Lightning Bolt, by Pearl Jam

by Stephen Rose on March 11, 2014

Lightning Bolt (2013)Lightning Bolt, released in October 2013,  is the tenth studio album by veteran Seattle grunge rockers Pearl Jam.

An album that gets better with every listen, Lightning Bolt combines a variety of styles with  contemporary production values, resulting in a masterful work that summarizes Pearl Jam’s 25-year career.  The album sold 166,000 copies in its first week, becoming Pearl Jam’s fifth album to reach #1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

 

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Lightning Bolt opens with, “Getaway”, a trademark Pearl Jam rocker that maintains the band’s tradition of high energy without sacrificing melody.

Next is the lead single, “Mind Your Manners,” a speed-rocker inspired by the San Francisco hardcore punks, the Dead Kennedys.

The third track, “My Father’s Son” keeps the rock tempo dialed up, then is followed by “Sirens,” the albums first ballad, and second single to be released.

Other highlights include the title track, “Lightning Bolt,” a classic Pearl Jam energy blitz; “Swallowed Whole,” a melodic rocker with unexpected chord changes; “Let the Records Play,” a psycho-billy cow-punk number; “Sleeping By Myself,” a gentle acoustic rocker; and “Yellow Moon,” an atmospheric and melancholy ballad inspired by Neil Young.

The album closes with “Future Days,” an Appalachian hymnal that concludes the record on an uplifting spiritual note.

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Pearl Jam (2013)

Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Matt Cameron, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament

 

 

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Once known as “everyone’s second favorite band from Seattle” (behind Nirvana), Pearl Jam was one of the key bands to emerge from the grunge movement in the ’90s, and has sold over 60 million records during the course of their long career.

Pearl Jam formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990. Rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, and bassist Jeff Ament originally worked together in the pioneering grunge act Green River, who released the first grunge single “Come On Down” in 1984.  After Green River broke up, they joined Mother Love Bone, led by Andrew Wood.  Days before releasing their first album in 1990, Wood was found dead from a heroin overdose.

In 1991, Gossard and Ament teamed with vocalist Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron – both of Soundgarden – to record an Andrew Wood tribute album, “Temple of the Dog.”  The lead guitarist for the session was Mike McCready, who began recording demo tracks with Gossard and Ament, while they searched for a vocalist and drummer for the band that would soon become Pearl Jam.

Eddie VedderOne of their tapes was sent to Jack Irons in Los Angeles, the original drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Irons passed the tape along to his basketball buddy Eddie Vedder, a Chicago transplant who grew up in San Diego, and had sang for the local band Bad Radio in 1988.  Vedder listened to the tapes, went surfing, then wrote and recorded lyrics for three of the tracks.  He was invited to join the trio in Seattle for the Temple of the Dog sessions, and performed on several songs.

The quartet of Vedder, McCready, Gossard and Ament has been intact for Pearl Jam’s entire career.  Jack Irons performed with the band from 1995 to 1998, followed by Matt Cameron, from Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog, who continues as the band’s drummer to this day.

Initially, the group wanted to be named after Mookie Blaylock, the all-star basketball player of the New Jersey Nets.  When they signed a contract with Epic Records, they changed their name to Pearl Jam, but named their first album Ten for Blaylock’s jersey number.

[Mike McCready wanted to name the band Pearl. After attending a Neil Young concert, and witnessing his extended jams on each song, they added the appendix “Jam” to their new moniker.]

Ten, released in August 1991, was certified gold in 1992, and reached #2 on the Billboard album charts.  The single “Jeremy” received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song, and won the MTV Video of the Year award in 1993.  VH1 named it #11 in their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s.

Other prominent tracks include “Black,” “Alive,” and “Even Flow.”

“Yellow Ledbetter,” a concert favorite, was recorded for Ten, but didn’t make the final cut.  The Hendrix-inspired ballad was released as the B-side on the Jeremy single.

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Pearl JamGrunge music originated in Seattle in the late ’80s, and became recognized for the flannel shirts and long unkempt hair of its musicians.  It was a musical hybrid of punk, metal, and hard rock that combined melancholy vocals with apocalyptic lyrics that reflected the gloom and foreboding of the cold, wet winters in the Pacific Northwest.

Nirvana led the grunge explosion with their second release Nevermind, which came out in September 1991.  The album featured the number one single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and eventually sold 30 million copies. The record also included the standout tracks “Lithium,” “In Bloom,” and “Come As You Are.”

Other noteworthy songs to emerge from the grunge movement include “Come on Down,” by Green River; “Say Hello 2 Heaven,” by Temple of the Dog; “Black Hole Sun,” by Soundgarden (featuring vocalist Chris Cornell); “Man in the Box,” and “Heaven Beside You,” by Alice in Chains (featuring Jerry Cantrell on guitar); and “Nearly Lost You,” “Dollar Bill,” and “All I Know,” by Screaming Trees (featuring vocalist Mark Lanagan).

Seattle also spawned such notable grunge bands as the Melvins, the U-Men, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, and Temple of the Dog.

Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana, formed the Foo Fighters in 1994, after Kurt Kobain’s suicide forced the dissolution of the band.

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In 1995, Pearl Jam performed with Neil Young (“The Godfather of Grunge”) on his album “Mirror Ball,” which included the tracks “Downtown,” and “Peace and Love.”  Young also played lead guitar on the Pearl Jam song “I Got Id,” from their EP entitled “Merkin Ball.”

Pearl Jam has performed multiple times at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit, a charity for disabled children.

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In 2011, Rolling Stone readers voted Eddie Vedder #7 on the list of Best Lead Singers of All Time.  His first solo album, the soundtrack to the film “Into The Wild,” was released in 2007, and featured the song “Hard Sun.”  In 2011, Vedder released his second solo effort, “Ukulele Songs,” accompanied by the film “Water on the Road.”

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In 2011, Pearl Jam celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band by releasing the documentary 20, directed by Cameron Crowe.

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Pearl Jam (2013)

Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready

 

 

Video

Alive (SNL, 1992)

Jeremy (MTV Video Music Awards, 1992)

MTV Unplugged (March 1992)

Pinkpop (June, 1992)

Rockin’ in the Free World (w/Neil Young) (MTV Video Music Awards, 1993)

Roadhouse Blues (w/The Doors) (Los Angeles, 1993)

Light My Fire (w/The Doors) (Los Angeles, 1993)

Daughter (SNL, 1994)

Not For You (SNL, 1994)

Hail, Hail (David Letterman, 1996)

Masters of War (David Letterman, 2004)

Better Man (w/Bruce Springsteen, 2004)

(David Letterman, 2006)

World Wide Suicide (AOL Sessions, 2006)

Yellow Ledbetter (Mexico)

Mother (Jimmy Fallon, 2011)

Comfortably Numb (w/Roger Waters) (NYC, 2012)

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