Album Review: Pearl Jam – Gigaton

Pearl Jam Gigaton album cover

Rock music’s most arrogant band released their 11th studio album a week ago (March 27) and while Pearl Jam does explore some new angles, the 12 song, nearly hour long Gigaton sounds slovenly at times with few peaks and sometimes sounding like everything else the pioneers of grunge rock have made since they came onto the scene 30 years ago.

I never fell for the grunge shtick when it took the world by storm so many years ago with Nirvana and Pearl Jam leading the way. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t get caught up in its frenzy. It was the latest and greatest and this too shall pass. That being said if I had a favorite, I would have chosen Pearl Jam easily over Nirvana.

Now, not so much.

I more or less gave up on Pearl Jam when I finally got to see these stalwarts live after their Lightning Bolt album which I thoroughly enjoyed. Singer Eddie Vedder using a quadriplegic as a prop to get his political points across at a rock concert ruined the show and ended any respect I had for this band.

Do you want to see a wheel-chair bound paralyzed man (I can’t remember if tubes were sticking out of his mouth and neck but probably) dangled on stage with the singer demanding the man be able to kill himself?

Not me, thanks anyway. I’m there to listen to live music. There’s a time and a place and a rock concert is not one for political theater especially with the imagery I drove home with.

I then started to wonder who really had the mental illness. Eddie Vedder or Kurt Cobain?

So, why do I begin with a quasi-rant prior to the Pearl Jam Gigaton album review? Just to be transparent in the event my dislike for Pearl Jam filters through.

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Pearl Jam Gigaton Album Review

I played Gigaton the day it was released on March 27. I turned it off after halfway through the second track “Superblood Wolfmoon.” The opening track “Who Ever Said” showed promise but a minute in Gigaton was already sounding little different than early Pearl Jam albums. “Superblood Wolfman” simply added to this notion. Don’t get me wrong, both deliver as good opening tracks but I suppose it just sounded redundant. Therefore, I moved on.

Earlier this week I gave it another go.

“Dance of the Clairvoyants” proved me wrong! A great song and a departure from the usual Pearl Jam fare. Jeff Ament’s bass line totally pops. “Quick Escape” followed and again proved I had jumped the pre-judgement gun. Heavy and hard with lots of gritty guitar. This felt something different than typical Pearl Jam. They pulled “Alright” straight from the 70s with stylish drums and haunting guitar work. Some Pink Floyd in here for sure.

The longest song on Gigaton, “Seven O’Clock” starts off OK then took like molasses to end thus reminded me of where Pearl Jam fails. Halfway through I turned it off and started listening to…

REO Speedwagon.

Yep, needed some prominent melody and something enjoyable to listen to. Roll with the changes Pearl Jam!

I returned a few days later to listen to the rest of Gigaton and thankfully “Never Destination” begins the second half of the album with some power and melody.  A great song. “Take the Long Way” keeps the pace up and sounds so garage-y minus the grunge this could be a forgotten first album song. Great solo from Mike McCready.

Skip “Buckle Up.”

Acoustic guitar and Vedder’s baritone highlight “Comes Then Goes” a slow and simple but enjoyable track that makes you pause for a bit. “Retrograde” isn’t a horrible song as Pearl Jam appears to think outside the box for this one but like “Seven O’Clock” it limps to the finish line with an over the top near convoluted musical jam of sorts. “River Cross” closes Gigaton and continues the odd experimentation. There’s an organ in there. Some more Pink Floyd psychedelic instrumentation. I’m just not sure what they are trying to accomplish.

Overall, Gigaton has its moments but outside some of the more-of-the-same songs Pearl Jam lays some duds on this album. It’s a pretty grand departure from Lightning Bolt and at times feels almost like Pearl Jam got bored and dropped Gigaton to fulfill their record contract.

Grade: C+

Pearl Jam Gigaton Track List:

  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