Music, Reviews

Pearl Jam, ‘Gigaton’ review

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For those of us who musically came of age in the 1990s, Pearl Jam need no introduction. They were one of the biggest bands in the world at the time, one quarter of Seattle’s ‘Big Four’ – the others being Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and, of course, Nirvana.

Their debut album Ten, released in 1991, was a huge sensation at a time when brooding hard rock was all the rage. Containing the hits ‘Alive’, ‘Even Flow’ and ‘Jeremy’, Ten was a slab of dirty rock n’ roll polished up pretty for the masses. Lyrically, it was earnest and dark, and vocalist Eddie Vedder gave us a baritone the likes of which we hadn’t heard before and haven’t heard since.

Fast forward to 2020 and the music scene has changed drastically. It has been seven years since their last album Lightning Bolt, which was a solid but unremarkable release. Pearl Jam are never going to release an album that sounds radically different to what they’ve produced before, the interest lies in whether they can still put out an album that warrants many listens.

Lead off tracks ‘Who ever Said’ and ‘Superblood Wolfmoon’ are satisfying but standard fare. Things get very interesting with third song ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’. It’s one of the best songs they’ve produced for a long time and is something entirely new for them. It channels 80s electro tinged pop rock and comes with a super groovy bass line courtesy of Stone Gossard.

[It’s] an uneven but overall fine album, that gets extra marks for experimentation.

New single ‘Quick Escape’ is another fantastic track driven by a memorable bass groove. Climate change is a theme that pops up throughout the album and the existential threat that it poses is starkly presented on ‘Quick Escape’. ‘Alright’ is a song to soothe the distressed and is another track to feature innovate electronic elements.

‘Never Destination’ is a rocker backed by an electro beat and is more satisfactory than the lead off tracks. ‘Take the Long Way’ is an up-tempo riff rocker penned by drummer Matt Cameron. It’s not without its charm but ‘Never Destination’ is better.

‘Buckle Up’ is amazing. It’s the best song on the album along with ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’. Vedder sings sweetly over manipulated acoustic guitars, keyboards and a fine bass line. ‘Comes then Goes’ could be a Vedder solo track. It is also of a high pedigree.

Vedder has been playing the beautiful but sombre closing tune ‘River Cross’ live for some time. It is filled out here and is an excellent way to close an uneven but overall fine album, that gets extra marks for experimentation.

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