hard Rock
Coming out with their first album in four years, Pearl Jam spontaneously reenter the music industry. Their latest studio album, Lightning Bolt, is something to be skeptical about but now it has become clear that their past is behind them and the new Pearl Jam is something worth appreciating. Songs like “Yellow Ledbetter,” “Better Man,” and “Just Breathe” are the reasons this band has thrived for so long, but this album has brought out new feelings of boredom and anguish.
There is a common theme expressed throughout the whole album. In many songs, there are great riffs, fills, and licks, by all the instruments, especially bass guitar, BUT they never seem to fit together. The music itself was as if the band had put no passion into this album, and were just going through the motions. The music was upbeat and grooving, but the passion that is usually present in Pearl Jam’s music, has flown right out the window. There are many transitional blips throughout many of the songs, namely “Yellow Moon” and “Swallowed Whole”, with their out-of-place guitar solos and unsteady bridges between verses. If the band spent a little bit more time putting some love into the music, and polishing up small details, this album would add to the collection of timeless classics from Pearl Jam.
Although, many flaws are obvious throughout the album, many positives stood out amongst the blemishes. The beginning of the album displays the strengths that Pearl Jam has come to have. Without any vocals, this album would be a Fantastic instrumental album, but with the vocals, everything seems lost and dismembered. An admirable aspect of the entire album could be the bass guitar, its contribution to the tracks carries the groove. It was audible for once, which many bands seem reluctant to try, makes a huge difference in pulse, beat, and overall effect of the album.
Songs like “Getaway,” “Pendulum,” and “Sirens” capitalize on the strong and vibrant bass guitar. The vocals, in their essence, are satisfactory and diverse, but not necessarily perfect for what the album needed. If Pearl Jam put a little bit more effort and passion into this album, they would rekindle the joy we receive from hearing a true, pure rock song. This album plays like the set list to play at a homecoming, a few upbeat songs to keep the dance going, but many slow songs for couple’s dances. As much fun as homecoming is, this is not a good thing.
Songs like “Lightning Bolt” and “Future Days” make the listener forget all about the great hits that Pearl Jam has ingeniously released in the past. Pearl Jam obviously struggles during these songs, emphasizing the mistakes that hurt their reputation and completely destroy the good vibes that were set as a foundation in the beginning of the album. “Getaway,” and “Mind Your Manners” bring out the grooving, energetic, lively Pearl Jam that we’ve come to love. Later on in the album, however, these feelings of hope for a new era of rock, are destroyed by songs like “Pendulum” and “Infallible.” Many songs in the album, like these, appear as outcasts compared to the rest of the songs on the album. The loose and disjointed songs detract from what Pearl Jam is really capable of.
Overall, I enjoyed the album for the few tracks that made me tap my foot and feel the energy. Tracks like “Getaway” and “Sirens” have excellent bass guitar parts, which are actually audible. Most bands today, unlike Pearl Jam who seem to actually focus on consistent instrumentals, only focus on specific parts of ok guitar solos or drum fills. This band has shown skill over the years, but this album removes the fond memories from past albums and replaces them with feelings of animosity. Sadly, this album disappointed me, breaking all trust I had with this band.
FAV TRACKS: Getaway, Sirens, Mind Your Manners
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Lighting Bolt, Swallowed Whole, and Yellow Moon
Noah Frey attends Jesuit College Prep. in Dallas, TX. His hobbies include sleeping, listening to the same song for hours without getting bored, and getting distracted eas-SQUIRREL!!!