Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt

David Raposa

By David Raposa

on 10.24.13 in Reviews

Lightning Bolt

Pearl Jam
A Pearl Jam more comfortable with kicking out the ballads

It’s heartening to hear Eddie Vedder, now in his 23rd year as Pearl Jam’s frontman, holler, “I’m a volunteer amputee,” as if he’s still an angst-ridden surfer dude inadvertently at the vanguard of a seismic shift in popular music. While Pearl Jam’s punk rock spirit is willing, though, its musical heart has wandered. The band chose to release the rave-up “Mind Your Manners” as the album’s first single, but it ends up acting as a misdirect for the album proper. It’s the album’s second single — the stately and confident “Sirens” — that’s more representative of what Lightning Bolt, and modern day Pearl Jam, has to offer. The days when crowd-pleasing guitar-god rock anthems shared album space with willfully off-putting digressions are a thing of the past. Now, Vedder’s ukulele is fully integrated into the mix on “Sleeping by Myself,” and the desire to speak truth to power comes through more clearly in a less bombastic track like “Swallowed Whole.” No doubt the band will do right in a live setting to rock tunes like “My Father’s Son” and “Getaway.” However, as they enter their third decade, the version of Pearl Jam that convenes in the studio sounds much more comfortable kicking out the ballads.