Not so long ago a new Pearl Jam album would have been met with much bigger fanfare and chatter. Debates springing up about which song was worthy of comparison to the smash hits of twenty or Vs. Front page spreads and cover stories featuring Eddie Vedder front and centre, the permanent face of the band since inception.
Now, however, a new Pearl jam album is seen as a nostalgic bolt from the ether. An aging rock band from another time and era. Middle aged rebels still kicking against the pricks and unloading their trademark grunge sound to a flurry of half interested youngsters who enjoy being hip, and the diehards who like to complain that they have been sliding downhill since – at least – 2000’s Binaural, and at most, since the final chords rung out on Vitalogy (1994.) A band who now is little more than a footnote in a genre that bloomed beautifully and had its renaissance in the early 2000’s – and now are a touring cabaret act clutching hopelessly at past glories. In a way, I don’t blame them. That said, these doubters are really missing out on some truly lovely song writing and Vedder sounding like he has a fire in his belly again on this – the bands eleventh studio album.
Everyone seems to be at their best again, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready are absolutely on fire throughout Gigaton, Jeff Ament maintains a solid spine with his basslines and groove and Matt Cameron is absolutely playing out of his skin – bringing a tonne of nuance and subtle flare to drive each and every song. Meanwhile, Vedder sounds like he is channelling the spirit of David Byrne alongside his own inimitable character – and elevates the music from Grunge-lite into Avant Garde art-rock. Indeed, on more than one track they sound like Talking Heads with a rocket in their arse. This is a side of Pearl jam that we have seen flashes and cameos from – and now, they are fully formed and celebrated. It’s a good look on them, and one which allows them to branch their trademark sound into weird and wonderful arenas. Lead single “Dance of The Clairvoyants” is probably the best example of this new sound. They relish the chance to experiment, and for once, there is a quiet joy bubbling under the angst and the misery they are famed for employing.
Tracks like “Alright” bring their former selves to the front, harking back to well tread ground – but that’s not to say it isn’t a good song, it is very good in fact. Emotive, heartfelt, slow tempo, and highlights Vedder’s incredible range. In many ways, it is the beating heart of the album. Pearl Jam are back, older, wiser, less jaded and experimenting… not only musically, but with composition, genre bending and harmonically – this is band so comfortable in their own skin that nothing can phase them anymore. They have earned their dues, and they have stomped every circuit, and they are back with some of the best work they have created in years and years. It’s great to have them back.