Pearl Jam go back to their roots: what “Dark matter” sounds like

Pearl Jam go back to their roots: what “Dark matter” sounds like

Band stories are often like a TV series: they develop following a narrative arc that respects some fairly consolidated story forms, a structure in seasons and episodes that often follows a consolidated plot. The new season of Pearl Jam's story is titled “Dark matter”, but it could be subtitled “Back to the origins”. A classic, the return, after having traveled new roads and searched for new sounds, as happened with “Gigaton”, the album from 4 years ago. In “Dark matter” it is both the logical continuation of the previous album, and quite different.

There is a new character in the story of this new season: Andrew Watt, a very young and highly esteemed producer who worked on Eddie Vedder's solo album “Earthling”. Here, however, he applied the formula that he used to produce “Hackney diamonds”, the Rolling Stones' latest album: bringing a historic band back to its essence. Watt was born when the band was starting to work on “Ten”, he grew up as a fan and as a fan he reasoned, asking himself what he would like to hear from the band. And here it is the return to the origins: songs that quote the solos of “Ten”, try to recreate the intensity of classic songs, quote the sounds of reference bands and artists such as Soundgarden, REM, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, U2, punk, The Who.

“Dark matter” is a record that, unlike the previous one, was recorded with the whole band together, and you can feel it. It is no coincidence that there are no writing credits for the individual songs, but they are credited to the whole band (and also to Josh Klinghoffer and Watt himself, who also play several instruments). Vedder is instead credited as the author of all the lyrics. After a couple of listens for fans in Los Angeles and London, “Dark Matter” was previewed to the press: we listened to it, and here are the first impressions, song by song.

Scared Of Fear

After the sound of billiard balls, a riff that could come from the band's first albums: a declaration of intent that reflects on the passing of time (“We used to laugh/we used to sing/we used to dance/we were our own scene”), which starts from the admission of one's fragility to let go: what Pearl Jam tries to do on the album (Oh I 'm not saying I know/it's all feeling unclear/we all like control/(surrender to you dear”)
The song quotes “Setting sun”, the final song of the album (Is this what we've become?/one last setting sun/I'll ​​give, but I can't give up/I'll ​​live, not long enough) . It features a slow/start and a great McCready solo: all Pearl Jam trademarks.

React, Respond

An even faster song, with guitar and distorted bass duetting: another song that sounds classically Pearl Jam: “When what you get is what you don't want/don't react, respond”. It ends with a solo that seems to come out of “Ten”.


A midtempo classic with the vocals in front and an arpeggiated guitar between REM, and Tom Petty, two great loves of Vedder and the band: an impression reinforced by the presence of choirs and harmonies and vocals. “I've only ever wanted/for it not to be this way
but you're now like the water/and the water will find its way/combing through the wreckage/holding out, holding on”.

Dark Matter

The most “Soundgarden-like” song: it opens with a drum beat in which Matt Cameron plays Matt Cameron, one of the best rock drummers around, a granitic guitar riff à la Kim Thayil, a solo by Mike McCready, while the voice by Eddie Vedder is a little behind in the mix. The business card of the return.

Won't tell

Another midtempo, which starts with a rhythm reminiscent of “Crazy Mary” (one of the band's most loved covers), to open on an almost U2-like ending, with the guitars intertwining with Vedder's voice: “You can find me here / waiting for your message to come/can you heal, can you feel/the chains in my heart”

Upper Hand

A brief beginning with a synth that recalls the Who, then it seems to mention U2 again, those of “Where the streets have no name”, and then opens up again becoming a classic rock between Beatles and Pink Floyd, especially in the “liquid” guitars of the first part of the Gilmour solo: “I apologize, so sorry 'bout the timing/but you know, something that I never had/was the upper hand” the ending is instead more classically PJ with vender declaiming “Carry me” on a melody that recalls “Porch”. At 6 minutes it is the most ambitious song on the album.

Waiting for Stevie

A riff that recalls certain atmospheres of “Superunknown” by Soundgarden, with a very open melody (“You can be loved by everyone/ and still not feel, not feel love”) and another great final solo by McCready. According to Vedder it tells the story of a girl who finds comfort in music more than in her peers (“Words follow her down/needs to shake em off now/this godforsaken town/don't deserve her anyhow”) while the title refers to the fact that the first idea was written by Vedder and Watt while they were waiting for Stevie Wonder for the sessions of “Earthling”, his solo album.
A sweet 45-second instrumental coda follows which is actually another micro-song, a fragment of an unfinished song.


Two minutes of punk-rock, another classic of Pearl Jam's records, which ends in an angry way, almost like “Lukin”: it was the second single and seems to tell of the race of life that never ends: “You got me running , got me running/but the race it never ends/I'm feeling done in, it's rather stunning”.

Something special

A mid tempo on acoustic guitars a bit like “Off he goes”, but with the voice which, unlike other songs, is very front in the mix. Then they enter electric with a presence of drums and backing vocals on the chorus, of a motivational song: “Aint it the truth/ we believe in you/we all got something, we all got something to prove/out of everyone you're not just anyone /you're the one and only you”.

Got to give

Short acoustic guitar intro, then an electric guitar in clear evidence – with a chorus with a melodic line a la “Light Years” (“I'll be the last one standing/I'll ​​be the last to forgive you”).
“If you can see/ Something's got to give”, declaims Eddie Vedder on the final Who-like crescendo, made up of guitars and piano.

Setting sun

Percussion, acoustic guitar, fretless bass for a song that is a bit reminiscent of “Long road”, in the initial part. An ending that begins in a melancholic way that reflects on the passing of time: (“I dreamt to you I would belong/held the dream you would stay with me/til kingdom come/turns out it was more like hit and run/am i the only one hanging on?)
Then it opens in a more epic way when electric guitar and drums enter: “May your days be long til kingdom come/ we can become one last setting sun/am I the only one hanging on/we could become,… one last setting sun or be the sun at the break of dawn/let us not fade”.