Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam
Metascore
73

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Oct 24, 2013
    100
    It's fast, It's slow, It's mature, without being boring; it rocks, even when it's doesn't. It's also one of the best albums of 2013, if not the best. [12 Oct 2013, p.50]
  2. Oct 15, 2013
    83
    The album still feels fresher and more relevant than the world at large might expect at this point--this classic-rock band still has at least a few classics left in it.
  3. 83
    [A] muscular and tender 10th album.
  4. Oct 14, 2013
    80
    What comes across is the teamwork of musicians who have been working in tandem for decades. They’re grown-ups with fewer demons and more polish, but they’re still pushing themselves.
  5. Oct 14, 2013
    80
    Pearl Jam’s not just still alive, it’s kicki
  6. Oct 14, 2013
    80
    Years on, Lightning Bolt is sure to rank among one of the high points of the group’s discography, standing as an example of their ability to burrow down and hone all of their strengths to a fever pitch.
  7. Oct 14, 2013
    80
    On Lightning Bolt, they've grown into that classic rock mantle, accentuating the big riffs and bigger emotions, crafting songs without a worry as to whether they're hip or not and, most importantly, enjoying the deep-rooted, nervy arena rock that is uniquely their own.
  8. Oct 8, 2013
    80
    The way they shift from the blues-y swagger of Let The Record Play to the percussive march of Pendulum and the R.E.M.-evoking country twang of Yellow Moon is a sure sign that they belong in the lineage of great American rock bands. [Nov 2013, p.108]
  9. Oct 8, 2013
    80
    The softer tracks find the group negotiating their path to maturity with confidence.
  10. Nov 21, 2013
    78
    While the backside wavers, the band has never sounded better or more self-assured, but its ambition suggests they've outgrown simple song collections.
  11. Dec 4, 2013
    75
    Lightning Bolt finds Pearl Jam sounding more comfortable in its collective skin and with its collective influences than perhaps even before. [Nov-Dec 2013, p.92]
  12. For a group of guys who are now 22 years on from their debut album and 15 years past their prime as one of the biggest and most important groups in rock ‘n’ roll, Lightning Bolt is a strikingly stellar set of songs that belies the band’s democratic nature.
  13. Oct 14, 2013
    75
    Three brisk, blood-pumping rockers pick up where the band's previous album, "Backspacer," left off.... Things falter when the band's love of '70s classic rock turns musty.... Inspiration returns on the title track, which rides Matt Cameron's roller-coaster drumming and richly layered guitars and keyboards.
  14. Oct 28, 2013
    70
    While Lightning Bolt may fall somewhat shy of that goal ["the Best Album"], it is a more than solid effort to satisfy the legions of fanboys born between ’77 and ’84, and a convincing argument for their continued existence.
  15. 70
    Lightning Bolt could do with a bit more of that hot-wired sound. But its brutally hard-won optimism is satisfying enough. [Nov 2013, p.88]
  16. Oct 15, 2013
    70
    Lightning Bolt is the sound of anger and brooding depression. In Pearl Jam terms, this is reason to be happy.
  17. Oct 14, 2013
    70
    There's enough flat-out enjoyable tunes on Lightning Bolt to set aside the past, at least temporarily.
  18. Oct 9, 2013
    70
    This set is teeming with energy despite its down moments, and demands to be played again in its entirety as soon as it ends.
  19. Oct 8, 2013
    70
    As powerfully new wavey as 2009's Backspacer at the start but also a testament to the band's more oddball meandering elsewhere, the commitment of Eddie Vedder's delivery brings a veracity even to some of the more ponderous ballads that can be the band's mature years default position. [Nov 2013, p.76]
  20. 65
    There’s no inherently bad songwriting here, but most of it isn’t particularly interesting, either. This ultimately becomes the chief complaint here.
  21. Dec 18, 2013
    60
    Lightning Bolt is only more competent than Foo Fighters, Vedder and Co.'s rival for the planet's straightest rock band. [No. 105, p.57]
  22. Oct 24, 2013
    60
    Mike McCready’s guitar solos mostly take a backseat to the band’s meaty rhythm section, and, sure, some of the 12 tracks are victims of awkward construction. But Lightning Bolt resonates, especially the band’s jarring (if kind of clichéd) conclusions.
  23. Oct 14, 2013
    60
    It's far from an implosion, far from spectacular.
  24. Oct 14, 2013
    60
    Not classic Pearl Jam by any stretch - let’s not get carried away here--but enough to kindle at least a little optimism for whatever comes next.
  25. Oct 14, 2013
    60
    Years removed from the raw emotion and desperate appetites of youth, Pearl Jam has slipped into alt-rock elder statesmanship as one would a comfortable old sweater. And as Lightning Bolt mostly attests, it's a decent look for them.
  26. 60
    For the most part it’s a good record. The first two thirds are much stronger than that last third.... On its own merit, it’s a solid three stars.... The first couple of tracks had me firmly in its corner, but then the album took a complete nosedive on the back half. [Three reviewers in one]
  27. Oct 14, 2013
    60
    Pearl Jam's 10th album might offer little in the way of surprises.
  28. 60
    An intriguing mix overall and further proof that Pearl Jam play by their own rules--a fact that real fans would never want to change.
  29. Oct 10, 2013
    60
    A few ponderous moments aside, this is a sturdy return to great form.
  30. Oct 15, 2013
    50
    Lightning Bolt begins with a spirited sprint before sputtering out and winding up in dullsville.
  31. Dec 19, 2013
    40
    The problem is that Pearl Jam at this point is just repeating itself--or others.
  32. Oct 15, 2013
    40
    Essentially, the cruise control is running onward with disregard for all the maintenance and repairs that an engine needs, and the result is the worst album of their career.
  33. 40
    There’s something very ‘mopey American teenager’ about Lightning Bolt.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 81 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 26
  2. Negative: 2 out of 26
  1. Oct 15, 2013
    8
    Pearl Jam is certainly an anomaly in the jungle of the music industry. They emerged as the forerunners in a movement where most seemingly weren’t destined for old bones and yet Pearl Jam has now endured for over 20 years. They’ve followed their own muse and called their own shots and still maintain a massive commercial appeal. They were initially lumped in with the genre of “grunge” mainly for their ethos, apparel, and geographic location. But while messianic figures of the trade like Kurt Cobain practiced what they preached in a somewhat self-sabotaging even self-eviscerating fashion, Pearl Jam were and still are at their core firmly entrenched in the heart of Classic Rock tradition. Their canon has emulated numerous Rock & Roll luminaries such as R.E.M., The Who, Bruce Springsteen, MC5, Led Zeppelin, and Neil Young (To whom this endeavor is dedicated to in the liner notes affectionately, “Dedicated to Uncle Neil.”) to name a few. It should come as no revelation then that sequenced with its various peaks and valleys, Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album Lightning Bolt unfurls like a Classic Rock record.

    Lightning Bolt explodes like a powder-keg with the one-two punch opening of “Getaway” and “Mind Your Manners” as the former strides in with a bold and brash Stones-y swagger and front man Eddie Vedder spits fire from his pulpit, “Everyone’s a critic looking back up the river/ Every boat is leaking in this town/ Everybody’s thinking that they’ll all be delivered/ Sitting in a box like lost and found.” The latter is leaner with buzz saw urgency paying homage to the visceral D.I.Y. spirit of the early Punk pioneers as guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard play like dogs off a leash. The wormhole of “My Father’s Son” battles with demons (Now father you’re dead and gone/ And I’m finally free to be me/ Thanks for all your gifts/ For which I got no sympathy) before shifting to the break-of-dawn ballad “Sirens” acting as a soothing glow coating and calming the agitation and fury that had erupted from the first the three rockers. The title track is as monumental and continental-shifting as any piece of music they’ve put on record. The unbounded frontier sonics and “Given to Fly” fervor is galvanizing with Vedder sermonizing on the shoreline, “She comes on like stone/ But you don’t know where from she was thrown/ Like a burning meteor from miles high.” “Infallible” is a jarring cold sweat and “Pendulum” sounds like a drowning man’s final meditation, time passes and the sinking continues until life and light are barely a flicker. “Swallowed Whole” is a global trek with no limits or boundaries and “Let The Records Play” is a gritty guitar romp. An unabashed celebration exploring the medicinal and divine power of Rock & Roll, “When kingdom comes/ He puts his records on/ And with his blistered thumb hits play.” “Sleeping By Myself” is reworked from Vedder’s 2011 album Ukulele Songs augmented by a full band arrangement while Vedder’s ukulele still adds an aesthetic charm. “Future Days” closes as a sterling hymn as haunting as it is alluring. It’s a survivor’s psalm, free of guilt with its luminous prophecy faithfully believing in the journey ahead. This may be the most fragile Pearl Jam has ever sounded but sincerity prevails and it’s the perfect curtain call for a band coming to terms with its legacy as well as gauging its destiny.

    Lightning Bolt finds Pearl Jam perhaps surprisingly sailing gracefully into middle age embracing a roll as elderly statesmen in an increasingly uncertain industry, a conscience and moral compass of sorts. They’ve fallen in and out of favor with certain groups of fans and critics alike but the band continues to soldier on, indifferent of how they’re perceived in certain circles and confident in their virtues. This is a fusion of their raging youthful past with a genuine tenderness and wink of the eye that could only come from decades of experience and craftsmanship. Sure it may be considered “Dad Rock” by some, but what a righteous and mature statement this record is.
    Full Review »
  2. Oct 15, 2013
    10
    This is everything a PJ fan could hope for. It is the perfect combination of harder rocking songs (Getaway, MYM, My Father's Son), mid tempo rockers (LB, Swallowed Whole), some extremely successful experiments for the band (Infallible, Pendulum, SBM) and beautiful ballads (Sirens, YM). They also make a foray into blues territory with LTRP which is entirely sucsessful at being the 'fun' song on the album. FD is probably the only below par song and even then, it's not a clunker. All in all, excellent album with at least 5 entries which stand up to their best output (Getaway, MFS, Infallible, Pendulum, Yellow Moon). Full Review »
  3. Oct 15, 2013
    1
    Once a great rock band, Pearl Jam has settled into a pattern of retreaded guitar riffs, middling songwriting and FM soft rock theatrics. There's really no reason to revisit this album; it's simply an expression of a band merely existing to pay the bills and to relive the glory days. But we'll always have the live shows and "Vitalogy." Full Review »