It's a shame to say but Pearl Jam's latest album is just not terribly interesting. It's not bad, that would be oversimplifying. Now that that's out of the way, here is what their tenth album, Lightning Bolt, is. It is a diverse album that runs the gamut of tempos and volumes. It may just be a little too diverse for its own good. It's less of a experience as it is an identity crisis.
Lightning Bolt's greatest attribute is the obvious passion that the band has in their performances. This happens to show up better in the more rocking tracks. "My Father's Son" touches on singer Eddie Vedder's never meeting his late biological father, who was also a musician. Things drag with the stock "Sirens" and the directionless "Pendulum". But the last third album goes into cool down mode. The victim of this injustice is "Yellow Moon", which would have been better served at a different point in the running order. Sandwiched between other largely fallow tracks, its effectiveness is lost.
The five tracks penned Vedder serve as a microcosm of the rest of the record. "Getaway" and the title track fit right in the rest of the band's post-Ten harder rocking catalog. He also provides the closest thing to an anthem in "Swallowed Whole", a song that highlights Vedder's vocal ability to captivate. When he really lets loose, it usually yields amazing results. After that, however, Vedder and the album go soft and overly reflective. "Sleeping By Myself" could have been a leftover from his solo ukulele record. One can hope that album closer, "Future Days" is not a portent of things to come from the band.
The general feeling of Lightning Bolt is of a band that is being pulled in multiple different directions with only a handful of times when they truly intersect. When they do, stunning things often happen. They just don't happen with great enough frequency to make up for all of the uneven moments.