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Review of Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt: New Album, Same Old Ways


It’s the same old songs for Pearl Jam, but die-hard fans will appreciate the familiarity. Meghan Hamilton reviews their newest album.

If you are a Pearl Jam fan looking for the same familiar sound that we’ve heard out of these guys for the past decade, than check out their album, Lighting Bolt. You’ll find the same trademark vocal melodies, lyrical themes, and chord progressions by which the 90s generation has defined Pearl Jam.

There is no doubt the band has carved out a place for themselves in American rock music history, a place that will never be lost due to the permanent status this nearly classic rock band has achieved over the past two decades. They have successfully morphed from idols into something all their own. The band has yet to lose momentum with the releasing of three studio albums since 2006: Pearl Jam, Backspacer, and Lightning Bolt; two compilation albums Rearviewmirror and Lost Dogs, and let us not exclude Pearl Jam Twenty, the hugely successful 2011 documentary.

The five have been successful in perpetually recreating their signature sound, album after album, which fails to disappoint fans. Could it be that Pearl Jam has discovered the perfect formula for creating music that never gets old? Maybe, but I’d bet their colossal cult following and incomprehensible appeal to new ears are to blame. Although a little on the slow side, Lightning Bolt has a sound for every listener. The twelve-song album encompasses every emotion from sorrow to anger to happiness. The majority of the album consists of slow, sorrowful ballads, with the exception of Mind Your Manners, a 90s grunge/punk inspired song to convince us that they haven’t lost their edge completely. You’ll also get a few rock pop songs in the mix. Is Lightning Bolt expected? Yes. Is it boring? Yes. Will people love it? Sure. Will this record sell? With 166,000 copies sold in the first week, absolutely.

The band is as popular as ever, showing no signs of slowing down. Their longevity and determination lead me to expect another studio album from the rock group sooner than later. They have found a musical formula that has yet to fail them, and although repetitive and a bit too familiar, they will continue to succeed even if only appealing to the listeners’ nostalgic side. When you get down to it, if you are a fan of Pearl Jam’s catalogue, you’ll be a fan of Lightning Bolt.

Pearl Jam, I may have doubted you, and I cringe as I admit it, but you have done it again.

Meghan Hamilton is the executive assistant for the American Humanist Association.

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