PEARL JAM - Gigaton
Release date March 27/20 (Monkeywrench/Republic)
I have always had a complicated relationship with Pearl Jam. When the whole grunge scene exploded, I was pleasantly surprised by the rock and roll that took us back to the hard rock roots of the 70’s. I learned to hate the grunge label and subsequently the alternative term because it painted some great hard rock into a cauldron with some pretty average and terrible bands. By the late 90's the genre became a muddled array of bands that mostly sucked or were on a decline. Foo Fighters were one of the few exceptions. Soundgarden, the best of the lot, suddenly fell apart. Alice In Chains were racked by drug addiction. In fact, I think they are a better band now with William DuVall singing. I was never a big fan of Nirvana, but it is undeniable that Kurt Cobain’s suicide took the movement down. Bands that were grouped into the genre like Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots, had moments of absolute brilliance, only to succumb to more addictions and band drama. That brings us back to Pearl Jam.
The band’s first two efforts are great hard rock. Then came Vitalogy and the battle with Ticketmaster which was futile. This is where Pearl Jam lost focus and became a crappy band that took themselves way too seriously. I always had this opinion that bands like Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine are just as much as a fantasy as Alice Cooper and KISS. Let’s not kid ourselves, Pearl Jam fights for social justice et al, yet are full-fledged millionaires who could care less about you or me and for this, the creative output suffered even though they must get credit for surviving for 30 years while continuing to produce albums and tour. In fact, I thought the self-titled avocado album and the last album, Lighting Bolt, were quite good.
Gigaton is the band’s 11th original release, which comes at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Instead of getting an escape with great music the band delivers self-indulgent crap that is hardly worth listening to. The album leads off with “Who Ever Said” and while fairly well paced, the guitar and drum sound are immediately grating made worse by Eddie Vedder’s pretentious vocals. ‘Superblood Wolfman” gets worse. The drum sound is terrible, almost harking back to Metallica’s St. Anger drum sound. The guitars are tiny sounding and lost in the mix to Eddie’ rambling. After two songs, this sounds like a bunch of old dudes trying to be hip. It smacks of douche bag rock.
“Dance of the Clairvoyants” actually has an electronic sound, which is a noble departure that is immediately destroyed by Eddie Vedder’s woke rants and awful singing – if you want to call it that. “Quick Escape” is more of the same. I wish, this was an actual quick escape from what I am listening to. I can’t even describe what “Alright” is. Yes I can – terrible. It’s a cacophony of tunes and Eddie mumbling. ‘Seven O’Clock” is even more pretentious with Eddie trying to cram as much rambling into the verse while the chorus is Eddie trying to emote, only to leave us realizing that he is now a pretty bad singer.
“Never Destination” would be OK if the guitars were turned up and not sounding like a wet noodle. Again, that snare sound gives me a headache! Mike McCready lays down a pretty good solo, but you know he is capable of better things and he should HAVE GRABBED THE BAND BY THE NECK AND TURNED UP THE FUCKING MIX ! “Take the Long Way” is another up-tempo rocker that could be so much better. It winds up going nowhere and the result is a mess only made worse by Eddie Vedder’s vocals. “Buckle Up” and “Comes Then Goes” are throw away garbage.
Pearl Jam is capable of a lot better efforts. Lightning Bolt was evidence of this even at their age. Unfortunately, Gigaton goes heavy on the self-importance and light on the quality of music. This release is not what we need at this time.