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Joshua X

CD of The Week

Week of 3/30/20

    Pearl Jam - Gigaton (Monkeywrench / Republic)

    Venerable rockers Pearl Jam have nothing to prove almost 30 years into their career. A massive catalog, a die-hard fanbase, radio hits that have stood the test of timeā€¦ But Eddie Vedder and company have never been a group that is content to sit still and rest on their laurels. Life and occasional touring have gotten in the way, but after seven years, they've delivered Gigaton, the follow up to 2013's Lightning Bolt.

    Pearl Jam roar out the gates with "Who Ever Said" summing up too much of Washington these days with lyrics like "Sideways talk, poisoning our thoughts / Everyone walks and it's no one's fault." "Superblood Wolfmoon" is an over the top rocker with a knowingly goofy title and some wild, old-school guitar soloing from Mike McCready.

    The first taste of GIgaton was the surprising, pulsing "Dance of the Clairvoyants," with its Talking Heads-go-grunge vibe. You'd never expected to hear Vedder aping David Byrne's vocal stylings, but check out his barking of "I'm positive! POS-I-TIVE, POS-I-TIVE!"

    A gigaton is the unit of measurement used to determine how much ice is being lost from the world's glaciers and global warming looms large throughout the album. On "Quick Escape," Vedder is traveling around the planet, trying to outrun our damaged Earth, searching for "a place Trump hadn't f***ed up yet" over a "When the Levee Breaks"-style beat from Matt Cameron.

    Gigaton rocks pretty heavily for the first 20+ minute before we swerve right into the meditative "Alright." The sad "Seven O'Clock" laments the state of the world in recent years as well, with many lines that eerily fit this precise moment in the era of COVID-19 with lines such as "This is no time for depression or self-indulgent hesitance / This f***ed up situation calls for all hands, hands on deck"

    Pearl Jam wind down Gigaton gradually on the last three songs. On "Comes Then Goes," Vedder breaks out the acoustic guitar and goes into campfire mode. It all ends on a hopeful note with "River Cross," where the veteran singer stares down death and darkness, but still finds strength and optimism in the face of it all.

    Lightning Bolt felt like the most meat-and-potatoes version of Pearl Jam and with "Dance of the Clairvoyants" as a tease, I expected a few more left-of-center songs along the way, a la Yield or No Code. There aren't really any curveballs on Gigaton, just a band reminding us that no matter what the universe throws at us, we're still alive.
    Review by Joey O.

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