|Album Rating: B|
Lightning Bolt is the band's first album since 2009's Backspacer, an album that was met with mixed reviews. Lightning Bolt doesn't innovate or evolve off of the band's past few albums. Their standard, almost garage-rock tones are a significant change from their grunge roots, but the band plays it well. But after a four year wait between albums, Lightning Bolt feels like a bit of a let down. If the record came out shortly after Backspacer, this wouldn't be much of an issue, but after a lengthy wait, one would expect more from such a legendary band.
Pearl Jam, and in specifically Eddie Vedder, still have all the energy and emotion from the early 90's. Vedder's voice is as iconic as ever, as he growls and belts his lungs out throughout the record. The opening track, "Getaway," is a straight-forward rocker that leans right into the first single, "Mind Your Manners," Pearl Jam's pseudo-sequel to 1994's "Spin The Black Circle." This brief moment of jolted punk is one of the highlights of Lightning Bolt, and only makes the listener yearn for more songs like this. "My Father's Son" presents Vedder at his full height of emotion, with a building verse near the end of the track that reminds us just how vivacious Vedder has been, and still is as a vocalist. The ballad-esque "Sirens" is the most somber of Lightning Bolt's tracks, and it showcases the band's subtlety and grace. With haunting melodies and some fantastic guitar playing, it is another standout track.
While the title-track is another straight-forward rock tune, the second half of the album tends to falter and drag on slightly. A few of the tracks are somewhat forgettable and formulaic, and others just don't work as well as intended. "Let The Records Play" is a nice attempt at a blues melody, but just doesn't sound exactly right as a Pearl Jam song. The rerecorded version of "Sleeping By Myself," from Vedder's solo album Ukulele Songs, feels lackluster and rushed. The song would've benefited from a more significant change, either in slowing it down, or making it more of a rock song.
The last two tracks both find Pearl Jam in their more quiet moments, and while compared to previous album closers, they fall short, although they are pleasant. "Future Days," and its string section is a nice end to the album, but it is just that; nice.
Lightning Bolt is a solid rock album and fits well into the Pearl Jam catalogue. For a band this experienced and well-loved, it would've been exciting to see them experiment more and innovate like they have in the past, but if Pearl Jam is comfortable and releasing more albums, who can complain?
2. Mind Your Manners
3. My Father's Son
5. Lightning Bolt
8. Swallowed Whole
9. Let The Records Play
10. Sleeping By Myself
11. Yellow Moon
12. Future Days