Pearl Jam: Dark Matter review – the faithful will rejoice

Pearl Jam: Dark Matter review – the faithful will rejoice

Saturday, 18 May 2024

Pearl Jam: Dark Matter review – the faithful will rejoice with superproducer Andrew Watt working his magic, the Seattle grunge veterans sound on point and full of energy in their 35th anniversary year.
Discussions about Pearl Jam’s 12th record should dwell on the extraordinary longevity of this grunge-era band, who arrive in their 35th year largely intact and on the right side of history – pro-environment, pro-voting. For their latest album they have turned to 33-year-old rock fan turned superproducer Andrew Watt (happy customers include Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop and the Rolling Stones, plus PJ singer Eddie Vedder solo), who applies Spotify-era tweakments to heritage acts. Here, he amplifies melody, foregrounds crunch and trims fat, while harking back to Pearl Jam’s first two hits, Ten (1991) and Vs (1993). By now, most listeners will know where they stand on Vedder’s distinctive holler and the band’s beefiness; little on Dark Matter is likely to enchant gen Z away from their own heroes.

But the faithful will rejoice. In contrast to Pearl Jam works assembled more lugubriously – Gigaton (2020) – you can really hear the guys-in-a-room energy percolating through faster songs such as Running. React, Respond finds Pearl Jam’s rhythm section and guitars feeding off one another. Something Special, addressing Vedder’s daughters, is less enticing. But there is nothing amiss with the title track, a pile-driving swirl complete with headphone Doppler effect that doesn’t need a 90s revival to sound on point.

Adi Basha


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