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Pearl Jam
Lightning Bolt


Back in 2011, Pearl Jam celebrated its 20th anniversary by hosting a two-day music festival and releasing a career-spanning documentary with an accompanying soundtrack. Now, with its 10th studio effort, Lightning Bolt, the Seattle act has essentially produced an album that touches upon those previous two decades without attempting to duplicate them.

The band’s early rebellious side rises on the album’s first single, “Mind Your Manners.” Inspired by the burning tension of the Dead Kennedys and displaying the explosive release of Bad Religion, the song cleverly makes its political points without being as controversial as 2002’s “Bushleaguer.” “My Father’s Son” presents a dysfunctional lament that aligns to “Alive” but, here, an older and wiser Vedder slams the door on what went wrong and vows not to continue the negativity from previous generations. The arena-ready “Sirens” evokes the tenderness heard previously on “Just Breathe” yet this time there’s a deeper exploration of vulnerability and insecurity that’s followed by a tentative resolution. “Let the Records Play” becomes as much an ode to the joy of music as “Spin the Black Circle” on 1994’s Vitalogy.

And then there are songs such as the title track and “Swallowed Hole” that go back even further than Pearl Jam’s existence by bringing to mind the latter-day material by the Who.

As Lightning Bolt moves forward the rock of its “Getaway” and “Mind Your Manners” gives way to mellowness and thoughtfulness. With that are revelations that settle for a more grounded work that aims for resistance with understanding, change coupled with brotherhood and relationships that last despite self-doubt and bad habits. Altogether, it has Pearl Jam sounding fresh and motivated to go on for another 20 years.

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