Showing posts with label pearl jam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pearl jam. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

video review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Man, I had so much fun making this review. It really did remind me why I like doing this, and I had a ton of fun talking about a band I like and a genre of which I'm not the biggest fan. Not gonna lie, I feel really invigorated going forward.

Next review is for Icon For Hire, then I'm going back to country with Scotty McCreery. Stay tuned!

album review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Well, I knew this was only a matter of time. With the onset of 90s nostalgia, I knew it wouldn't be long before one of the iconic genres of the decade would come back. It's also a genre with which I have a, well, let's call it complicated relationship.

Of course, I'm talking about grunge.

It's hard to argue that grunge didn't play a huge role in 90s music and culture, particularly considering its explosive birth in the underground in the late 80s and its eventual mainstream debut in the early 90s, smashing hair metal, synthpop, and whatever was left of the 80s into the dust to be deemed as 'gay' for a good decade to come. Centered around Seattle, grunge led alternative rock into the mainstream to dominate throughout a good portion of the 90s, with some iconic anthems and classic albums... before devolving into post-grunge in the latter half of the decade and ultimately being responsible for allowing acts like Nickelback and Three Days Grace to become popular.

But in all due seriousness, every time I return to grunge, I find both more and less that I like each time. Yes, the riffs can be potent, yes, the anger can sound righteous, yes, it contributed to the rise of the second punk wave in the mainstream and gave critical acclaim to a bunch of acts that would have remained lodged in the underground for decades otherwise... but man, grunge can get pretty damn insufferable at points, particularly lyrically. Perhaps I'm not blinkered by Gen X's nostalgia for grunge, but too much of the genre just doesn't connect with me, mostly because the instrumentation was at best simplistic (drawing from hardcore punk roots crossed with heavy metal) and at worst haphazard and drowned in feedback. And that's not even touching on the lyrics, which were dour, humourless, more pretentious and serious than they had any right to be, and only capable of touching the idea of 'fun' if it was approached ironically. 

So maybe it's not entirely surprising that my favourite of the grunge bands to explode out of Seattle was the one that did the most experimenting and drifted furthest from the traditional grunge sound - which, of course, brings us to Pearl Jam. To me, they've always been a band I've liked but never quite loved, and also yet another act that peaked with their first album Ten (which, despite my hangups with grunge, is awesome). They followed it with Vs. and then decided they were too good to be popular, so they started experimenting with Vitalogy and never went back. It's a shame, then, that their next six albums... well, they weren't bad but they weren't anything all that special or mind-blowing, even with some of the U2-esque bits of experimentation. Out of the selection, I probably like Riot Act the most, but I couldn't help but feel that even on that album that some of the hard rock edge was gone and it wasn't coming back.

Thus, I had some trepidation when going into Pearl Jam's newest release Lightning Bolt. On the heels of the The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here from Alice In Chains - which was basically a heavier version of what they had done before - I had the feeling that Pearl Jam wasn't about to attempt to recreate Ten or Vs.. They were going to make a rock album, not a grunge album, which could be both bad and good: on the one hand, Pearl Jam's experimentation has tended to be interesting, but it has also left the band without a definitive identity besides that of a grunge rock act that isn't really aging gracefully. So, is Lightning Bolt an experiment that bears fruit, or just another grunge rock album that slides into the grey morass of mediocrity?