Dark Matter

Dark Matter

For anyone who’s ever wondered about the durability of Pearl Jam (or any veteran rock band) as they enter their fourth decade together, a brief story: When Eddie Vedder stepped away from the Seattle outfit to make his third solo LP—2022’s extremely fun Earthling—he enjoyed working with producer Andrew Watt so much that his first instinct was to share that feeling with his bandmates. He urged them to quickly meet him at Watt’s LA home studio, no gear or pre-written material necessary. It was all about playing—getting into a room together, splashing around, seeing what happens. It turns out, Vedder’s instincts are still good. Written and recorded with Watt over the course of two sessions—the first at his home and the second, months later, at the legendary Shangri-La in Malibu—Pearl Jam’s 12th full-length is immediate and direct, a lean-and-mean counterpoint to the more sculpted and experimental feel of 2020’s Gigaton. Credit fresh wind: Born less than a year before the release of the band’s era-defining 1991 debut Ten, Watt came of age with Pearl Jam’s earliest work. He brings a fan’s enthusiasm to the proceedings—he even plays guitar across the record, a dream—but also an outsider’s perspective on what feels authentic to Pearl Jam, no matter the date. That means they lean unabashedly into their strengths and influences: big, broad-shouldered rock (“Scared of Fear,” whose cavernous opening seconds recall those of Ten); Petty-indebted balladry (“Wreckage”); midtempo wizardry (“Won’t Tell”); reliable slabs of classic punk (“Running”; the 10-ton title track). They play the hits by offering new ones, and you can hear the satisfaction they seem to get in clicking here, in the spontaneity of it all. Vedder’s lyrics have never sounded so fluid and free; Matt Cameron’s drum work has never felt so concussive and true. Listen closely to the first chords of “Something Special” and you’ll hear exactly that: a little laughter amongst old friends.

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