Pearl Jam | Gigaton | Republic
3 ½ out of 5
Seven years is a long time to wait, and in the case of a band like Pearl Jam whose members frequently stray away from their day jobs, it gives cause for concern. That said, despite their absence from the record racks — virtual or otherwise — they have kept up a consistent touring schedule, and indeed, prior to the onslaught of the coronavirus, they had planned to be out on the road for most of the fall and summer.
Those dates obviously need to be rescheduled, but in the meantime, their eleventh studio opus, ironically dubbed Gigaton, has made it to the marketplace and in the process, ought to satiate the Pearl Jam loyalists with a sound that does back to basics. Seven years hasn’t mooted their unabated insurgence, and neither has it mitigated their drive and delivery. The fury and frenzy remain quite evident in such songs as “Superblood Wolfman,” “Quick Escape,” “Take the Long Way,” and “Never Destruction.” Ironically though, the song one would expect to boast an abundance of pure chaos and cacophony —“Buckle Up” — is a ballad that leaves little reason to strap yourself in.
Other songs give pause as well — the acoustic tinged “Comes Then Goes” and “Retrograde” in particular — but even when the music takes a mellower turn, Eddie Vedder still appears to harbor a sense of turmoil and trepidation that festers directly below the surface. He still maintains membership in a brooding brotherhood whose ranks include Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and those whose musings veer from melodrama to melancholia. In Vedder’s case, it’s often unclear exactly what it is that he’s railing about. Take this verse from “Dance of Clairvoyants” as but one example:
“Confusion is…to commotion
What love is… to our devotion
Imperceptibly big, big as the ocean
And equally hard to control”
Well, at least the “confusion” reference seems clear.
Regardless, with all the uncertainty that pervades the planet these days, consistency is still key, and it’s good to know that Pearl Jam still maintains the edged angst that’s served them well from the start. Indeed, Gigaton provides a most pervasive perspective.