No one would have thought that any band could surpass the unique sound—or should I say noise—of legendary grunge-rock band Nirvana. But Pearl Jam did.
The Seattle-based band’s career began with their grunge debut album Ten (1991), but the band’s music seemed to transition to a more alternative rock sound after the release of Vitalogy in 1994. That newer sound has guided them all the way to their current release, Lightning Bolt.
This consistent alternative rock is an echo of their grunge sound. It is what helped Pearl Jam become as successful as it is today. While listening to Lightning Bolt, I could easily tell it was the same band that took grunge-rock lovers by storm in 1991 and revived the genre after the tragic and unexpected death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994. Eddie Vedder’s inimitable deep, husky voice is just as healthy as it was 20 years ago, and the band’s solidarity is just as strong.
Pearl Jam could not have picked a better name for its 10th studio album. Lightning Bolt mainly offers fast-paced rock. The opener “Getaway” gives you the same ‘rock-out’ feeling experienced upon first hearing “Even Flow” and “Alive,” singles off of Ten. The aggressive riff flowing through “Getaway” demonstrates Mike McCready’s classic rock influence, and accompanied by ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron’s dynamic beats, the song is almost a perfect opener to an almost perfect album.
However, the whole album isn’t as electric as its name implies. Pearl Jam frequently integrates a different, slower sound into their grunge roots. Classics like the melodic “Black” and acoustic single “Just Breathe” are perfect examples; and you can expect a similar sound on Lightning Bolt.
Once again, Pearl Jam has bottled up sonic lightning while leaving a place on the album for the calm before the storm. If you are an avid Pearl Jam fan, this album will not disappoint.