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Pearl Jam sounds rejuvenated on ‘Lightning Bolt’ album

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:49PM



Four is a good number for Pearl Jam. Now in its 22nd year, the band took four years between albums, which makes the new “Lightning Bolt” (Monkeywrench/Republic) sound like rejuvenation, featuring songs that sound fresh and relevant.

Of course there are requisite marks to hit — “Mind Your Manners” is a close facsimile of “Spin the Black Circle” and the creeping blues of “Let the Records Play” crumbles into standard-issue blues-rock jamming. The maturity of this band is evident among its strongest material: The soaring ballad “Sirens,” which guitarist Mike McCready finishes with one of his finest solos, and the burning title song, tailored for the stadiums. Eddie Vedder, always one of rock’s finest howlers, has developed into a far better singer than in the past.

There are no hard targets in the lyrics, but for the enduring themes here — the fragility of life is a big one— he brings true tension and vulnerability. Pearl Jam has always fashioned itself after its classic rock heroes of yesterday; here the terms sound like the band’s own.

Mark Guarino is a Chicago freelance writer.



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