wed 22/05/2024

Album: Pearl Jam - Dark Matter | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Pearl Jam - Dark Matter

Album: Pearl Jam - Dark Matter

Enduring grunge icons return full of energy, arguably their most empowered yet

Immediate and ferocious: Pearl Jam's twelfth album 'Dark Matter'

Thirty years, and over 75 million copies sold. It’s been a long journey from Nineties Seattle for Pearl Jam, the grunge era icons fronted by Eddie Vedder's commanding vocals.

Pearl Jam have since carved out a legacy as one of the most forward-thinking bands around. The band have long stood against unfair ticket pricing and raised millions for causes like abortion access and homelessness, and funding research into and raising awareness for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. While previous album, 2020’s acclaimed Gigaton, touched on environmental and political themes. 

For such a storied career so far, one could wonder where to go next for 12th album, Dark Matter. The answer, it turns out, was straight into Malibu’s Shangri-La studios during 2023 with producer Andrew Watt. 

Faced only with themselves and their instruments, Watt said “Go” and the five-piece asked, “How far?”. Recorded in just three weeks in a flurry of inspiration, the result is immediate, ferocious. 

This high-energy sound is best evidenced on the title track. Matt Cameron’s drums sound powerful, yet rich and full. While Stone Gossard’s and Mike McCready’s guitars jut in with a hypnotic, simple riff. Or “React, Respond”, which opens in a distorted fury before giving away to a stepping guitar line full of impetus. 

But all isn’t furious guitars and raucous drums. “Wreckage” takes a mellower tone and stands out with beautifully layered, soulful vocals in the chorus. Meanwhile, “Won’t Tell” soothes with a midtempo, bluesy catchiness.  

At the midpoint, “Upper Hand” pivots through a spacious, ominous soundscape that breathes atmosphere into the album. It’s an interesting and welcome turn, adding a touch of difference into the mix. Though it’s not long before the volume levels are cranked again, as “Waiting For Stevie” brings the power back in.  

Ultimately, it’s hard for a band as enduring as Pearl Jam, with their debut album Ten as equally iconic, to escape comparisons against what they’ve done previously. So, while it may be a touch less adventurous as it’s two predecessors, Dark Matter succeeds overwhelmingly; five talented musicians who have done this many times before, playing like their lives depend on it. This is Pearl Jam at arguably their most empowered. 

While it may be a touch less adventurous as it’s two predecessors, 'Dark Matter' succeeds overwhelmingly


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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