Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Video: Superblood Wolfmoon


It seems that the band that once refused to make videos now cannot stop.  Today, Pearl Jam released a "tiny concert" video of Superblood Wolfmoon.

Animation by @TinyConcert on Instagram.
Created by: Tiny Concert
Director: Keith Ross
Video Producer: Scott Greer
Post Production: PB&I
Post Producers: Todd Broder, Ryan Duff, Amit Mackar
Editor: Gino Gianoli
Studio artist: Joan Heo
Artist Consultant: Talia Handler
Twitter: @tinyconcert



Superblood Wolfmoon: The TSIS Review




For a simple song (although it’s a deceptive simplicity) Superblood Wolfmoon  (SBWM) posses some odd challenges as a second single – and the first ‘traditional single’ far more akin to the typical Pearl Jam song than the surprising and magnificent Dance of the Clairvoyants. It’s not Pearl Jam by numbers, but it is Pearl Jam with much stronger catalog roots. If you placed SBWM in the center of a Venn diagram of Pearl Jam songs  you can find overlap with a whole array of songs dating back to No Code.  Mankind, Don’t Gimmie No Lip, Habit, Leatherman, U, All Night, Black Red Yellow, Gods Dice, Get Right, Green Disease, Big Wave, Supersonic, Gonna See My Friend, Johnny Guitar, Let the Records Play, Again Today – for a number of reasons Johnny Guitar is probably its closest parallel (and it does feel like a song that could nestle comfortably into Backspacer), but whether it is the playful tone, the propulsive rush, or the higher register, this is well traveled territory.  We immediately think we know what this song is.

The problem is that  none of the songs mentioned above are singles, or intended to be singles .  These are the Pearl Jam b-sides, or the album tracks that feel like b-sides. Not a comment on their quality, per se – I do love a few songs on that list above – but they usually feel light and disposable.  And even though I just rattled off 16 songs, they’ve always felt like outliers in the catalog. A lighter moment that the band is entitled to, but shouldn’t be taking up album real estate. Palette cleansers, or attempts at having ‘fun’ for a band who, with the exception of the criminally underrated Backspacer, can even make fun sound like serious business.  And while there are a number of good songs on that list above, it is hardly a murderer’s row of greatest hits.   

So it was hard on first listen not be at least somewhat deflated by Superblood Wolfmoon. Why would they release their fun ‘filler’ song as the first real hard driving declaration of intent (especially when it has been made clear, by the band, that DotC is an outlier?   The under four minute rocker is a recent Pearl Jam single staple (World Wide Suicide, The Fixer, Mind Your Manners), but all of those songs felt like statements in a way SBWM does not – and, to be fair, does not aspire to be.    There’s nothing on the album with a greater sense of self-importance they could share first?  Especially since the last ‘weird’ singles we had received (Who You Are and Nothing As It Seems) were immediately followed by Hail Hail and Grievance (live).

And beyond that, this is the second track on the album.  That’s an exalted spot, for the most part, in the Pearl Jam catalog, a collection of thematically resonant musical all-stars.  Even Flow, Animal, Spin the Black Circle, Hail Hail, Faithfull, Save You, World Wide Suicide, Mind Your Manners – all lead singles or essential album tracks.  And the first little musical snippet we received prior to the single spoke to a song that felt at least slightly more muscular than what you hear on first listen (in the same way that the opening moments of Mind Your Manners, the first element of the song we heard, is not necessarily indicative of the rest of the song).   And so Superblood Wolfmoon immediately draws to mind the lighter songs usually confined to a b-side or the back half of a record, and compares itself to some of the most important songs in the catalog.   It stacks the deck against itself on first listen, at least for the long term fan who will immediately, whether they are aware of it or not, start to compare, evaluate, and process the song against their internal expectations (here comes the important ‘classic pearl jam’ song after the DotC detour) the slightly misleading musical preview, and the immediate connections to the b-side fun track – no one’s favorite sub-genre of Pearl Jam.

But since I’m not paid by the word, lets actually talk about the song itself, which, despite an underwhelming first listen, turns out is pretty good.  Superblood Wolfmoon took a few listens to really unlock itself for me .   I needed some space and time to rid myself of prior expectations and evaluate the song on its own terms (what the song is rather than what I was expecting or needed it to be), and because there is a fair bit of nuance underneath its simple packaging.

Musically it is in the pop/punk vein that is generally the type of Pearl Jam song I like the least (though I do think this is arguably the best pure version of this they’ve done).  We start with a familiar Matt Cameron intro (variants of which have been used in Undone and Again Today – to better effect, I think – this is a song that would probably benefit by diving right in) and a bouncy guitar part and title statement that immediately makes clear this is not a dark and serious song (though I wouldn’t mind if they used the heavier tone we get when this section repeats later on).  It moves right into some fairly standard pop/punk guitar parts, and Eddie’s vocal melody seemingly floats along in harmony with it.  But on early listens there was an odd, stitched together quality that took a while to unravel (and it was this unraveling that really helped settle the song for me).   Pearl Jam songs, even the more ‘experimental’ ones, tend to follow a fairly similar structure – musical intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse and/or chorus, outro.  Superblood Wolfmoon abandons that structure in interesting ways.  The song starts with what passes for a chorus, it contains a primary verse structure that it repeats itself throughout, but there are also at least two other recurring sections of the song that could be bridges, could be alternate choruses, could be different verse structures. It’s like SBWM can’t decide, or doesn’t think it matters, or knows but doesn’t feel like telling you. It puts the listener on edge in an unexpected way, as the song doesn’t seem like it is written to challenge you (as opposed to songs that clearly intend to be ‘difficult’). It took a few listens for me to stop trying to force the song into a familiar mold and accept the Frankenstein approach.  

Outside of the standard pop/punk power chords the band does a nice job coloring in the song, especially in the superior second half of the song (thought the best lyrics are in the first half). There are interesting moments happening underneath and outside of the main movements of the song that add emotional intensity and urgency.   The high point is arguably the solo, not so much for the solo itself (which is pure Van Halenesuqe guitar wankery) but for everything that is happening around the solo – the way the song doesn’t want to let it escape.  The solo has to crawl itself out from underneath Eddie’s growling vocals (strong end of sequence transitions from Eddie throughout the song), and it stays surprisingly lower in the mix as the rest of the band works to cage it in.  It’s an interesting effect, especially since Mike’s solos are almost always front and center, and this is a particularly flashy one.

Eddie sounds good – it’s a wordy song but they don’t feel like they are outpacing him (which has happened on occasion), and while he is singing it in a higher, brighter register I don’t enjoy nearly as much as his baritone, he maintains control over it.  More importantly, his performance manages to capture the mix of playful energy, entitled tantrum, and personal disgust present in the lyrics.  It is not an all time performance, and there is nothing in at as immediately haunting and striking as the back half of Dance of the Clairvoyants, but it serves the song well – the right choices for the song.

Lyrically this is heads and shoulders the strongest writing effort we’ve seen in this kind of song (with the enormous caveat that this is based on best guess attempts at lyrics).  But Superblood Wolfmoon is a tantrum of a song (which makes me wonder, given some lyrics in DotC, about the gender politics and themes that may run below the surface of the album), about a guy (I am presuming) hopelessly in love who has lost (or maybe never had) the object of his desire.  We’ve seen Eddie mine this territory before – experienced as desperate sadness in I Got Shit or parody in Johnny Guitar – but this is probably the first time its been presented as judgmental. Although the song is written with some empathy, we’re not really supposed to feel sorry for this guy. He is throwing a tantrum. In comes cases there is enough self-awareness for it to be acknowledged (I’m feeling selfish and I want what’s right), and in others as petulance (my eyes are swollen/my face is broken/and I’m hoping that I hurt your fist) or pleading (I ask for forgiveness/I’m begging myself), with the attendant sense of self-disgust for debasing themselves (feeling angry/now get off the stage).

But it’s not a #me too inspired rant either.  These are real feelings we’ve all experienced, and while possessiveness can be experienced as gendered, it can also be experienced as human, and the main character is clearly reeling (I don’t know anything/I question everything/this life I love is going way too fast).  And of course there is the truly magnificent line ‘and love not withstanding we are each of us fucked’, which immediately became an all-timer for me.

We have received about 1/6th of Gigaton so it is way too early to start reading too much into album themes, but it does seem like the record may be exploring the lack of certainly and control that defines our current moment. Dance of the Clairvoyants tries to make peace with it.  Superblood Wolfmoon rages against it.  But neither song can find it, and I am very much looking forward to continuing the search,


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Superblood Wolfmoon


Pearl Jam's second single for the upcoming album, Gigaton, dropped in the wee hours of the morning.  We'll most likely be reviewing it later, but it's definitely a departure from recent Pearl Jam.  Is it a return to form?  


Friday, February 7, 2020

VIDEO: Dance Of The Clairvoyants: Mach III


A third video for Dance of the Clairvoyants hit YouTube today.  Pearl Jam is calling this their "first official music video in 7 years," so we are left to guess that the previous two videos were steps in a process that gave us this, their final, video for the song.


Produced by: Evolve Studios (www.evolve.studio)
Executive Produced by: Tim Bierman, Joel Edwards
Studio Director: Ryan Cory
Studio Director of Photography: Derek Klein, Ryan Cory
Studio Crew: Ryne Hill, Eric Finlon, Matt Michel
Studio Grip: Jay Rinehart

Olympic Studios Seattle

Audio Engineer: John Burton
Backline Technicians: Neil Hundt, George Webb
Stylist: Tammy Baker
Production Assistant: Kevin Shuss

Edited by: Seth Evans
Produced by: Joseph Bastien
Lead VFX by: Ryan Trommer
Post Team: Braden Winfree, Aaron Wheeler, Jake Helton, Tanner Larson, Kendall Rittenour
Footage by: Filmsupply (www.filmsupply.com)
Cinematography by: Evolve, Kendall Rittenour, Aaron Seldon, Joel Edwards, Jesse Edwards, Stephen Johnson, Nick Midwig, Dustin Farrell, Enrique Pacheco, Joseph Large, Mike Olbinski, Tomi Rantanen, Tyler McGrath, Brooklyn Aerials, Elevation Film, Variable, Sypher


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Pearl Jam Coming to the Apollo


Ahead of their US dates and Gigaton's release, Pearl Jam will be playing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem next month.  Pearl Jam will be playing a show on March 26th which will be broadcast live on their SiriusXM channel followed, immediately, by the premiere of Pearl Jam's new album, Gigaton.

The audience will be limited to Pandora and SiriusXM subscribers.
Tickets for the Apollo Theater show will be available exclusively to SiriusXM and Pandora subscribers. SiriusXM subscribers will be able to win tickets through an on-air Pearl Jam Radio contest, or via e-mail if they’ve approved email marketing from SiriusXM; there will also be a special travel contest for all SiriusXM subscribers who have used the service since January 22nd. Select Pandora listeners will also be offered the opportunity to snag tickets based on their listening histories.
It sounds like Stone Gossard is expecting some great music at the show.
"It’s hard to understate the sacred and historical importance of the Apollo to the history of American popular music and African Americans’ preeminent role in its invention. We will play this special one time show with those artists in mind.”

Monday, February 3, 2020

Happy Birthday, Boom Gaspar!


Yield Turns 22


Recommended listening: "Low Light" from Pearl Jam's 10/22/03 show at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

VIDEO: Dance of the Clairvoyants: Mach II


Today, Pearl Jam released a second video for Dance of the Clairvoyants.  It appears to be a shot-for-short version of the previous video cut with clips of the band playing which were recorded by Ryan Cory.


Produced by: Evolve Studios (www.evolve.studio)
Executive Produced by: Tim Bierman, Joel Edwards
Studio Director: Ryan Cory
Studio Director of Photography: Derek Klein, Ryan Cory
Studio Crew: Ryne Hill, Eric Finlon, Matt Michel
Studio Grip: Jay Rinehart

Olympic Studios Seattle

Audio Engineer: John Burton
Backline Technicians: Neil Hundt, George Webb
Stylist: Tammy Baker
Production Assistant: Kevin Shuss

Edited by: Seth Evans
Produced by: Joseph Bastien
Lead VFX by: Ryan Trommer
Footage by: Filmsupply (www.filmsupply.com)

Cinematography by: Evolve, Kendall Rittenour, Aaron Seldon, Joel Edwards, Jesse Edwards, Stephen Johnson, Nick Midwig, Dustin Farrell, Enrique Pacheco, Joseph Large, Mike Olbinski , Tomi Rantanen, Tyler McGrath, Brooklyn Aerials, Elevation Film, Variable, Sypher


Monday, January 27, 2020

A Grammy Win for Jeff Ament


Last night, Jeff Ament, Barry Ament, and Joe Spix received a Grammy for Best Recording Package for their work on Chris Cornell's posthumous career retrospective.

Variety caught a heartfelt quote from Ament in the press room.
It took us a few months to come up with some images, and it was particularly hard to have conversations with Vicky, his wife. More than anything, I wish he were here accepting this award with us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dance of the Clairvoyants: The TSIS Review




Dance of the Clairvoyants is an unexpected, delightful, and extremely satisfying lead single that slide effortlessly into a gap I had no idea was even there.   As with any new Pearl Jam music, my experience is contextualized, and often measured against, my history with the band and its music – in conversation with and framed by what’s come before.  And Dance of the Clairvoyants arrived at a complicated time when I had largely forgotten about the band.  Or maybe it’s not that I forgot them as much as I just didn’t need them.   It has been seven years since Lightning Bolt, and since 2008 we’ve had just two albums and a handful of one-off tracks.  I’m a big fan of those two records – I think Backspacer is a near masterpiece and Lightning Bolt, despite its stale presentation, contains some very strong songwriting and thoughtful, mature meditations about legacy befitting a group of monstrously successful musicians circling 50.  But that’s all we had, and compared to the 7 albums, b-sides, and soundtracks they produced in their first twelve years, the pace of new music I was accustomed to, Pearl Jam felt stuck.  And so I moved past them.  I still knew every moment of every song , even the handful I didn’t really like, and of course I could produce a top 5, or ten, or twenty five, within seconds of being asked.  But it was an intellectual appreciation, a loyalty to the fondest of memories, rather than anything viscerally felt.

That’s not unusual or surprising. Any relationship ebbs and flows without new experiences to remind you why the old ones matter and, if you’re lucky, add to the foundation.  But Pearl Jam stopped producing new memories.  The tours were short and intermittent, and the music dried up.  I did really like their cover of Again Today (it may well be the Pearl Jam song I’ve listened to the most the past several years), but a cover is not really new music.  And Can’t Deny Me was a failure against almost every  possible measure.  It was a disappointing song that, by positioning itself as a response to, and a stand against, the viral toxicity of the Trump era, demanded more of itself than almost any song could give – let alone this one.  That the band seemed willing to hang their hat on it just made it easier to slip away.

And so Pearl Jam stayed where it was, and I moved on.  There wasn’t anger or even regret – just an unintentional drift. Even the announcement of a new album didn’t really move me.  I was aware I should be excited, and my biggest disappointment with Pearl Jam’s near recent output was more about its quantity than its quality.  I assumed I’m way more likely than not to enjoy whatever comes next, despite Can’t Deny Me.  Hell, World Wide Suicide, The Fixer, and Mind Your Manners are three of my favorite lead singles.  Three of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, probably. But still I had to force myself to stay up to midnight to listen, and I did so more out of a recognition that there may not be more first singles in my future.  I suppose I thought I should honor a memory.

That  was my headspace when I first heard Dance of the Clairvoyants.  I had listened to the two clips, and thought little of either – they primed me for something different, but I’ve always been of the mindset that neither difference nor familiarity are going to make or break a song.  Performative difference is irritating, and something familiar can still have something to teach you.  But Dance of the Clairvoyants was utterly surprising – something I have never heard Pearl Jam do (or even really attempt) before, but still captured that old familiar yearning, the striving authenticity, that has always been at the heart of their best music. And for a dormant fan it was exactly what I needed.  I had a similar reaction the first time I heard I Am Mine during the creeping terror of the early Bush years, where the songs craggy warmth and uplifting climax reminded me that I wasn’t alone and didn’t have to be afraid.  I had a similar experience with Worldwide Suicide – where Pearl Jam – the band I most needed to find a way to articulate the contemptuous tragedy that was the Bush years – found its fire and found its voice after what felt (at the time) like a long period of mute passivity.  It was a reminder that they could still be the band I needed them to be.

Dance of the Clairvoyants accomplished something similar.  It was a reminder that Pearl Jam still matters– that they can find something worth saying and say it in a way that makes me want to engage.  That they can still surprise me.  Dance was challenging without being uncomfortable, and Pearl Jam should always feel like an embrace.

The Talking Heads influence is front and center, to the point that Eddie is practically doing a David Byrne impression for the first minute or so. David Bowie influences are there as well, although slightly less pronounced.  Pearl Jam has always been a band that draws a clear line to its influences, and this isn’t something we’ve seen from them before. But its also not surprising.  They  feel like appropriate artists for pearl jam to lean into at this moment, or at least for this song – people who seemed smarter than the insanity and absurdity around them.  People who could laugh at the joke while the pushed back against the teller. People who could see past and through the madness.  And I don’t think Eddie or the band is trying to claim that mantle. They are using them as guides.  Dance of the Clairvoyants is a song about finding your way back to something long lost – and getting there by learning to let go of certainty and getting out of your own way. It embraces the confusion and imperfection in the world without surrendering to or resenting it. It is about learning to let go of the  anger and release the tension we carry with us. It takes on faith that the answer is there, just out of reach, but if we keep circling and reaching out we will inch ever closer to it.  We can’t grasp it yet, but if we open ourselves to the possibility, we will.   And these seem like appropriate musical touchstones for that kind of seeking.  This is easily one of their most spiritual songs.

Pearl Jam has always been at its best looking for the answers, rather than sharing them. Eddie’s strength as a writer and performer is in his empathy and humanity, not his received wisdom.  And I love that this song is searching.  It is all over the lyrics, which focus on embracing how much we don’t know and understand, realizes that there are patterns in the chaos that need to be felt, rather than understood. Given the madness of our historical moment surrendering our expectation and demand for control, but not for meaning, takes an act of faith and courage – of belief.  It is a song that forgives the world, and the people in it, their imperfections without abandoning the surety that it can be better.

This theme is explored on a number of levels, but in the absence of vetted lyrics, and the surrounding context of an album, I’m not going to do much more than hint at them.  There is a personal journey.   There is some political meta commentary about the gendered nature of our current moment and the complicated ways it informs our relationship with the world around us – fairly subtle and elegant despite the dick references.  It’s also not hard to read the song as reflection on the artistic process and Pearl Jam’s own internal struggle with it, if you’re looking for insight into band dynamics.

In some ways this is one of the things that Dance of the Clairvoyants has me most excited about.    One of the most insightful Pearl Jam reviews I ever read dealt with how, more than any other band the author could think of, Pearl Jam was chained to its own history – to the idea of what Pearl Jam HAS to be. And this was in 1998, writing about Yield.   That tendency had only metastasized in the intervening decades.   There are, I think, a number of interesting ideas and promising directions on their last three albums – but every one of them found a way to hold itself back – chained to the platonic idea of what a Pearl Jam song needed to be.  The edges were always sanded smooth, at the expense of its texture.  Songs that I don’t doubt for a second were authentic in their inspiration too often ended up feeling like reproductions – facsimiles of songs that were better because they had the chance to simply be. That was the source of their power musically, and it played to Eddie’s strengths as a singer.

The  creative process that formed Dance of the Clairvoyants gifted itself the confidence and freedom to follow an idea where it leads, rather than forcing it to where we think it should go.  The end result is defined by its journey.  It means the song is messy without being sloppy.  It creates complexity by layering simplicity.  There is order, and structure, and purpose, but it feels natural.  It is odd that a song that apes a drum machine, and features a synthesizer, and yet somehow feels organic.

I hope this process drove the entire record.  Because what is powerful here isn’t that the song is different.  It’s not a new set of musical influences.  It’s that it was free to be the song it wanted to be. And that freedom is what creates great music, whether you’re exploring new territory or drawing fresh water from old wells.  It’s what enabled Eddie to write a song that works for the aging voice of a former God, and remind us why we worshiped him then and should respect him now.  It shows that when you take four immensely talented musicians and just invite them to follow their instincts they can produce something special no matter how old they are or what album number this is.

What I really love about this song is that it promises that there are still mysteries out there.  That the surface, no matter how much we struggle with it, simply hides layers upon layers waiting for us to discover them.  That we haven’t yet exhausted our promise.  There is more waiting for us if we just believe.

Stand back when the spirit comes.  

VIDEO: Dance of the Clairvoyants: Mach I


New music wasn't the only great news today, Pearl Jam also release a video for Dance of the Clairvoyants.  Check it out while you wait for our review later today!

Produced by: Evolve Studios 
Directed by: Joel Edwards
Edited by: Seth Evans
Produced by: Joseph Bastien
Footage by: Filmsupply (www.filmsupply.com)


Dance of the Clairvoyants


Well, it's here, the first new Pearl Jam song in 22 months.  Enjoy Dance of the Clairvoyants.


"I can’t tell you how proud I am about this group of songs. As you know, we took our time and that benefited us taking more chances. 'Dance' was a perfect storm of experimentation and real collaboration, mixing up the instrumentation and building a great song, and Ed writing some of my favorite words yet, around Matt’s killer drum pattern. Did I mention Mike’s insane guitar part and that Stone is playing bass on this one? We’ve opened some new doors creatively and that’s exciting."
-Jeff Ament
Here's a little more from Stone on SiriusXM about how this song came together.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gigaton Track Listing


Apologies for being off this weekend and being late to tell you that Pearl Jam released the track listing for Gigaton.

1. Who Ever Said
2. Superblood Wolfmoon
3. Dance of the Clairvoyants
4. Quick Escape
5. Alright
6. Seven O’Clock
7. Never Destination
8. Take The Long Way
9. Buckle Up
10. Come Then Goes
11. Retrograde
12. River Cross

That last song struck a cord with Guerrilla Candy, who posted a video of Eddie singing the song at the 2017 Ohana Festival.





Don't forget to tune in to SiriusXM tonight at midnight to hear Dance of the Clairvoyants, or ... y'know, check back here when you wake up.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Pearl Jam's New Album, Gigaton, Available on March 27th


Pearl Jam has announced that their 11th studio album, titled Gigaton, will be available starting March 27th.  This time around, they worked with a new producer, Josh Evans, who has done some engineering work for Soundgarden, a few Pearl Jam side projects, and even played guitar on Pearl Jam's last album, Lightning Bolt.  His production skills are largely untested, so we expect an interesting new direction with this album.

The first single, Dance of the Clairvoyants, is upcoming.  

You can pre-order the album on vinyl ($35 + $12 domestic S&H) or CD ($16 + $6 domestic S&H) and a 7" of Dance of the Clairvoyants ($10 + $6 domestic S&H) on Pearl Jam's website.

Pearl Jam Announces North American Tour


Pearl Jam has announced "the first leg" of their North American tour.  There have not been rumors of a second leg, but it's hard to say since everyone was so amped up for today's announcement.  It may have been drowning out other news.  We'll see.



For now, Pearl Jam has announced 16 North American dates in support of their new album, Gigaton.  Dates are below.  See the Pearl Jam website for details on ticket pre-sales.


DATECITYVENUE
March 18Toronto, ONScotiabank Arena
March 20Ottawa, ONCanadian Tire Centre
March 22Quebec City, QCVideotron Centre
March 24Hamilton, ONFirstOntario Centre
March 28Baltimore, MDRoyal Farms Arena
March 30New York, NYMadison Square Garden
April 2Nashville, TNBridgestone Arena
April 4St. Louis, MOEnterprise Center
April 6Oklahoma City, OKChesapeake Energy Arena
April 9Denver, COPepsi Center
April 11Phoenix, AZGila River Arena
April 13San Diego, CAViejas Arena
April 15 & 16Los Angeles, CAThe Forum
April 18 & 19Oakland, CAOakland Arena