It might as well be the 1990s again, because legendary rock band Pearl Jam has just released a new album. Appropriately titled Gigaton because of its large dose of strong emotions, soulful vocals and poetic lyricism, the 12-track album was released Friday. Embodying Pearl Jam’s wholesome yet dark grunge image, Gigaton serves as a major throwback while also showcasing the band’s maturation.
The record begins with “Who Ever Said,” a pure grunge song that could easily fit on any of the band’s previous albums. It’s an empowering track about being one’s own driving force. Guitarist and lead vocalist Eddie Vedder sings of voices with ill intent, preaching, “I didn’t see him but I heard what he said/ Aw, sideways talk, poisoning our thoughts.” The song also features a brief but lovely drum outro.
Departing from traditional grunge to an elevated form, “Dance of the Clairvoyants” hits like an express train with its bass line, drums and refreshing keyboard. Overall, the song doesn’t have a significant amount of banger energy, but it develops into a tidy, melodic song with a powerful beat. It’s a highlight on the record, the one track on which Pearl Jam deviates slightly from its traditional sound.
The next song, “Quick Escape,” marries all of the addictive elements of ’90s grunge with Pearl Jam’s current, refined sound. Sweet riffs and backing vocals complete the track to give it depth, with Vedder’s powerful, iconic voice sounding almost as it did all those years ago.
Another standout track, “Seven O’Clock,” draws listeners in with a soft, psychedelic intro. Later transitioning smoothly into a softer ballad, the song is speculative and urgent, calling for change and agency. Vedder begins the song with, “Oh, seven o’clock in the morning, got a message from afar/ Down under an oasis where there are dreams still being born,” a surreal call to action that evokes the feeling of waking up and falling back into an ideal dream work. “This f—– up situation calls for all hands, hands on deck,” Vedder sings. It’s hopeful but wary.
“Take the Long Way” strays from the rest of the record’s softer melodies, instead opting for an angsty, loud sound. It’s the band hinting back at its first few releases, which were already beyond their time, bringing back an almost playful quality. The piercing guitar coupled with lyrics such as, “I always take the long way/ That leads me back to you” creates a hymn-like atmosphere for those who are young at heart, no matter their age.
Gigaton proves that Pearl Jam has aged well. Each aspect of the record is executed flawlessly, down to each individual instrument. The record’s tracks are simply not as energetic as some of the band’s most popular songs, but they chug along at a satisfactory pace. What makes this record as good as it is is that it’s simple, raw and has no frills whatsoever. That feat is much harder to achieve than it seems, especially with the pressure to constantly reinvent one’s sound with each release. Pearl Jam doesn’t try to modernize or reinvent its sound, but it still manages to avoid sounding repetitive. Because of this, Gigaton is a rare find.It’s truly as if the band released this album in the 1990s. While it’s no Ten, the ultimate Pearl Jam record that not many can live up to anyway, Gigaton fits with the band’s timeline as an unfiltered, pure, down-to-earth rock band. It’s a magical feeling few bands can match. Mature and grunge don’t belong in the same sentence, yet Pearl Jam makes the dynamic work beautifully.
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].