Pearl Jam

Lightning Bolt (Monkeywrench / Republic)

Phases and Stages

Pearl Jam

Lightning Bolt (Monkeywrench/Republic)

Has Eddie Vedder outgrown Pearl Jam? Primary composer of the Seattle quintet's previous LP, 2009 ramrod Backspacer, the frontman wrote half of 10th studio album Lightning Bolt, and it's the better half. Both the singer's pummeling opener "Getaway" and the title strike recall the 23-year-old group's raw sophomore disc, Vs., the band having grown more Dischord-ant in middle age. And yet, it's the balladic side ("Sirens," the echoing "Pendulum") that stands out in this storm. "Sleeping by Myself," whose four-string accompaniment first appeared on Vedder's career high 2011 solo disc, Ukulele Songs, outshines everything else on Lightning Bolt, save perhaps his violin-kissed closer "Future Days." While the backside wavers, the band has never sounded better or more self-assured, but its ambition suggests they've outgrown simple song collections. Time for a concept epic. Time for Pearl Jam's Quadrophenia.

***.5

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