Pearl Jam (photo by Danny Clinch, PR)
Hard to believe, but 30 years have passed since Pearl Jam rose from Seattle's tight-knit grunge scene and ended up as one of rock’s iconic mainstream monoliths. Propelled by the raucous blast of their debut album, 1991's Ten, Pearl Jam has channeled angst, aggression, and youthful exuberance into a sound that still reverberates loudly today. They are survivors and pretty much the last band standing from grunge’s golden age.
Pearl Jam's 11th studio album, Gigaton, proves that there is still plenty of passion remaining in their tank. Gigaton is Pearl Jam’s first album in more than six years, following 2013’s Lightning Bolt. The group took a considerable amount of time crafting this latest album, setting a goal of staying fresh while diversifying their sound through subtle dashes of experimentation, drum loops, and synths.
Largely a democratic work pieced together over a period of roughly three years, Gigaton is a mature blast of literate rock and roll that is planted in the present with an eye on the future. Produced by Josh Evans and the band, Gigaton was recorded at several Seattle, Washington locations, as well as Montana. The band features original members Jeff Ament (bass, keyboards), Stone Gossard (guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion), Mike McCready (guitar, percussion, keyboards) and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), as well as drummer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Cameron who has been with the band since 1998.
Not surprisingly, Gigaton assesses the rocky political climate and societal unease. Deficient leadership is chronicled in the gritty “Quick Escape” while “Seven O’Clock” eschews complacency (“Moved on from my despondency and left it in the bed/Do I leave it there still sleeping or maybe kill it better yet”), bristling against governmental hypocrisy.
Pearl Jam naturally provides plenty of adrenaline, like "Who Ever Said" and the raging “Never Destination,” both written by Vedder. The grungy “Take The Long Way," a volatile track, was written solely by Cameron.
The album also veers down different paths, even danceable ones, notably via “Dance Of The Clairvoyants." The thoughtful “Comes Then Goes” is entirely acoustic and the ominous “River Cross," which wraps the 57-minute album, features Vedder playing pump organ.
This all adds up to an amalgam of everything that has made Pearl Jam a rock 'n' roll behemoth. Gigaton is the sound of a band that a lot left to say and the determination, three decades down the line, to always find an original way to say it.