Monday, 14 October 2013

New Music Monday #73

Lightning Bolt
by Pearl Jam (out now)

Everyone who has an interest in rock music has a thought about Pearl Jam. Some people say they liked their old stuff better than their new stuff, some say they couldn't care less, some say they're the greatest band that's ever been. My Pearl Jam? When I first heard a Pearl Jam song, all those years ago, I was a different person. I was a baby, so young, so unprepared for what life was to bring. I remember the first time I heard a song by those five guys, for me it wasn't Ten, it was Vs. all those years ago now, it was 'Dissident' and there was something, something in the intense driving guitars, in the voice "escape is never the safest place, a dissident, a dissident is here..."  that screamed at me, that sounded like it was written from my own life, how did Eddie Vedder know what I was thinking? My discovery of Pearl Jam was intense and perfect, this was a band I developed a deep love of, almost the obsessive type. I fell for their sounds, their thoughts, their emotions quite intensely and dramatically. So many albums, so many songs have seen me through so many parts of my life, both good and bad, it's hard to step back and write about an album from a reviewing perspective, to listen to it rationally, to hear it for the first time without pre-judgement. Having said all of that, I took a deep breath and pressed play on their latest release, Lightning Bolt in the hope I could take it in without too much emotion. I learnt some lessons about my love of music when I hit play.

This, their tenth album comes twenty two years after their first release, Ten; an album that was instrumental (with an entire movement of music) in changing the face of the music industry for a little while in the early 90s. While every album since has it's own standout tracks, moments and for me, more songs to add to my own life soundtrack, the thing that Pearl Jam have managed to do is move forward, but continually sound like Pearl Jam. So when I pressed play on Lightning Bolt, I was so happy to hear the opening notes of 'Getaway'; unapologetically Pearl Jam, much like the tracks from those albums of the mid 90s, punchy, familiar, dramatic. This is followed by the first single 'Mind Your Manners', which could have been taken straight from 1994's Vitalogy, it is as angsty as Pearl Jam gets, Eddie's typical screaming/singing style somehow comforting and familiar, which is also the exact feel of 'My Father's Son', an intense song about his unusual relationship with his own father, a subject matter which is continually addressed throughout Pearl Jam's history.

The title track 'Lightning Bolt' is unquestionably pure rock, a simple song destined to be sung along to and pleading to be played live, 'Infallible' halfway through is a little sharp yet also melodic, it's Pearl Jam at some of their best, 'Swallowed Whole' is unashamedly just rock music, as is 'Let The Records Play', while 'Sleeping By Myself' no doubt has the influence of Eddie's Ukulele Songs album, it's a little swinging number I couldn't resist playing twice the first time I heard the album.

Which brings me to the Pearl Jam I've fallen for over the years, the Pearl Jam that have managed to rest my heart gently in their chords and hands. Closing track 'Future Days' is the heartbreaker, this is the killer, the one that will be sung along to at concerts, that will be played and sung by the loved and played alone at home by the loveless; keys, strings, guitar, the gentle vocal and the innocent lyrics, this is the track that takes the whole album to get to and it's the track that's worth the wait.

Say what you will about this band, say they were better back in the day, say they were amazing that time you saw them at that festival, say they were never that good, say you sang along to every word while you were drunk at a party once, say you've never heard of them, say you learnt how to play 'Wishlist' on guitar once, say they've always been middle of the road, say they're your favourite band ever, say you've never liked them. Whatever it is you say, there's a couple of things that can't be denied. This is a band that have managed to remain relevant in an industry that pumps out a new Miley Cyrus, a new Pitbull, even a new Haim or Tame Impala every week. They've now released ten albums, every one of them somehow different but remarkably the same, each and every one unashamedly Pearl Jam. This is a band that play rock music and play it well. This is an album that may not be the best of the year, that may not change the world, it may not even be their best yet, but it's an album that is comfortable with what it is, by a band that are clearly comfortable with their place in the world, probably more than ever before.

There's a lesson I learnt about my love of music when I put this album on. While I sit at my laptop and write about music I love and some I don't every week, some music and some bands have made their way into my life without my control and they're the ones that mean the most, regardless of who thinks what about them on whatever blog or website or magazine I happen to be reading. I adore Lightning Bolt like I do all the other Pearl Jam albums I own and love, because as anyone who reads regularly knows, my relationship with music is a special one, and some bands have played an especially important part in that relationship. Pearl Jam are one of those bands and, like music and I, we have a history, a special something that won't ever change;

"If I ever were to lose you
I'd surely lose myself
Everything I have found here
I’ve not found by myself"

Jo Michelmore gives Lightning Bolt five Eddie Vedder heads out of five...

by Client Liasion

I have absolutely no idea why I love this song so much. Seriously, no idea. It feels like a track that would have been played on some 80s family sitcom, this is the song that would have been playing at a school dance in Family Ties while Michael J Fox was comforting Malory, while she was wearing a pink taffeta dress and pining after a boy with an awful mullet. Don't know what I'm talking about? youtube that. It's 80s TV at its best and worst, which is amazing. Which is also like this song. 80s at it's best and worst. Best because I can't help but sing along, worst because it's stuck and I'm singing along well after it's over. 'Feelings' is all synths and falsetto vocals and goddamn, it's so damn catchy. It's something George Michael would have been singing in 87, or Pseudo Echo would have been singing in the same decade (youtube them as well, you won't regret it). The bridge is perfect and if it wasn't such pop perfection I might even dislike it, but damn, how do these guys do this so well? This is amazing. I didn't even know how much I loved 80s pop until I heard this, now I've listened to it four times and started googling like you wouldn't believe. I have absolutley no idea why I love this, but I do. Must. Listen. Again.

Jo Michelmore gives 'Feelings' four Kylie Minogue heads out of five...

Let Me Go
By Avril Lavigne ft. Chad Kroeger
Album: Avril Lavigne (out 1 November, 2013)

Haha. Urgh. In other news, Avril Lavigne has a song with Marilyn Manson on her upcoming self-titled album. Hopefully this will lead to other exciting collaborations from artists you wouldn’t expect to work together. I’m thinking Slipknot and Adele maybe? How about Barry Manilow ft. Godsmack? At least that would create some sort of perverse curiosity. Chavril Krovigne? It’s just as lame as you thought it would be going in. Maybe even lamer. It’s definitely lamer.

Matt Bond gives 'Never Let Go' no heads out of five...!


By Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
Album: Give The People What They Want (out January, 2014)

The animated music video is well and truly alive in 2013, with the returning and always amazing Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings joining the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Wombats and The Lumineers in bringing a bit of hand drawn art (or computer generated… whatever) to life. In the video for new single, ‘Retreat’, Toon Sharon shows some bad wolf fellas that, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” as she takes on an army with her disco-diva ‘tude and a helpful ability to turn into a giant. Who doesn’t love an eclectic animated video? If ‘Retreat’ the song and video are an indication of what we can expect from the new album, Give, 2014 is going to be an excellent year for fans of the soulful powerhouse that is Sharon Jones.

Matt Bond gives 'Retreat' three Supremes heads out of five…

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