- 30 Mar 20
It Doesn’t Get Eddie Vedder Than This
I’ve only ever witnessed Pearl Jam live once, back in the old Point Theatre in 2006, but I can well remember the fury and anger with which they hit the stage. This was not the usual approach of a band who had already sold a shitload of records. Rather, they kicked out like a gang of young hopefuls who were there to beat you over the head until you gave in and wrote their names down. They even gave Lizzy’s ‘The Boy’s Are Back In Town’ an enthusiastic boot in the hole.
The good news to report, after several listens to Gigaton, is that The ‘Jam don’t appear to be even kind of interested in repenting of their arse kicking ways anytime soon. They explode from the traps with the pummelling 1-2 of ‘Who Ever Said’ and ‘Superblood Wolfmoon’. Drums clatter, the bass zooms to and fro, and the venerable guitar firm of Gossard and McCready fling out riffs as filthy as that joke your drunken Uncle shouldn’t have cracked at your sister’s wedding. There’s a hummable melody going on in the former too as the band slow down for Eddie in the middle. They can’t stay put long, however, as Matt Cameron’s hammering threatens to knock the rest of them out of his way. “I won’t give up on satisfaction,” howls Vedder. Good man.
‘Dance Of The Clairvoyants’ could, I suppose, be classed as experimental with its robotic drum and bass kick-off and tinkling keyboard, but Vedder’s bark and the guitar bite remind you of where you are, and the following ‘Quick Escape’ takes the new wave cap back off, replacing it with riffs that might have fallen out of the special edition of Physical Graffiti – Kashmir and Marrakech get mentions - and another roared and stirring chorus.
‘Alright’ gives it a bit of moody musing as Vedder rumbles on about how “It’s alright to be alone" I’m not sure how that’s gonna go over at the moment, but a recommendation to “find the groove in the sound” is always sage advice. ‘Seven O’Clock’ informs us that “freedom is a verb” and you’ve got to “fight to keep that what you’ve earned” but a more robust chorus might have made the message an easier sell, although things pick up when Cameron comes back from his lunch for the “hangman in dreamland” finish.
‘Never Destination’ gets back to business with a Who-like riff - Vedder is a die-hard fan - and a solo that gives McCready the chance to throw a few shapes, before Vedder half-borrows the melody from Tom Petty’s ‘Listen To Her Heart’ near the end. ‘Take The Long Way’ – written entirely by Cameron – sounds like a drummer’s song with some tricky time signatures and tempo changes but he remembers to throw some melody in when the chorus comes around. Gossard’s ‘Buckle Up’ passes by pleasantly, but the acoustic ‘Comes Then Goes’ comes and then takes a testing six minutes to go. Much better is the eco-friendly ‘Retrograde’, which has faint and most welcome shades of power ballads of old. Vedder closes things out on a pump organ from the 1850s – what all the kids want to hear – but it’s better than it sounds on paper, although it too could have been reined in early.
While there’s nothing here quite as anthemic as their classics, or as gloriously rock n’ roll eulogising as, say, ‘Let The Records Play’ off their last album, Lightning Bolt, this is a strong piece of work. Mind you, it’s a bit too long for its own good, the quality does dip a bit in the second half, and a soupçon of humour in the lyrics wouldn’t have gone astray either. Still though, a lot of this is, eventually, going to sound spectacular live and I’d rather The ‘Jam than the legion of other chancers that followed in their wake. They still mean it, man, and that’s something worth hearing, and celebrating.