logo Y-Not Radio Listen Live iTunes facebook twitter mobile
Y-Not on Shuffle

CD of The Week

Week of 4/22/24

    Pearl Jam - Dark Matter (Monkeywrench / Republic)

    Pearl Jam’s last album, 2020’s Gigaton, had the misfortune of being one of the big albums to drop in the earliest weeks of that pandemic-scarred spring and the veteran rock band was one of the first major acts to have to postpone and cancel touring plans that year. Then in 2022, Eddie Vedder surprised fans with his latest solo album Earthling. Not a mellow ukulele record, Earthling was actually a mix of upbeat rockers and surprise collaborations. Vedder recorded the album with up-and-coming producer and Pearl Jam superfan Andrew Watt, and enjoyed the process so much, he invited the whole band to make their next record with Watt. The result is Dark Matter, quickly written and recorded by PJ standards.

    Dark Matter kicks off with a roaring one-two punch of the driving rocker “Scared of Fear” and “React, Respond,” a classic, muscular Pearl Jam track, both of which are highlighted by old-school Mike McCready and Stone Gossard guitar theatrics. “Wreckage” is an early fan favorite already, combining the chiming Tom Petty influence heard on Eddie’s Earthling with Pearl Jam’s own unique vibe, adding up to a really lovely song about regret. The dynamic title track finds Vedder musing about the troubling times we live in, commanding listeners to “Denounce the demagogues” and noting “It's strange these days/When everybody else pays for someone else's mistake.”

    “Upper Hand” sneaks a little “Yellow Leadbetter” blues riffing in before it picks up and takes off. While “Waiting for Stevie” was inspired by awaiting Stevie Wonder’s arrival at the studio during the recording of Earthling, it doesn’t sound anything like the music icon – it’s a straightforward Pearl Jam tune about how “You can be loved by everyone/And not feel, feel love.” Every Pearl Jam album needs a short, fast punk track and “Running” fits the bill here.

    Watt got his start producing pop artists like Selena Gomez and in recent years has worked with Ozzy Osbourne and The Rolling Stones, yet Pearl Jam are his north star and his favorite band. He even receives co-writing credits on Dark Matter, as does long-time auxiliary touring member Josh Klinghoffer, due to the loose collaborative songwriting process during the Dark Matter sessions. He told Rolling Stone one of his goals was to shine a spotlight on Matt Cameron’s drumming. Take a listen to “Scared of Fear” or that big finish on “Waiting for Stevie” and see for yourself if he was successful.

    There are no real oddball sonic experiments or left-field curveballs to be found on Dark Matter. It’s focused more on big rock moments than big hooks as well, bringing back some ‘90s guitar heroics and vibes perhaps at the expense of catchier choruses.

    Dark Matter pulls off an interesting sleight of hand, evoking the band’s ‘90s heyday without directly attempting another “Evenflow” or “Alive.” It’s a worthy addition to the Pearl Jam catalog and perhaps more importantly at this point in their career, their setlists. Philadelphia has always been one of Pearl Jam’s favorite cities and they return for two sold-out shows at the Wells Fargo Center on September 7th and 9th.

    Review by Joey O.

Y-Not Radio on MixCloud