Release Date: Mar 27, 2020
Record label: Monkeywrench
So the first thing you’ll have noticed about Pearl Jam‘s new album, Gigaton, is just how much the first single (Dance Of The Clairvoyants) sounds like Talking Heads. But of course there’s much more to the song, and the album, than they’d have you believe. Isn’t that always the case with Pearl Jam? They’ve been defying expectations for 30 years now – often releasing low-key classics along the way.
Urgency has been Pearl Jam's calling card since their inception, which is why it was a jolt to hear the band sound so settled on 2013's Lightning Bolt. Maybe it's the times, maybe it's the choice to switch producers -- the group swapped their longtime collaborator Brendan O'Brien for Josh Evans, who co-produced the album with the band -- but Gigaton hits with the strength of a full-force gale. Weather is a galvanizing concern on Gigaton, with Pearl Jam structuring their tenth album around the looming climate change crisis.
Before they had anything--a legion of devoted fans, walls of platinum records, a destination festival--Pearl Jam had a community. In the Seattle grunge scene of the early '90s, they emerged as part of a larger mosaic, members of a supergroup before their debut even came out. This support from contemporaries is likely what empowered Pearl Jam to find their voice, writing earnest, soaring rock songs inspired by punk but delivered as arena anthems in jam band-style marathon live sets.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Pearl Jam has been riding on cruise control for over two decades now and it's hard to make an argument otherwise. Outside of the occasional single that makes you think, "Well, this sounds promising" (Backspacer's The Fixer or their self-titled's Life Wasted), one quickly realizes that those full album experiences tend to blur into serviceable session rock without hardly a memorable moment. Also, let's not even bring up 2013's Lightning Bolt.
Like a heavy cloud hanging over your head... Pearl Jam have mostly kept to themselves throughout their career, tending to their sonic needs and comfort rather than passing trends or nostalgia factors. This is a band where everyone writes songs and thus, often rammed their heads into one another. This occurred especially (or more publicly) during the first decade of activity.
To celebrate Pearl Jam turning 30 this year, we've been sharing content both old and new all month long. After you see what we think of Gigaton below, be sure to read our definitive ranking of PJ albums and check out loads of other content here. The Lowdown: Nobody has a blueprint for going the distance as a rock and roll band. Those, like Pearl Jam, who can boast 30 years or more in the industry often take advantage of long hiatuses, escape to lower-profile side projects on occasion, or hoist the colors with only one or two original members.
I t is 29 years since the release of Pearl Jam's 16m-selling debut album Ten. On one level: of course it is. Is there anything more piquantly redolent of the distant moment when grunge went from being a witty melding of US punk, old-fashioned British indie and an unabashed love of 1970s hard rock to a vast, mainstream concern than the videos for its singles Jeremy and Alive? These were expensively shot depictions of, respectively, high-school alienation - replete with hand-scrawled words such as "disturb", "numb" and "problem" flashing across the screen - and Pearl Jam in their early live pomp, a riot of backwards caps, pained expressions and plaid.