Arts, Music, Review

Pearl Jam Combines Grunge-Rock and Mellow Tones in ‘Dark Matter’


Grunge-rock band Pearl Jam has been in the music business for over 30 years, and after releasing its 12th studio album on Friday, April 19, the Seattle-based group is still finding ways to stay relevant in the music industry. 

Dark Matter, composed of 11 songs, came together in only three weeks. When discussing the LP, lead singer Eddie Vedder claimed: “No hyperbole, I think this is our best work.” 

The opener, titled “Scared Of Fear,” is an instrumental-heavy track, as are most Pearl Jam’s songs. Despite its upbeat nature, the lyrics touch on serious relationship matters. Taking listeners on a trip down memory lane, the song reminisces on the good and bad times of a tumultuous relationship, and the song highlights how it has become a revenge game.

“You’re hurting yourself, it’s plain to see / I think you’re hurting yourself just to hurt me,” Vedder sings.

“Wreckage” is the third track, and has already become a fan-favorite. The country-inspired song gives a twist to the band’s rock-heavy album, and despite the risky move, it seems like Pearl Jam hit the jackpot with this one. Guitarist Stone Gossard, who was in charge of playing the harmonica in “Wreckage,” shared how he “wasn’t quite aware of [the song’s] potency until later.”

Powerful lines also contribute to the “it” element of the song.

“The mistake we all make and perfectly repeat / Chains are made by DNA refusing, refusing to release,” Vedder sings.

The title song, “Dark Matter,” was built around classic-sounding rock-and-roll riffs, emphasized by guitarist Mike McCready’s solo. Perhaps because of its ordinary nature within the grunge-rock world, the track did not stand out.

A psychedelic instrumental introduces “Upper Hand” and lasts for about one third of the piece. That being said, the highlight of the track lies in the outro, where Vedder combines his voice and lyric-less guitar-heavy moments to reinforce the power of rock.

A fast tempo can be found in the album’s eighth track, “Running,” which is characterized by a fast tempo that pairs well with both the theme and title of the song. 

“Got me running, got me running / But the race, it never ends,” Vedder sings.

In contrast with the rest of the album, “Something Special” is a mellow, slower-paced track. The tune feels like a more personal piece, alluding to a wholesome father-daughter relationship. 

“Oh, and someday you / May find yourself in the place that I now do,” Vedder sings.

Following a similar atmosphere, “Got To Give” starts off with a tender chord progression. It only lasts about 20 seconds before a ’90s sounding instrumental kicks in.

“Setting Sun” is the perfect track to close off the album. The folk-inspired guitar melody brings listeners back to the first few songs on Dark Matter, tying well together with “Wreckage.” Both songs leave fans wondering what a country album by Pearl Jam would sound like. The message behind “Setting Sun” makes it clear why the track was chosen to close off the album.

“May our days be long until kingdom come / We can become one last setting sun,” Vedder sings.

April 26, 2024

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