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.
If You Haven’t Heard: White Denim
Sometimes, you don’t really notice that something is missing until something else presents itself to fill the unseen void. Over the past few years of indie rock, there have been revivals of several styles of music from the past few decades. British punk, new wave, blues rock, and disco have all seen their share of the revamp spotlight in the past 10 years or so. Southern rock had quite the revival in My Morning Jacket, early Kings of Leon, and Drive-By Truckers continuing to do what they do best. However, all the while there was a particular brand of Southern rock, infectious and easy to groove with, most notably made famous by bands like Molly Hatchet and .38 Special, which maintained a small scale in the Southern rock redux.
Texas’ White Denim has stepped up to the plate to fill this gap, and they are more than qualified. When I first heard them a couple of years ago with their album “D,” I had a difficult time connecting. It was riffy psychedelic rock, which honestly felt half-hearted and forgettable. When I discovered new single, “Pretty Green,” I wasn’t all that excited to listen to it. With one play, everything I thought I knew about White Denim vanished, and I realized they had grown into what they were meant to be. Still riff heavy, but now much more refined and infused with Southern party rock and plenty of soul, new album, “Corsicana Lemonade,” is guaranteed to hook and satisfy. Check out the video online for “Pretty Green” and be on the lookout for “Corsicana Lemonade,” out October 29 via Downtown Records.