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Spins: Pearl Jam • “Gigaton”

| April 1, 2020

Pearl Jam



Pearl Jam’s timing for the end of the world record is impeccable. The Seattle-based quartet’s recorded output has been stalled for nearly seven years, and apparently, they have some shit they want to get off their chests. The band’s eleventh record, Gigaton, also finds its members looking for new ways to express it. Musically, its the most adventurous the band has sounded since 1996’s No Code. The opening one-two punch of “Whoever Said” and “Superblood Wolfmoon” would seem to indicate business as usual. The former encapsulates a frantic, attacking urgency that the band has all but copy written throughout their career, and the latter is a pounding 4/4 stomper that sounds like a throwback to a younger man’s game. But then Dance Of The Clairvoyants arrives, sounding like nothing the band has ever done. The elastic bass groove (played by rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard) dare I say, “swings,” as a Gang Of Four guitar attack lacerates one of the most intricate melodies the band has ever constructed. And prophetic lyrics like “Numbers keep falling off the calenders floor/Stuck in our boxes/Windows open no more” seemingly possess eerie foresight in the age of a pandemic. Whatever creative wave they caught in the studio, well, they ride it until it crests. “Buckle Up” perches itself atop an almost nursery rhyme guitar phrasing and parks on a groove that feels equally fragile.

Never ones to bite their tongues, there’s still plenty of tape left over for spleen-venting against the current administration. “Quick Escape” envisions a whimsical farce that finds its protagonists escaping to Mars, the reason being “The lengths we had to go to then/To find a place Trump hadn’t fucked up yet.” The soundbed that lies underneath it matches the lyrical content’s vitriol. “Seven O’ Clock” continues with the same thematic mood and another intricate hook that calls out the “Sitting Bullshit as our sitting president.” At the center of it all, is vocalist Eddie Vedder. His rich baritone chews up scenery and every available syllable, helping to sell the disdain that infects our everyday lives in this nonsensical political climate. “Stand back when the spirit comes,” he sings at one point. Quite obviously, his bandmates abide by the specter’s visitation. Musically, the band has never sounded more in the pocket. “It’s not a negative thought…I’m positive,” Vedder declares at one point, one of the brief moments of light in an audio document filled with darkness. At least it’s littered with earworms that attach themselves to the cilia of the eardrums, rewarding each listen with a melodic bit of hope.

-Curt Baran

7 out of 10


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Category: Columns, Monthly, Spins

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