Pearl Jam
Dark Matter


3.6
great

Review

by Raul Stanciu STAFF
April 19th, 2024 | 70 replies


Release Date: 04/19/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The band seems to enjoy playing together again.

After the decent, but mostly forgettable and ponderous Gigaton, Pearl Jam recruited producer Andrew Watt to create a more spontaneous, powerful record. Recorded in three weeks, Dark Matter manages to avoid the meandering paths of its predecessor. The guys seem focused and eager to rock again. In the short, collaborative songwriting sessions, everyone pitched in, crafting a less demanding, cohesive LP. Matt Cameron received more room to expand his drum patterns amid the prominent guitars, which is always a plus. At the same time, Eddie Vedder was toned down a bit, allowing the other members to find their spot in the mix. Since nobody expects the quintet to reinvent themselves at this point in their career, the best they could do is deliver a solid record.

Thankfully, they did. You can hear pretty much everything they have explored since the 2000s on Dark Matter. Starting strong with two rockers, “Scared of Fear” and “React, Respond”, the former boasts twangy chords and urgent vocals, whereas the latter pumps out heavier riffs with a smooth guitar solo at the end. Both are fine examples of what you’d come to expect from the punchy side of Pearl Jam. Meanwhile, the title track benefits from Cameron’s drumming, again raising the question of why can’t he lead the band into more complex sonic territory? The stop-start rhythm works well, but the instrumental could have led to more than this. Also, “Running” harkens back to the Vitalogy era, albeit in a more polished fashion. These punk rock inspired riffs are arguably the heaviest recorded by them in over 15 years or so. In between these tracks, we can find the usual melodic or moody numbers too. For example, “Wreckage” and its lush, classic radio rock sound gently plays along Vedder’s weathered croon, while “Won’t Tell” shares bluesy licks and grooves among uplifting choruses. Luckily, the meaty production helps these cuts to not fall into the tired, mid-tempo category of their catalog. Same goes for “Waiting for Stevie” and its grandiose progressions and vocal hooks. Moreover, “Upper Hand” is one of the more interesting experiments here, growing from an extended ambient intro into a effective ballad. The late night atmosphere soon gives way to a harder hitting coda where Mike McCready’s solo takes off. It flows quite nicely throughout its 6-minute span. As per usual, political and social content is peppered throughout the album’s lyrics, however, Eddie kept his stories slightly ambiguous, compensating with introspective subjects as well.

Overall, Dark Matter ended up as the most interesting and energized record since Backspacer. It seems pushing the band to work fast in the studio yields better results. Of course, most of the material here sounds familiar, but the members feel once more invested in it. As Andrew Watt is on the path to become the current generation’s Rick Rubin, rejuvenating veteran acts, for Pearl Jam he was indeed a good match. They should give it another try in a few years.



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user ratings (108)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 19th 2024


6198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Didn't expect this to be so consistent and even fun at times.



Stream here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-uk-vh0LUo&list=PLxA687tYuMWj-5NIzWaub8928yzjij-8T

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
April 19th 2024


1816 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review! Can't agree more, this sounds so fresh compared to the last couple records and the tracks are very consistently fun. Great riffs, Cameron's drumming is definitely a highlight for me.

ovmunster
April 19th 2024


48 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Can't believe I enjoyed a 2020s Pearl Jam album this much

claygurnz
April 19th 2024


7603 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really liking this, their best album in years.



Waiting For Stevie is an absolutely unreal song, I think it's going to end up being high on my list of favourite PJ songs.

Lopan
April 19th 2024


104 Comments


The only downfall of this solid album is how sterile and lifeless Andrew Watt's production is. Eddie sounds very good on this.

WhiteNoise
April 20th 2024


3887 Comments


There’s no doubt each band member is actually super talented but Christ does this band make rock music sound so boring.

DoofDoof
April 20th 2024


15216 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Either a 3 or a 3.5….erring in the side of positivity for now :D



‘React, Respond’ is the most fun tune

zakalwe
April 20th 2024


39144 Comments


Can’t bring myself to listen to the thing.

A lifetime has passed.

DoofDoof
April 20th 2024


15216 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

…you liked the Stones album last year Zak?

zakalwe
April 20th 2024


39144 Comments


I wasn’t there from the start with the Stones. Didn’t grow up with them, didn’t dress like them.

onionbubs
April 20th 2024


21257 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gotta give this a shot. band is mostly pretty in one ear out the other post yield but i have a lot of nostalgia for their first 5 so a good pearl jam album would own

DoofDoof
April 20th 2024


15216 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

‘I wasn’t there from the start with the Stones. Didn’t grow up with them, didn’t dress like them.’



True, watching them live a couple of years ago for the first time it was great but not like the magic of what it must have been like back in the day, the stuff shown on the documentary.



Eddie seems a nice chap but his patter was very beige peace and love waffle and it broke the spell a bit too - he seemed fucking old and out of touch.



So I get it…but if you’ve listened to any of the last five you might as well listen to this because it’s the best one of those.

zakalwe
April 20th 2024


39144 Comments


Vedder is Bono with a hacky sack

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2024


1586 Comments


Lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to get into these guys. a resounding failure every time.

Nevertheless, exceptional review

glorybox94
April 20th 2024


1079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very solid record! their best since s/t in 2006 for me!

NudeTayne
April 21st 2024


942 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Once again it feels like they play their cards too close to their chests

DoofDoof
April 21st 2024


15216 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

First half of this is quite a bit better than the second…but the first half is 4 worthy so think the boys are keeping a 3.5 here

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
April 21st 2024


16656 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

really disappointing. did they hire outside songwriters or something

DoofDoof
April 21st 2024


15216 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Vedder’s vocal melodies are v good if not quite vintage, could grow on you :/



I dig that this leans more on rock than ballads as well (latter career from about ‘No Code’ on the ballads tended to be the best/most popular tunes)

Pho3nix
April 21st 2024


1617 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm not expecting anything going into this... Gigaton was such a letdown for me.



I like the album cover a lot though, I wonder if it drew any inspiration from Binaural



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