Pearl Jam Strikes Back
Having been born in the seventies, and having gone through the musical nightmare known as the eighties, I hit the early nineties with a desire for real music. I grew up with Led Zepplin and ZZ Top only to be disappointed by things like Flock of Seagulls and New Kids on the Block.After graduating high school, I was redeemed by a resurgence of music played by real musicians. One of these bands I latched on to was also one of the bands that ushered in the grunge scene, Pearl Jam.
I had the privilege of living in Seattle in the mid nineties, in the heart of the grunge territory. There were a number of occasions that I was able to meet some of the founders of this movement. Most by just pure chance, like meeting Mike McCready when he came to dine late one night at the Denny’s where I worked. Ah, what a time to be a young musician in Seattle. The sound was fresh and the country had a new genre of music.
Pearl Jam lead by Eddie Vedder, was the “poster child” of grunge. There were many before them but they were the one of two bands (Nirvana being the other) that brought America’s attention to this scene. Their music was raw and powerful. Like nothing we had ever heard before. The power and emotion this band put into their music, immediately inspired people around the country. Lyrics and vocals that sometimes seemed out of step with the music but it still all made sense. It was like having a good acid trip and you didn’t even need the acid.
Their newest album release, “Lightning Bolt” is very reminiscent of the grunge days of old but with a more mature sound to it. Now, I’m not talking the same kind of maturity that bands like “Live” tried to show us with “Secret Samadhi”. That was just a little out there for me. But with a maturity that says, “we have written for the fans and the industry, now we just want to write good music”. And that’s what this album is.
Not since Weird Al got early onset dementia, has anyone ever been so excited to find an accordion.
It opens with “Getaway”, a song that is indicative of the typical Pearl Jam sound, but cleaner and crisper. In fact, the first three songs of the album will cater to your love of this band. But don’t be fooled by Lightning Bolt‘s introduction. It will very much surprise you as they take you through a musical journey that passes outside the bounds of typical Grunge. For example, the track “Let The Records Play” has a very blues feel to it that you never would have seen coming. Or “Sleeping By Myself” which has a very country feel to it. All of which surprised me but they did such a good job that it felt natural.
All in all, I loved the entire album. And that’s saying a lot for the musician of 30 years who has never liked everything on a Pearl Jam album. I honestly think this may be some of their best work. And the best part of all, I can understand Eddie better than any other album I have heard.