Pearl Jam: Gigaton (Monkeywrench/Republic) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, May 25th, 2020  

Pearl Jam

Gigaton

Monkeywrench/Republic

Apr 02, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Pearl Jam’s new LP, Gigaton, is a warning. A one billion ton-sized one. If you choose to digest the 14-track record on YouTube, as I did, that warning is even more evident. Each song is accompanied by a Planet Earth documentary worthy visual experience that depicts some of the most magnificent scenery in nature, from giant oceans to volcanic rock and bubblegum sunsets. But, when listening to the record, we understand that this beautiful scenery is in peril, at risk, and so is the rest of the world. Human greed will have its consequences. And those consequences have arrived at our collective doorstep.

The famed grunge band from Seattle doesn’t shy away from a social or political controversy. Both the group and its members have histories confronting issues, from guitarist Mike McCready’s work with Chrone’s Disease to the band raising millions to assuage homelessness with their recent “Home Shows.” And the group continues those mighty efforts on Gigaton. The album’s explosive opening track, “Who Ever Said,” speaks both to the overarching con of capitalism and the need for creative self-fulfillment despite it. The song is followed by the mesmerizing “Superblood Wolfmoon,” which contains Walt Whitman-like multitudes of confusion and exuberance in an in-flux world.

The record’s lead single, “Dance of the Clairvoyants” is up next. This song is part-emo shoegaze and part-rock ‘n’ roll burst. On it, frontman Eddie Vedder shouts, growls, and reprimands. The social and civil perfection collective society expected, the perfection we were sold has its costs, he says. And the 20th century’s reckoning is the 21st century’s legacy. “Quick Escape” comes next, heavy like a mosh pit. The track, which could also be chopped by a DJ and turned into a Jay Z hit, asks: “What is our escape? Is it inward, outward? And what is its price?” 

“Alright” takes the record in a softer direction. The song showcases Vedder’s signature tenderness over an instrument that sounds like a cranking 18th century music box. “Seven O’clock” brings the energy up and it’s where Vedder gets his most political, slamming the “bullshit” man in office. We need a solution, says the lead singer, and he ain’t it. Vedder is not afraid to call it like he sees it—not afraid to sing it out to thousands listening, either.

The album’s second half begins with a bang. “Never Destination” is all heavy bass, crashing symbols, and guitar riffs. Here Vedder warns of our denial. It’s a powerful force and it’s got crosshairs on the human race. On the track, McCready plays another exquisite solo. It’s worth noting here that throughout the record his leads are different every time, both tonally and texturally. Intricate and thought-out is the name of the game for Gigaton, the band’s 11th studio record and first in some seven years. 

“Take The Long Way” harkens back to the ’90s sound that made the band world famous, big drums, echoing vocals. “Buckle Up” is next and the song brings us back to a reflective, quieter place. This track has a simple message: the older we get, the more dangerous things become. So, “buckle up.”

“Comes Then Goes” is probably the most significant song on the record. It’s comprised of a beefy acoustic in the classic country western style. The song is nostalgic, melancholy, and reminiscent. At its core, it’s all about loss. We all lose; even this song will leave us soon. 

But—aha! Despite that note of loss, there are two more songs! Peal Jam has given us optimism for the future. The album’s 11th song, “Retrograde,” is a heartfelt tune about renewal. Vedder feels every line, word, and thought like cool raindrops on his hot forehead. There is water, we will replenish. Gigaton concludes with “River Cross,” which empowers and tells us that even in the face of the biggest odds—even in the face of a massive billion-ton explosion—there is hope. “Can’t hold me down,” Vedder sings, “won’t hold us down.” (www.pearljam.com

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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