Some artists feel the need to change their sound every couple of years to stay "relevant", killing off part of their current fanbase in order to expand into new markets. And then at the other end of the spectrum, some artists feel as though their sound doesn't need to change and they just stay (relatively) the same throughout their career. The result here is that the former group's strategy, when implemented carefully and effectively, is usually more successful because what is trendy in the music world changes every week. One week it's Skrillex all the "kids" are raving about and the next it's Baauer.
So point to case, where do Pearl Jam fit in all this clutter? Well a few astonishingly influential albums in the early '90s had cemented them as an established component of rock music for years, and decades, to come. 'Ten' identified with so many people tired of the '80s movements in music, and at that point Pearl Jam all of a sudden had a loyal and dedicated fanbase. Some bands that have coexisted quite nicely with Pearl Jam have had various evolutions (some not so positive, for instance U2). The difference here is that Pearl Jam have certainly evolved, but not for the reasons of the former group. Instead of feeling like abandoning a whole section of their fanbase in the hope of gaining even more fans, this evolution has been gradual ever since 'Ten' and has, in my opinion, been purely to stay fresh. While they are loyal, fans of bands will not react well to a rehash of old material (particularly evident by my unease at the possibility of a rehash on this one, thankfully that was avoided quite nicely, not an improvement but still a different take on it; 'Sleeping By Myself' is comparable to the whole 'Tuolumne' interpolation in 'Just Breathe' a few years back). Pearl Jam's second album 'Vs.' was seen as a direct reaction to the attention they received as a result of the predecessor, and as such they were always going to evolve. It makes a case of whether or not that latter group even exists, because theoretically artists are always going to do something different because songs simply can't be the same and hence neither can a group of similar songs written and recorded in a similar era. But they really do exist, instead they just die out. They suffer from lack of creativity, and no one feels empowered to spend their hard-earned money on something they've probably already heard, loved and identified with.
Pearl Jam's latest release 'Lightning Bolt' combines elements from Eddie Vedder's two solo albums and the band's last three records 'Riot Act', 'Pearl Jam' and 'Backspacer' but curiously contains a new element that defines this new era. Respectively to those three albums, this is grungey, melodic and modern in much of its 47 minutes. Where it differs is that extra quirkiness added into the production, riffs and certainly lyrical content.
They don't need to make any desperate attention-seeking genre changes, Pearl Jam fans accept that there's enough creativity there for many more albums to come in the future. In such a cluttered year for music, Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, Jay-Z, Washed Out, MGMT and so many more of my contemporary favourites have come up with refreshed sounds that simultaneously feel memorable and relevant. Pearl Jam always seem to find a way to break through the clutter and that's something that just can't be denied. 5.25