Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Ears & Fingers 10/17/23

by Jason Leger
Pearl Jam – ‘Lightning Bolt’
The following statement is not necessarily a matter of opinion:  Pearl Jam matters. In the landscape of what is important within the world of popular rock music, Pearl Jam will always matter. The band has written its chapter well enough that they could vanish from the map right now and there would never be a moment in their catalog where one could observably say, “This is where they fell off and became immaterial.” While the band’s post-“Vitalogy” career hasn’t been all high points, they have never released a “Re-load,” they have never made a desperate publicity stunt, and they will never allow Chester Bennington to sing for them. To say the very least, Pearl Jam’s integrity as a band speaks volumes about the five men within, and gives a glimpse of the ethical dynamics which have ensured that Pearl Jam have claimed a spot in music history by their own merit.

“Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album, comes 22 years after the release of their breakthrough, “Ten,” and finds the band, above all else, comfortable. This is what came to mind for me when I watched Pearl Jam at DeLuna Fest, one year ago this month. They’re five men who are masters at their craft and they are completely comfortable in the music they are playing and writing. There is plenty to grasp onto during the 48 minutes of “Lightning Bolt,” including poignancy in songs like second single “Sirens,” and the lean catchiness in songs like opener “Getaway,” or the album’s title track. This new long player offers what Pearl Jam always has, accessible alternative rock, while displaying the growth and confidence the band has experienced in its 23 years together. With every new album, there is also a sense of fear when it comes to one of my favorite bands:  “Please, God, don’t let this be their ‘Coda.’” Pearl Jam pleasantly surprise and impress every time, and I feel foolish for having my doubts. One day, I’ll learn. “Lightning Bolt” is out now via Monkeywrench Records/Republic Records.

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