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The Greyhound

Lightning Bolt, caught between a hit and flop


Do you remember that band with the hard grunge guitar riffs and the singer that sounded like he sang with his mouth closed?  If you’re thinking Pearl Jam, you’re right.  In July, they released their tenth studio album entitled Lightning  Bolt.  Pearl Jam is an American rock band that arose in 1990, hailing from Seattle, Washington.   The band consists of singer Eddie Vedder, guitarist Stone Gossard, lead guitarist Mike McCready, bassist Jeff Ament, and drummer Matt Cameron, who is their fifth drummer.  Pearl Jam is most known for their grunge sound and guitar-driven records.  In the ‘90s, they were in good company with bands such as Nirvana, R.E.M, Stone Temple Pilots (STP), and many other grunge icons.  They are also known for doing their own thing  such as not making music videos and refusing to be interviewed.  Over the past two decades, Pearl Jam has been writing music that is original and entertaining for listeners of any age.

Lightning Bolt has quite the range of styles and versatility.  The album contains songs that are purely hard rock with driving power chords while some songs have a punk rock sound.   They also have a couple rock ballads, and an interesting folk song.

Pearl Jam wastes no time getting to the heart of their grunge rock sound with their lead-off song titled “Getaway.”  The album starts with heavy guitar power chords that drive through the entire song, not relenting.

“Getaway” leads into the album’s first single, “Mind Your Manners,” which has received a great deal of radio time.  This song has a hard rock, punk sound, much like the Dead Kennedys.

Pearl Jam’s ballad track is called “Sirens,” which was the second single released.  It has a noticeable tempo change, drastically slowed down from the rest of the album.  It starts with a clean electric guitar and a prominent vocal line.  Although a ballad, the song exemplifies the album’s first real guitar solo, full of emotion during the slow parts but then kicking into a shred session, displaying Mr. McCready’s lead guitar abilities.

The song “Let the Records Play” starts with a fast paced guitar intro that sounds like a Celtic piece mixed in with good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll and blues.  It transitions into a blues verse that would make The Doors proud.  To finish the song off, McCready takes a killer guitar solo that eventually fades out.

The next song, “Sleeping by Myself,” has a folk sound mixed with country.  The band utilizes distinct chord shapes and original chord progressions in this song, showing off an acoustic guitar, which adds depth to the album.

The album closes with a soft balled, “Future Days”, that showcases a piano intro and an acoustic guitar with an emotional vocal line.  They add a vocal harmony on the chorus, which gives a unique sound to the album.  They also add a southern style violin harmony before the vocals kick back in on verse two.  This isn’t exactly the way I would have ended an album that started with such hard rock tracks.  I feel like I was left hanging on a cliff, waiting for that grand finale with grunge undertones and a shredding solo that would completely melt my face off, but it never came.

It’s good to see grunge bands from the ‘90s still rocking and doing what they love to do.  Most of these bands died off after Prince sang “Party like it’s 1999.”  They’re one of the only bands left from the ‘90s; others include R.E.M., STP, and Soundgarden

I like the album for what it is and I enjoy the guitar riffs and vocal melodies.  The songs keep me entertained, but are hardly the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Lightning Bolt is by far not the winner of the greatest album of the year award, but it’s definitely not a train wreck.  The album is about average: nothing that stands out, nothing too fancy.  I feel that I’ve heard it all before at some point or another.  However, some of the guitar riffs are creative and their place in the arrangement of the tracks adds depth to the album.  Pearl Jam’s new album offers no more than mere enjoyment for ‘90s grunge rock fans.

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Lightning Bolt, caught between a hit and flop