Well, as a bad band that probably wouldn’t have existed without Pearl Jam once said… it’s been awhile.
I’ve been blogging along at a pace so steady over the last few weeks, this website may actually be more active than it’s ever been (this coming after a couple of years of basically no activity). It seems appropriate to me that we revisit one of the series that arguably kicked the whole thing off in the first place, and that means that we’re going to talk about some Pearl Jam.
We were actually graced with a new Pearl Jam record at around the same time that everything was shutting down in North America (for the first time) in March. COVID-19 conditions actually wound up preventing the North American tour that the band were planning to coincide with the new albums release.
The craziest thing? I was excitedly looking into tickets for the tour. I thought that it would be really funny to go see a Pearl Jam show and write a blog about it. That didn’t happen, but I think that I need to admit that my series of blogposts intended to make fun of Pearl Jam has led to me actually becoming kind of a fan of Pearl Jam. I’ll never stop making fun of them, but now I do so lovingly.
It is in this spirit that I will finally listen to Gigaton, which was released to moderate fanfare in March 2020.
Who Ever Said
PJ opens up their seven-hundredth studio album with some of their distinctive fuckin’ around noise, before opening up to a steadily bopping but rote garage rock riff. The kings of modern dad-rock have shuffled off of the couch, gang. Get ready to cross your arms and nod your head.
This song is totally fine. There are some pretty neat chord progressions in the pre-chorus and chorus proper. I prefer my PJ opening tracks to rage and roil, but this is more just… competent rocking. The bridge is a little long and feels kind of directionless, which winds up making the song feel a lot longer than it needs to be.
Vedley sounds great, though!
When this track opens, I’m instantly struck by the contrast of a pretty fun garage-pop guitar strut and Eddie Vedder stumbling through a lyrical hook that is too moronic to have been an ad-lib. It’s really dumb. I actually enjoy it, that’s how dumb it is.
This song seems a little confused on whether it’s playful and poppy or full-throttle rock stuff. It never really successfully nails the latter, but it’s a fun enough slice of rock ‘n roll. Some of the gang vocals are hooky and satisfying, and there’s a very daffy but great guitar solo bit.
It is absolute nonsense, though. Yow! Very dumb.
Dance of the Clairvoyants
I remember when this song got released as a teaser for the album and I got very, very excited. To be clear, I got excited because I thought that it was a very embarrassing direction for the band to take and I couldn’t wait to make lots and lots of fun of them.
I like it a little more now, but the overall vibe of the verses is still… pretty hilarious. The toot-toot synths are ridiculous and Edward is just barking like crazy over what can only be described as an old man’s interpretation of danceable music. Eddie also just sounds like he’s just spitting off the dome, throwing out lines about knowing that girls want to dance and boys want to grow.
A classic Pearl Jam experimental misfire! I’m secretly thrilled by it!
The band wrote this song after listening to Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, I think. The drum opening is practically lifted. That being said, the bass groove fucking rocks and sounds like it is very fun to play.
“Quick Escape” is from a pretty standard rock mold, but I kinda dig it. The vocal yelps in the chorus are peak unhinged Edwin Veddleston. The bridge/guitar solo is also extremely great. More of that, please.
This is maybe my favourite track so far.
…alright. It’s ballad time.
“Alright” has some experimental tones and textures at play, but they work a little better than the goofy shit in “Dance of the Clairvoyants”. It does just kind of sound like a standard Eddie acoustic song with unique production flourishes pasted in. Later on it sounds like they grabbed the 12-string guitar that Alice In Chains used on “I Stay Away”, which seems like a brave choice, considering the fact that it’s been over 25 years since anyone has dared pick up a 12-string guitar.
Overall, this song’s title is very appropriate. Meh.
You can sing “Hunger Strike” over this track, so it’s got that going for it. It is nowhere near as good as “Hunger Strike”.
The chorus underwhelms. There’s a lot of kinda subpar keyboard work on this album so far. Wonky tones that don’t work and boring/clumsy lines. It’s kinda weird.
The song has a big outro, but it doesn’t add up to much. Totally would hit skip on this track if I were to spin this record again.
I was going to say that this was another standard dad-rocker, but then Eddo starts singing and it sounds like when the Spin Doctors sang “liddlemissliddlemiss can’t be wrong” and I laughed, so there’s that.
Very straightforward rock song. You could hear this song 100 times and not remember a thing about it. It sounds like they’re having fun, though, so it would probably be fun to go hang in the garage with these dads and crack a Carlsberg or something.
Is growing up and becoming like their own fathers the “Never Destination”? Because mission accomplished, dudes! You’re probably all the “cool dads”!
Take The Long Way
This rocks a little harder and features some off-kilter change ups that have been mostly absent from the other songs. I like songs like this because there’s a bit of a nervous energy happening, whereas so many of the modern PJ songs sound like a band that could just write a sluggish garage rock song in their sleep.
Some nice background vocals bolster the chorus and bridge, and the bridge switches up the rhythm nicely. This tune is decent enough! Guitar solo is a bit shit, though.
Buckle Up… for a piece of shit!
“Buckle Up” is a No Code level bummer of a craptrack. I hate it, guys!
Comes Then Goes
This one sounds like it’s an Eddie joint and it carries the preferred presentation of being just an acoustic guitar and that rich, deep baritone that we all hear as we fall asleep each night. We all hear that, right? Eddie Vedder crooning us to sleep?
This song is a nice enough slab of folky balladry. I do not mind it. It does not, however, justify its over six-minute length. Eddie Vedder? More like Edit-me Better!
Have I already used that one? If not, I’ve still got it. That’s one of the best ones I’ve ever come up with.
Oh shit, the 12-string is back!
This song makes virtually no impression on me beyond that. A five-plus minute mid-tempo slog. Not a single memorable hook or riff. I dunno, this one is a bummer. The production on the big “epic” outro does sound appropriately big, but it’s in service of a pretty flat tune.
Pretty glad that they chose this as the album closer over “Retrograde”, as I find this to be a more effective and meditative track. It isn’t tremendous, but it is a decent vibe track with an interesting central chord progression performed on organ and an emphasis on the lead vocal.
On a record with a few more gems, this could have been a nice capper. It’s still nice, but it’s low energy following about three or four low-energy tracks, so I’m already feeling a little bored.
The song builds to yet another “big outro”, but I think that this one manages to work by feeling a little more stripped-down to a central idea than just a dog’s breakfast of ideas.
I’ll have to update my ULTIMATE PEARL JAM ALBUM RANKING POST with this new album.
Gigaton is a decidedly middle-of-the-road rock album with a few mildly amusing gems and lots of duds. Attempts at experimentation are largely more humorous than successful. A few quite good rockers (“Who Ever Said”, “Quick Escape”) can’t elevate this release beyond the lower-middle of the pack.
It’s a good thing that they’ve already sort of won me over, because this record isn’t going to net them any new fans, I don’t think. Mega-fans will probably like it fine.
For me, it’s not even that hilarious. Luckily, though, so many things are bad right now, a mediocre PJ record coming out actually feels pretty comforting!
I have missed these rock daddies and I still hope that live events happen again one day so that I can go laugh at them in person.