Creating quality music decades into your career is a white unicorn chased by many bands desperately clinging to their past. With Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam defies this notion. The band has captured lightning in a bottle—ahem—by balancing the raw "grunge" sound of its genesis, while seamlessly combining acoustic guitar and quick stop-and-go riffs. Those elements are anchored solidly by catchy choruses that will have you hooked on first spin.
Hits abound on Lightning Bolt, making it Pearl Jam's most balanced and accessible effort since 1994's Vitology. Songs like "Getaway," "Mind Your Manners" and the title track deliver with a punk-influenced metal vibe. "My Father's Son," led by Jeff Ament's bass-playing, is drenched with that classic grunge sound. Throughout, but most noticeably on "Sirens," Mike McCready plays loose and noodles away, creating psychedelic-rock jams while Vedder's vocals sound their strongest to date. The band even takes a stab at Vedder's acoustic track "Sleeping By Myself," from his solo album, Ukulele Songs, successfully re-imagining it. Lightning Bolt wins on every front. For a band that tours to a devoted fanbase with high standards, the album will go down in history as one of their most piercing and superior efforts to date.