Lightning Bolt on Steroids
Pearl Jam released their eleventh studio album Gigaton last week, receiving positive feedback from fans and critics alike.
My initial reaction to the album was muttering, “What the fuck is this?” during my morning commute. Prior to releasing Gigaton, a ten-second snippet of “Dance of the Clairvoyants” was substituting as the theme song for the Bill Simmons Podcast. Normally, Simmons opens the show with “Corduroy” and closes with “Yellow Ledbetter,” both from the Live at Wrigley Field: Let’s Play Two album, respectively.
For avid listeners of the program, this abrupt change in normalcy came as a shock, only later to find out it was Pearl Jam’s newest track. Of course, it turns out that ten seconds from “Dance of Clairvoyants” did not serve the song justice at all.
In fact, “Dance of the Clairvoyants” served as the catalyst for Pearl Jam’s best album since 1998. Generally speaking, within Pearl Jam fandom, the top five albums include, in some order, their first five albums. While still incredibly solid, the latter five tend to sway either “too experimental” or “too bland,” depending on the album.
The beauty of Gigaton is that it combines the desired elements from all of Pearl Jam’s material. It’s like Lightning Bolt, but on steroids. We’re talking mid-2000s, Barry Bonds-level steroids. You know, the good stuff.
The Perfect Blend
The album opens with “Who Ever Said,” a driving rock anthem boasting a catchy riff, serving as Gigaton’s version of “Getaway,” but again, on HGH. “Dance of the Clairvoyants” is a Talking Heads-inspired, groovy dance jam, while “Superblood Wolfmoon” and its adorable music video give Gigaton a serviceable second single.
The remainder of Gigaton is a perfect blend of experimental artistry and standard radio rock. “Buckle Up” is upbeat, bouncy, and yet, quite strange. It doesn’t exactly sound like Pearl Jam, which is a weird thing to say, coming from a band that created “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me.”
“Quick Escape” and “Seven O’Clock” provide Gigaton with politically-fueled ballads, surely to be stadium anthems. In “Seven O’Clock,” Eddie Vedder praises Native American icons Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, for standing up the U.S. government, while trashing the acting president as “Sitting Bullshit.” Again, classic Pearl Jam.
The remainder of Gigaton features fast-driving punk jams “Never Destination” and “Take the Long Way.” The album caps off with the softer, acoustic “Comes Then Goes,” followed by a warning of global warming, with the ballad “Retrograde.”
This is a common theme throughout Gigaton: uplifting, sonically pleasing music, while lyrically delivering warnings of climate change. Such is the case with the album’s haunting, organ-induced finale, “River Cross.”
Is Gigaton Pearl Jam’s greatest album? No. Does it crack the top five? Currently, I’d say no, but time will tell. Personally, I believe Gigaton is their best work since Yield. It embodies every aspect of why fans love the band. The blending of genres, mixed in perfectly with Vedder’s raw, pure vocals.
Plus, there is not one dud on this album.
Gigaton is perfectly Pearl Jam, and that’s why we love them.
Final Rating: 77%
Favorite Songs: Dance of the Clairvoyants, Seven O’Clock, Buckle Up