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Album review: Pearl Jam’s ‘Lightning Bolt’ better on second strike

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arts_pearljamPearl Jam serves up its specialty of grunge punk in their newest album “Lightning Bolt.” The music is ripe with familiar themes of angst and depression that the band has perfected in their more than 20-year career.

“Mind Your Manners” is the first single from the album, and it delivers the punk. It would be difficult for even the most conservative person not to head bang along to the heavy noise of the tune.

The anger releases itself again in “My Father’s Son” with heavy beats perfect for the mosh pit. The lyrics describe a man resenting his dad, a literal example of just the type of thing that gives punkers all that rage. Perhaps the concept is a little too cliché, but the well-executed delivery in the instruments saves the song from being too corny to enjoy.

Songs like these two present the angry side of Pearl Jam we have come to love. But others remind us they have another favorite side, too: depression. “Pendulum” boasts singer Eddie Vedder’s deep and somber vocals, and the simple yet powerful percussion brings an eerie element to the track. “Yellow Moon” has a guitar solo that’s soft enough to keep the downtrodden mood of the song, yet hard enough to be the centerpiece of the jam, especially if it were to be drawn out in a live performance.

Angst and despair aside, other songs like “Sleeping By Myself” and “Getaway” are upbeat rock ‘n’ roll, the former even offering a hint of folk. It goes to show that though Pearl Jam is a forerunner of ‘90s grunge, they have experimented with and developed on other genres as well. It is that effort and ability that has kept them from selling out or growing stale in their career.

The first time I listened to the songs on “Lightning Bolt,” I felt it left a lot to be desired. But on second listen, I could hear the essence of PJ that I felt at two separate shows sitting in the second row. Though the band on record is never as good as its shows, I think it’s safe to say that they still got it.

Grade: A- 

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