Under Review: Pearl Jam, ‘Lightning Bolt’

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Pearl Jam, “Lightning Bolt”
(Republic Records)
Available now
Rating: ★★ (out of four)

It’s tough to say something about Pearl Jam that hasn’t been said before. And it’s even tougher with an album like “Lightning Bolt,” which is a lot like what Pearl Jam has done before.

Mostly this is vintage Pearl Jam: We’ve got a pretty, acoustic ballads with “Sleeping By Myself” and “Future Days” and some father-son issues at play in “My Father’s Son.” Enjoyable music, but nothing that’s going to land on any greatest hits retrospective.

There’s not a particularly good singalong like “Better Man” and there’s not a particularly memorable guitar riff akin to “Alive,” but that’s OK if you’re a Pearl Jam fan. You just want more, and more is what they give.

There is no late-career hit and that introduces the band to a wider audience, and the album is just a more grown up, adult-friendly version of Pearl Jam. The title track feels like “Save You” just got a little older and evened out a bit, and single “Sirens” would feel right at home on oldies rock radio sandwiched between The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and The Allman Brothers’ “Melissa.”

I guess the thing missing here is Pearl Jam’s rock ‘n’ roll spirit. The last half of the album is largely acoustic, and I found on repeat listens that the album is largely quiet except for a few tunes that are either frenetic (“Mind Your Manners”) or clanky blues-rock (“Let the Records Play”). Where are the blazing riffs, Stone and Mike? Did Eddie’s ukelele album just chill everyone out a little too much?

Listen to this: “Lightning Bolt,” “Future Days

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