AlternativeNation.net representative Joost attended the listening party in Amsterdam for Pearl Jam’s new album Lightning Bolt. He has shared the following track by track first impression review of the album:
Ed sings about ‘Dark stormy weather’ over an pounding bass driven riff. It sounded ‘contemporary’, heavy and light at the same time. Dark lyrics but incredibly catchy melodies. The song boasts two blistering Mike solos and really strong vocals by Ed. A rocking pop tune akin to The Fixer or Breakerfall (not that they have much in common) but less classic rock. It leans more contemporary (like the Arctic Monkeys and The Killers had a lovechild).
Mind Your Manners:
A good hard punch after a “Getaway” rounding out a strong combo to start this record.
My Father’s Son:
When they tried ‘new wave’ type songs on Backspacer they only succeeded on “Got Some”. They also succeed here with tight playing, heavy bass, and a weird bridge (a ‘typical’ Matt bridge). There’s a lot going on in this bridge. It was not an experimental song. I already want to hear it again. Another dark heavy pop tune.
The song that some already say is the best the band has ever written. Well, it could very well be a sleeper and the one I will like the most in about a year or so. But on first listen it didn’t do much for me. Until Sirens, Pearl Jam never came as close to an ‘eighties’ power ballad. Mike wrote this song and is very proud of it, he said on the EPK (which featured interviews done by: Judd Apatow, Carrie Brownstein, and more). Not impressed with this one on first listen.
After being slightly disappointed by Sirens, Lightning Bolt felt like a celebration. We’ve all heard the live version of which I was not too keen. But it does sound much better on album. It reached higher than “Unthought Known”. Still, a song that Eddie could write in his sleep. But it’s not a nightmare.
My first notes say: YES, YES, YES!!! This is exactly what I wanted from a new Pearl Jam record. They cover new ground here. Another bass heavy track (probably written by Jeff who owns this record). Excellent use of keyboards and weird effects. Lots of harmonies in vocals and instruments. Did I hear a cowbell (not sure on that)? It was the song I liked the most and their most experimental one in a decade. It’s hard to describe. If you have heard Jeff’s latest solo record While My Heart Beats, you can get a feeling of what to expect here. Think Incubus goes Achtung Baby, for the lack of a better description.
Remember that tour announcement video Pearl Jam posted some time ago with a mystery new song clip? If you liked the weird sounds you were hearing then you will love this song because it’s the mystery song “Pendulum”. Some nice piano played for the intro. Another atmospheric and experimental track (it was at this point where I started to believe that Pearl Jam really made that record I ‘wanted’ from them). What’s that high sound? High Pitch vocals? Wow! It’s Ed! He has never sounded like this before. The harmonies again sound great. Lots and lots of dubbed vocals. Tight compressed drums. Another excellent track!
Another Ed track and nice counterpart to ‘Lightning Bolt’. This is actually a great pop song, some jangle jingle REM like guitars with some Who-like chords under it. Another song that Ed could write in his sleep but on first listen I liked this one more that LB.
Let The Records Play:
Ladies and Gentlemen…it’s time to kick out the jams and twist and shout. Roll over Beethoven, Jack White and Dan Auerbach…This is Pearl Jam’s take on a blues rock featuring hand claps and tube-screaming solos. A light and fun song, much better than “Supersonic”. Not the best track on the record but I had a huge smile on my face. Nothing original but new for Pearl Jam. Will be fun live.
Sleeping By Myself:
Why? Why Ed? Why Brendan? Why is this on the record? It doesn’t belong. Basically it’s the same as the ukelele song only with some arrangements. The arrangements are nice but they don’t add much. I liked the ukelele version much much better. That was its home. Feels out of place here. Uninspiring moment for the band. But who knows, it could very well be the next single and become a hit. But “Of The Earth” or “Cold Confession” would be a much better fit here. Fuck even “Olé” would have been better.
Another dark and atmospheric song. This will definitely be a sleeper that grows on me. It has weird time signatures, some great vocals, and a really nice solo by Mike. Another song that I already want to hear again.
Much better than the live version. It still has that Springsteen sound. Nice touches with the violin and no drums. The cheesy piano out-ro actually works here. It fades out. Not the best track on the record but a good way to end this record.
So, it’s impossible for me to go beyond my first impressions. But I think it will be better than Backspacer. It’s a darker and more atmospheric record with some great gems. It’s half of the record I really wanted from them (Getaway, My Father’s Son, Infallible, Pendulum, Let The Records Play, Yellow Moon) and half of what you have heard from this band before (Mind Your Manners, Sirens, Lightning Bolt, Sleeping By Myself, Swallowed Whole, Future Days). The latter would be the logical extension from Backspacer but the first half is 50% of an incredible record – the record they didn’t make. They could have gone Achtung Baby or Yankee Foxtrot Hotel on us but didn’t. This will be a great record but I already have mixed feelings over what could have been.