Lightning Bolt

pj-1381249446Pearl Jam
2013 Copyright Monkeywrench, Inc.

I was stomping my feet, mimicking drum playing, moving and shaking my right leg to the energetic beat bursting with so much confidence and certainty, and just shaking my head up and down feeling the rhythm of every instrument being strucked and strummed and tapped by Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Matt Cameron, and Jeff Ament as I was holding the lyrics sheet provided in the album to understand each song better, and feeling Eddie’s cathartic howling and screaming and sentiments. It felt so liberating doing those subversive moves, and it just so happen that the first two tracks are sentiments against false righteousness and religious fanaticism often mistaken as true faith.

Without the lyrics sheet, you wouldn’t understand most of the words that Eddie Vedder sings about not holding back especially when he sings fast. However, simply catching an honest line or two as Eddie sings with conviction is enough catharsis for me. Songs from their tenth studio album, Lightning Bolt (released in 2013, their latest album), took me back to the time when I was 19, my age when I became a Pearl Jam fan. It also took me back to the present time realizing that indeed everyone cannot escape turning old physically including my favorite group, Pearl Jam. They may have lost their good looks and slim bodies because of aging and vices, but, a big BUT their music, their sound never aged. Their spirits never aged, thank God. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s a sense of wonder and awe that Pearl Jam, despite the years and conflicts of being together as a group, still could come up with a wide array of songs, with ten albums that are totally different from one another. Every album seems to reflect every phase of their growth as musicians, as a group, and as individuals. And I congratulate them, thank them for sticking it out all these years.

Everything they come up with is a surprise, regardless of whether this pleases the music listeners or not, regardless of whether the album succeeds or not. Whenever they fail, they keep bouncing back. And this is what I admire most about Pearl Jam, they just keep on going which explains why they’re one of the surviving bands that was conceived in early 1990s. As a fan, I still don’t know what to expect from them. They’re unpredictable. Whenever I buy their album and play their CD, I get so excited. I always wonder what’s in store. And this Lightning Bolt album took me by surprise.

Why?

It’s because Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt album is perhaps the most likeable album they’ve ever released. I also felt the wisdom and maturity of Gossard, McCready, Ament, Cameron, and Vedder in this album. I feel even non-Pearl Jam fans can appreciate this and perfect example is my younger brother who liked very much the track called “Sirens.” I, too, liked this song very much because of its beautiful words and melody:

It’s a fragile thing
This life we lead

If I think too much I can get
overwhelmed by the grace

By which we live our lives
with death over our shoulders
want you to know
that should I go I always loved you
held you high above, true

I study your face
and the fear goes away

–“Sirens”

Pearl Jam’s sound remains young as ever, more pop rock with a few ballads (even love songs, Pearl Jam style) I tell you. The subversion is still there (sometimes discussing about the movement of a pendulum and its symbolisms, or about DNA and insemination, or being alone), the raw, brutal emotion that empowers and releases pretensions is still there, but the lyrics are wonderfully different. I don’t know if “improved” is the right word, or “mature,” all I know is that if before I’m more after the howling and screaming and the no holds barred but less abrasive type of rock music by Pearl Jam, now, well I am still after the howling and screaming of Vedder and their brand of music but the lyrics, even how Eddie sings in some tracks, they came to me like a colorful confetti, or like a morning sunshine that brings me a brand new hope. Their music is less angry but still relatable, and more reflective of issues that matter most to them right now.

I love the first track, Getaway, with a catchy, fast beat and lyrics that goes:

Everyone’s a critic looking back up the river
Every boat is leaking in this town
Everybody’s thinking that they’ll all be delivered
Sitting in a box like lost and found
 
But I found my place and it’s alright
We all searching for our better way
Get yours off my place, it’s alright
I got my own way to believe

Also Mind Your Manners, the second track, most especially the bridge part:

Go to heaven
That’s swell
How you like your living hell?

The narcissistic side of me tells me that the title track, Lightning Bolt, is a song about me. It’s because from the very first time to the many times I listened to it, it gives me a happy feeling, it feels like Eddie Vedder is singing for me, about me:

Flipping through the worn out pages
And stages when you knew not who to be
Till the lightning strike set you free

You gotta know that you’ll never let her go
She’s a lightning bolt!

I also like the metaphorical track called Infallible:

Time we best begin
Here at the ending

Of everything that’s possible
In the hearts and minds of men

Somehow it’s the biggest things
That keep on slipping
Right through our hands

To keep this short and simple, Lightning Bolt album is placed second next to Vs. as my top favorite albums of Pearl Jam.

lightning bolt

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