REVIEW OF pearl jam: dark matter

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Review By Paul Taggart

Tue 23/04/2024 12:46
Dark Matter is Pearl Jam’s 12th album, following on from 2020’s rather lacklustre Gigaton Unlike that album, which just sort of appeared and then promptly buggered off, the band and its management have made an effort to make this feel like an event. Well, as near an event as than can be managed by a bunch of old men in 2024. A world tour has been booked, listening parties at cinemas for nerds and more press than I remember centred around past album releases. 

The band may think they hold the crown jewels this time around, that this Dark Matter actually matters. Pearl Jam however just plays pretty much to a converted audience, like one of those 90s jam bands or the Grateful Dead. Mainstream audiences ceased to care beyond the mid-90s pretty much. Dark Matter itself is some scientific mumbo jumbo that is beyond my ability to understand. Data from Stat Trek probably could but he wouldn’t answer his phone si I will probably never know. All I can report that Dark Matter has a bounce and spark to it that may be the result of either mad science or a decent production job.

Production is handled here by Andrew Watt who has previously twiddled knobs on the last Iggy Pop and Rolling Stones albums. He had previously frankly dull Eddie Vedder solo record but they must have got on well enough to make the leap to Dark Matter.

Maybe this guy is the new Rick Rubin, who knows?

Style-wise, there is nothing new here. If anything, Dark Matter takes all their varied eras and rams it into an eleven track record. Basically since like 1994, Pearl Jam have some songs that are fast garage rock, lying somewhere between The Who and Neil Young and more laidback, longer songs. Again, the days of the glossy anthems of Ten are long-forgotten embers from 1991 although the mid-paced but boisterous Upper Hand comes close and the spiky Quick Escape could have slotted onto VS.

Ramalama as the Mc5 might have said, comes by way of the frantic Running and the very Spin The Black Circle mayhem of the title track. Opener Scared Of Fear also shudders with well worn garage grooves and matches the slamming React, Respond for instant ear worm status.

The band are now thirty-plus years in and this is probably as good as a record as you can expect from such a heritage band in 2024. Nothing really amazing here but nothing truly awful either. I suppose I can boil it down to it’s ok. 

Here, I managed all through this review to not mention the grunge word once. Whoops.

  1. “Scared of Fear” 4:24
  2. “React, Respond” 3:30
  3. “Wreckage” 5:00
  4. “Dark Matter” 3:31
  5. “Won’t Tell” 3:28
  6. “Upper Hand” 5:57
  7. “Waiting For Stevie” 5:41
  8. “Running” 2:19
  9. “Something Special” 4:06
  10. “Got To Give” 4:37
  11. “Setting Sun” 5:43
    Total length: 48:21

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