Pearl Jam – Dark Matter

Producer Andrew Watt has a talent for making big rock bands that have been around for decades sound fresh again. Last fall, with “Hackney Diamonds,” he made the Stones sound like they were in their heyday again, and he seems to have done the same with Pearl Jam. Because on their new album “Dark Matter” he seems to have brought out the best in Edde Vedder and associates.

No, the material on “Dark Matters” is probably not innovative. Their previous album “Gigaton” was perhaps more surprising, but sounded a bit strained here and there to stay relevant. 2013’s “Lightning Bolt” was more of a lavish, straight-up grunge rock album. More balance is found on “Dark Matter”. With the opening track “Scared Of Fear” you again feel the urgency of a band that wants to prove itself again without freneticism. With punk songs “React, Respond” and “Running”, Pearl Jam sounds as dirty as in the ’90s.

The sound from that decade is not far away at all. Because the quiet “Wreckage” nods heavily to the folk-rock of R.E.M. and Tom Petty in the ’90s. The choirs are very reminiscent of Petty’s “Learning To Fly”. There is no shortage of melodic stadium ballads at all. For example, “Upper Hand”, “Waiting For Stevie” and “Setting Sun” evoke echoes of “Black” or “Daughter” or Vedder’s solo track “Hard Sun”.

A band like Pearl Jam no longer has to prove itself. On “Dark Matter” they may reuse an old recipe, but Andrew Watt manages to bring a certain freshness to it, just like he did with the Stones. You can hear that the album was recorded in a short time. This makes Pearl Jam sound fresh and more spontaneous than on their previous albums. This could make “Dark Matter” their strongest album since 2009’s “Backspacer”. (9/10) (Republic)

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