PEARL JAM Gigaton gets 5.5/10

Pearl Jam



With release of first single Dance of the Clairvoyants earlier this year, Pearl Jam appeared to finally be heading off in a new direction. It followed almost 30 years of adhering to their tried and tested formula, which admittedly, had entrenched them as the last band standing from the Seattle grunge movement that erupted across the world in the 1990s.

With that in mind, the new album Gigaton should have signalled a reawakening of sorts, and many have actually been looking forward to a new release from Pearl Jam for the first time in some 20 years. To say it’s disappointing would be an understatement.

Gone are the trademark anthemic classics from their earlier recordings, replaced by more introspective and, dare I say, at times quite bland musical offerings. Listening to the album, you can kind of see where they were trying to go musically but, for whatever reason, they just miss the mark. It strikes as somewhat schizophrenic at times. As if they want to move on and evolve as a band while still being somewhat wary of moving away from their signature sound that brought them to the dance in the first place.

That said, Gigaton may still appeal to the band’s legion of long adoring fans. It’s not all doom and gloom and I’ve had the misfortune of having to listen to far, far worse musical offerings than this. Gigaton finds Eddie Vedder sounding more engaged and in finer form lyrically than we’ve heard in many a year. With his distinctive voice and phrasing moving from angst to foretelling sage, he delivers lines that seem almost prophetic, considering the crazy state of the world that we’re living in at the moment. “Sitting bullshit as our sitting President/ Talking to his mirror, what’s he say, what’s it say back?”, he asks in Seven O’Clock, one of the better tracks on the album.

For mind though, the last three tracks on the album are the standouts and are about as far as you can get from the previously mentioned anthemic sing-a-longs of their early years. Comes Then Goes is a bluesy acoustic creeper, while Retrograde and River Cross are sparse and airy numbers. These songs allow Vedder’s vocals to soar high above the cut back band, with the use of the pump organ and lyrical content in the latter evoking thoughts of Neil Young, which is never a bad thing.

At this stage of their career, I view Pearl Jam the same way as I do bands such as The Rolling Stones, U2 and others of that ilk. They’re a band that have deservedly survived for so long and built such a legion of fans that they’re going to move a massive number of albums regardless of what they put out, and to their credit, they have tried to bring something fresh to the table. While Gigaton doesn’t quite hit the mark, most bands would kill to have a body of work that could even come close to achieving what Pearl Jam have. But despite being their longest, Gigaton isn’t their finest hour.


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