Pearl Jam – Gigaton (Album Review)

Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Released: March 27th, 2020

Lineup

Eddie Vedder // vocals & guitar
Mike McCready // guitar
Stone Gossard // guitar
Jeff Ament // bass
Matt Cameron // drums

Say what you will about Pearl Jam, very few bands in the history of rock ‘n’ roll have delivered a 1-2-3 punch like they did with their first three albums: Ten (1991), Vs (1993) and Vitalogy (1994). Those three albums are fantastic and enjoyed massive record sales effectively making Pearl Jam one of the biggest bands in the world. Even today, Pearl Jam can tour playing massive venues, such is their legacy.

After the enormous success of their debut, Pearl Jam decided that they didn’t want to play the music industry game, for better or for worse (this can be attributed to bands such as Creed, Nickelback, Fuel and others being signed). They refused to do interviews, music videos and took on the establishment by boycotting Ticketmaster with their outrageous mark-ups for ticket sales (a venture more noble than Metallica taking on Napster). After Vitalogy, Pearl Jam released No Code in 1996, an album that had many fans scratching their head; it was too different, no singles, no big rock songs. Pearl Jam didn’t care. That was the album that took them from being grunge icons to serious musicians. They were in it for the long haul. And they didn’t care who went with them. They were a band that were doing their own thing, popularity be damned.

pearl jam band

So, what does Pearl Jam sound like in 2020?

They sound like Pearl Jam. That old rock and grunge sound is well behind them, however they can still rock out with the best of them. Eddie Vedder still possesses one of the most unique voices in rock, with a distinct ear for melody whilst the band provide a solid backing for Vedder’s ideas. Make no mistake, Gigaton is definitely Eddie Vedder’s album. He has written or co-written all of the songs on this album and at times you could be forgiven for thinking that this is an Eddie Vedder solo album. Don’t take that as a criticism. Gigaton is definitely a very good record.

The first three songs: ‘Who Ever Said’, ‘Superblood Wolfmoon’ and ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’ (the surprising first single) are the weakest tracks. After ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’, this album kicks into gear, but that has always been Pearl Jam’s thing. They don’t load the front of their albums with all their best songs. They want you to listen to the whole thing because they put the best tracks later in the record. They have done it since their first album, and I believe that is what makes them great. Songs like ‘Black’, ‘Rearview Mirror’, ‘Corduroy’, ‘Given to Fly’ all appeared later in the track listing on their respective records.

‘Seven O’Clock’, a beautiful and uplifting song that Pearl Jam do so well, is the first real highlight of Gigaton, as well as the last three tracks: ‘Comes Then Goes’, ‘Retrograde’ and ‘River Cross’. There are some real rockers on here too such as ‘Never Destination’ and ‘Quick Escape’, great reminders that Pearl Jam can really play urgent, frantic rock songs.

Gigaton will not win Pearl Jam any new fans, nor will it lose them any fans. And it’s definitely not an album for those who say they are massive Pearl Jam fans but really think ‘Last Kiss’ and ‘Better Man’ are their best songs. This is an album for Pearl Jam fans. Those that have stuck with them, bought all the bootlegs, study their setlists and know their albums back to front. They’re the type of fans that have stuck with this band and they will not be disappointed with Gigaton.  I can see some of these songs joining their extensive live repertoire

For myself, this album re-affirmed how much I really like Pearl Jam. I really haven’t stopped listening to Gigaton. The more I listen to it, the more I really dig it.

It’s not as good as their first three albums. How could it be? Those albums are still amazing. They’re not young, desperate men anymore, but rich rock stars. However, like their hero Neil Young, Pearl Jam rock to their own beat, releasing the albums they want to release when they want to release them. I am prepared to keep following Pearl Jam on their particular, idiosyncratic journey.

pearl jam

Pearl Jam – Gigaton tracklisting

  1. Who Ever Said
  2. Superblood Wolfmoon
  3. Dance of the Clairvoyants
  4. Quick Escape
  5. Alright
  6. Seven O’Clock
  7. Never Destination
  8. Take the Long Way
  9. Buckle Up
  10. Comes Then Goes
  11. Retrograde
  12. River Cross

Rating: 7/10
Gigaton is out now. Get it here
Review by Dan Brixey @DanielJBrixey

 

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