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Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam
Buy Lightning Bolt
Release Info

Album: Lightning Bolt
Release Date: 11th October, 2013
Label: Monkeywrench Inc.


In 1991, Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, catapulted the little-known Seattle-based band into superstardom. Nine studio albums, hundreds of unique live performances and hundreds of official live concert bootleg releases later, the band continues to be critically acclaimed and commercially successful -- with over 60 million albums sold worldwide.

Over the past twenty years, the band has remained a major force in rock and roll, as much for its aggressive loyalty to its social and political principles and restless experimentation as for its rock radio staples and bestselling albums.

In 2011, Pearl Jam celebrated their 20-year anniversary with a destination weekend in Alpine Valley, WI and toured Canada, South America, Central America, and Mexico. The band also released the film Pearl Jam Twenty along with an accompanying book and soundtrack as part of the anniversary celebration.

Pearl Jam will release their much-anticipated tenth studio album, Lightning Bolt, on Monkeywrench Records/Republic Records on October 15, 2013 in the US. Internationally, the album will be released on October 14, 2013 and distributed by Universal Music Group International. Produced by Brendan O’Brien, Lightning Bolt marks Pearl Jam’s first studio album since the highly acclaimed Backspacer, which was released nearly four years ago in September of 2009. Lightning Bolt is now available


October 15th, 2013. By Stuart Berman for Pitchfork

It’s been four years since the release of Pearl Jam’s last studio record, but it’s not like they’ve been far from view. In the interim, we’ve seen reissues of their two best albums (1993’s Vs. and 1994’s Vitalogy), three live collections, a slew of side-project activity, and a 20th-anniversary world tour capped by the release of Cameron Crowe’s documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. As that film illustrated, this band has much to be proud of, having survived sudden success and the attendant media scrutiny, a risky (at the time) rejection of MTV, grueling court battles with Ticketmaster over fair practices, fan backlash over the band’s more politicized gestures, horrible tragedies, and the overall collapse of the music industry with their arena-filling acumen intact.

And yet, even an exhaustive documentary produced by a super-fan like Crowe doesn’t have much to say about the band’s post-millennial output—because there’s really not a lot to say. Pearl Jam ceased long ago to be a band that makes records with any sense of occasion to them: no intriguing backstory, no conceptual constructs to shape the album’s identity, no new contemporary influences that might push them in an unexpected direction. You just get another nine to 13 Pearl Jam songs that—as per the quiet/loud division of 2004 anthology Rearviewmirror—can be easily slotted into one of two categories. (Even the tracklist sequences are invariably similar: the second song will be a no-fuss rocker that serves as the single, and the album will inevitably close with a wistfully earnest ballad.) Pearl Jam are arguably the only modern rock band of note that consciously moved away from its formative, hit-making sound—in the period spanning Vitalogy through to 2000’s Binaural—but came out the other side an even more traditional, predictable band. 

So if you’ve been paying any attention to Pearl Jam’s activities over the past decade, you already know what to expect from Lightning Bolt (and it’s certainly not a tribute to the Rhode Island avant-metal duo of the same name; heck, even the Pink Floyd comparisons bandied about in pre-release interviews seem offbase, unless your conception of Pink Floyd begins and ends with “Mother”). Like 2009’s Backspacer before it (and 2006’s Pearl Jam before it, and 2002’s Riot Act before it), Lightning Bolt begins with a spirited sprint before sputtering out and winding up in dullsville. The feeling of déjà vu is compounded by the strip-mined subject matter, as Eddie Vedder explores familiar themes of family strife and domestic unrest while once again celebrating the therapeutic powers of surfing and listening to music on vinyl.

If Pearl Jam can no longer recapture the sort of hot-wired intensity that once had Vedder stage-diving off festival scaffolding, they can at least still raise an inspired ruckus when the mood strikes: “Mind Your Manners”—a.k.a. “Spin the Black Circle Some More”—reformulates the original grunge cocktail recipe of mid-1970s hard rock and early 80s hardcore, with a chooglin’ intro reminiscent of early KISS deep cut “Parasite” that gets mowed down by a boot-stomping blitzkrieg, which in turn is blindsided by a sublimely melodic middle-eight. And “My Father’s Son” is the rare latter-day Pearl Jam rave-up to put the spotlight on bassist Jeff Ament, whose sense of groove—once the cornerstone of the band’s sound—has been deemphasized by band’s ever-growing propensity for straight-ahead, chug-a-lug rockers.

Despite their punk-schooled principles, Pearl Jam have never been shy about their debt to classic rock, but it’s usually good classic rock: The Who, Crazy Horse, the Stones. And while the upward-arced anthemery of the title track and “Swallowed Whole” continue to dutifully honor this holy trinity, Lightning Bolt also betrays the long-term diluting effects of spending too much time hanging on the right of the dial. “Let the Records Play” is boilerplate, bad-to-the-bone blooze, while the album’s centerpiece ballads tread on odious Lite-FM territory and forcefully tip the scales from poignant to maudlin, whether it’s the Goo Goo Dolls sheen of “Sirens” or the Hornsby-esque piano rolls of the closing “Future Days” (definitely not a Can cover) that made the song a natural fit for the closing sequence of last week’s "Grey’s Anatomy". (By contrast, the countrified lament “Sleeping By Myself” benefits from a lighter touch, thanks to a gleaming George Harrison-style guitar refrain that draws the cheekiness out of the song’s woe-is-me sentiments.) The Pearl Jam mythos as it exists today is undeniably wrapped up in their notoriously epic live shows, wherein the band is famous for loosening up and stretching out, but for whatever reason, that adventurous ethos rarely translates to their increasingly mannered albums. Pearl Jam on record have essentially been reduced to the rock ‘n’ roll version of wearing sweatpants: they’ve given up trying to impress anyone, so they may as well be comfortable.

15th October, 2013. Will Hermes for Rolling Stone

Here's what Pear Jam haven't done in the past decade: Broadway musicals, EDM remixes, VMA shucking-and-jiving. And more to the point, they haven't been making suck-ass, faded-glory, pro-forma LPs. Unlikely though it seems, the grunge survivors are now — Bruce Springsteen excepted — America's foremost torchbearers of classic rock.

Pearl Jam have become their heroes, but, like Springsteen, clearly do not want to become fat Elvis. So on their 10th LP, they overthink, overemote and overreach — fruitfully. If the party line on 2009's Backspacer was that it was PJ having "fun," Lightning Bolt is the sound of anger and brooding depression. In Pearl Jam terms, this is reason to be happy. 

Take "Mind Your Manners," the first single, a throw-yourself-around-the-room mix of Seattle mosh-pit metal and Bay Area snot punk that, at this late date, surely connotes "classic rock." Eddie Vedder dives into a screed about religion that announces, "They're taking young innocents/And then they throw 'em on a burning pile!" Elsewhere, "Infallible" chides "What, me worry?" types as our collective ship sinks, with Vedder's portentously huggable baritone making preacher-speak like "the hearts and minds of men" sound like wee-hours soul-bearing at the kegger.

This ability — with the band's exacting musicianship, storied integrity and respect for fans — is key to Pearl Jam's longevity. And it defines the album's most remarkable song, "Sirens," an Eighties-style power ballad recalling Creed, Nickelback and other acts who have taken Xeroxes of PJ's melodic hard rock to the commercial-radio ATM. 

How is this not cheesy? Because unlike so many power ballads, there's no self-impressed stink of emotional triumphalism: Vedder sounds honestly helpless in the face of his fear and gets that love salvation is at best "a fragile thing." Co-written with guitarist Mike McCready, it's simply airtight pop: modern yet retro, dramaheavy yet plain-spoken, inspiring yet haunted, with a piercing David Gilmour-flavored guitar break and a melody that sounds like an arena full of cellphones, aloft and glowing.

Many of the best songs are downtempo, reflecting the vibe of Vedder's more folk-rocky solo projects. "Pendulum" is a creepy unpacking of depression that nods to Edgar Allan Poe; "Yellow Moon" covers similar ground with a nod to Nick Drake; and the acoustic "Future Days," like "Sirens," is a fraught but uplifting love song. Then again, a full-band rereading of "Sleeping by Myself," the standout on Vedder's Ukulele Songs, loses the bittersweet loneliness of the original.

 The two most telling tracks invoke nostalgia for when rock albums carried more cultural weight. On the R.E.M.-Who hybrid "Swallowed Whole," Vedder declares he "could set the needle, spin it loud." And the dude in "Let the Records Play," a blues-rock romp with a touch of the Cramps, apparently cures his pain with LPs and a vaporizer — an ancient healing practice utilizing modern technology. That pretty much describes Pearl Jam, too.

14th October, 2013. Jessica Letkemann for BillBoard - Track-By-Track Review With Band Commentary

It's been four years since Pearl Jam's last studio album, but the band's inspired new effort "Lightning Bolt" (out Oct. 15 on Monkeywrench/Republic) proves to be more than worth the wait since 2009's "Backspacer," with 12 tunes exploring bad faith, mortality, the intricacies of deep commitment, and the state of the planet -- managing to groove, thrash and soar along the way.

Recorded over the course of two sessions, separated by over a year, the Brendan O'Brien produced "Lightning Bolt" benefited from the break, guitarist Stone Gossard tells Billboard. "We reacted to that first session, and I think having two to choose from elevated the material," he says. Having "seven songs recorded," during the earlier session, guitarist Mike McCready tells Billboard, "we were taking that favor to ourselves to take the time." He notes that 15 fresh ideas from the latter 2013 session translated into several new songs for "Lightning Bolt," including the title track and tender closer "Future Days."

Twenty-three years into its career, the Seattle band that never stopped crafting heartfelt, intelligent rock 'n' roll and blowing minds with it on stage, strides forward with a new album studded with highlights.

Here's a track-by-track look at Pearl Jam's 10th studio album "Lightning Bolt," with commentary from guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready for many of the songs.

1. "Getaway"
The album's "dark stormy weather" rolls in right away with muscular opener "Getaway" as Vedder sings about having to "put all your faith in no faith" and "holy rollers sitting with their backs to the middle" as Ament's bass follows him through the wave-like melody and the guitars slash around them. Ultimately, Vedder on his own path, singing "I got my own way to believe, it's ok." and "Mine is mine and yours can't take its place!"

2. "Mind Your Manners"
This ferocious sub-three-minute thrasher has been stomping eardrums since its release in July as the lead single from "Lightning Bolt." "I was listening to some Dead Kennedys at the time and I felt very moved by how East Bay Ray played guitar or what an anti guitar hero he was. I wanted to try to explore that," says McCready, who wrote the music." The song's precise placement in the track list makes perfect sense, as "Manners" picks up the "Getaway" thread taking aim against false righteousness and in a lot of ways, turns it up to 11, while McCready's riff and screaming hot solo wail and Matt Cameron's drums crash on. "Go to heaven, that's swell, how you like your living in hell?!" comes Vedder's furious howl at the end. "Jeff [Ament] added the stop to it and that made it more kind of punk rock sounding," McCready adds. "Ed [Vedder] gravitated toward the lyrics and was just screaming and really into it."

3. "My Father's Son"
One of Vedder's most sarcastic/caustic songs in awhile, featuring music by Ament, it finds the protagonist snarling "father you're dead and gone and I'm finally free to be me / thanks for all your f*cked up gifts for which I've got no sympathy." The weird, driving groove and and almost tropical bridge set the song appealingly askew. "Certainly the traits that are handed down by a father that you don't like having would be something that he's singing about," says McCready. "There's a real urgency that comes from when [Vedder] gets up into a certain register you can really see his strength as a vocalist and you can feel the lyric in a way that the lower keys don't let you have access to," says Gossard. "'My Father's Son' is one of the stand out tracks in terms of his vocal performance [and] lyrically."

4. "Sirens"
Plenty have called "Sirens" a power ballad, but that's far too reductive. The song matching Vedder's lyrics to McCready's music, aches sonically and vocally as Vedder contemplates love and mortality while listening to ambulances in the night. Here EV's familiar voice is at it's most gorgeous, particularly on the stunning lyric; "If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders." "Before it was called 'Sirens,' it was written two years ago. I was at Roger Waters concert and was completely blown away by 'The Wall," says McCready. "I wanted to write something that would have a Pink Floyd type feel." He continues, "We recorded a demo of it [but Vedder] didn't put the lyrics on it until the second time we went back in. . . I heard them the night that he put them on there and they just brought me to tears. This is Ed at his best in my mind."

5. "Lightning Bolt"
Debuted live at Chicago's "Wrigley Field" after a thunderstorm threw literal lightning bolts in the sky around the sold-out stadium, the title track puts Vedder's voice right up front as the verse about a mystery woman "like a burning meteor" that starts quiet but grows and expands with the storyline, until the band lifts off and he's riding the top like a wave. "I wonder who that's about," says McCready. "The cool thing is kind of not knowing. I can put in the context of what I feel and who I know just like you can…the important thing is what it means to you the listener."

6. "Infallible"
"There's a lot going on in that track. It's three dimensional, you can really hear each instrument playing," says Gossard, who co-wrote the song's music with Ament (the lyrics are Vedder's). "I think the melodies are so strong, the descending chords in the chorus and where Ed takes that vocally, it has this classic melody that is pretty instantaneous." Dark but not pitch-black, intricate and soaring all the same -- like many of Pearl Jam's best songs -- well-wrought "Infallible" builds and twists around sonic corners for nearly five-and-a-half minutes while Vedder sings of the ill-advised hubris of modern humans. "By thinking we're infallible, we are tempting fate instead," is the hook, as his voice climbs along with the riffs.

7. "Pendulum"
"'Pendulum' is actually a song that didn't make 'Backspacer,'" says Gossard. "We pulled that back out and worked on that a little bit more, we really were in love with it again." Eerie, with a hitch in its time signature, Vedder is hauntingly close and quiet until he hits a visceral note at 1:45 that goes right through you, "easy come easy go / easy left me a long time ago." Cameron's drums tick out the passing seconds, while EV's voice swings into the left channel, then the right, "to and fro / the pendulum throws" as he muses on our limited time alive here amid a spare mix that includes Ament's bowed guitar and Gossard's strategic bongos. Key to the song, Gossard explains, is "its simplicity; it's basically three or four chords, the whole thing, and it's really about a groove."

8. "Swallowed Whole"
Ringing, almost Byrds-ian guitars along with a quick-strummed undercurrent propel EV's evocative mid-tempo rocker finds him communing with nature, feeling the sun, wind and oceans current and "breathing in forgiveness." Thoughts of "what lies beyond the grave" come with the equanimity of "time will come / come what may."

9. "Let The Records Play"
Gossard turns in a full-on boogie wherein Vedder, no stranger to writing songs about the restorative power of playing music (see "Spin The Black Circle"), tells the tale of a man who "let's the drummer's drum take away the pain" as "he let's the records play" before the band stomps into a good 'ol rave up.

10. "Sleeping By Myself"
Most Pearl Jam fans will recognize this as a song first released as a heartbroken, spare uke tune from Vedder's 2011 solo album, "Ukulele Songs." Here, with the whole band taking part, the song takes on a jaunty bounce.

11. "Yellow Moon"
A solemn Ament song with Vedder lyrics, "Yellow Moon" almost didn't make the album, according to both guitarists. McCready championed it, however. "We ended up moving the key a little bit and that really brought the vocal out more in a really interesting way. But the odd time signature of that song creates something unique about that song," says Gossard. "In terms of a lead," explains McCready, "I feel that that was trying to actually write a beautiful part of a person ascending."

12. "Future Days"
"Lightning Bolt" closes with this delicate ballad, completely written by Vedder, which sings of looking ahead into time and seeing love last strongly into those "future days," with the friends lost along the way (Vedder told Billboard the song's "crooked hearts" is a reference to the Frogs' Dennis Flemion, who drowned accidentally last year) and other "hurricanes and cyclones" of life just bringing them closer. "I think it'll be one of those that people cry to, hopefully get a little closer to their loved ones when they hear it," says McCready. "I was feeling that that night [at Wrigley Field in July when Pearl Jam debuted it]. I was feeling it with the whole crowd."

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