PEARL JAM's "Gigaton" has been hailed "superb", "fascinating and ambitious", "inspiring and engaging", "their finest studio hour" and "PEARL JAM's best in a generation." The critics and fans alike have praised the bands latest release and it has now bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart this week. Additionally, it landed in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200. Internationally, the album debuted No. 1 in Italy and Austria, Top 5 in Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Canada, and Finland and Top 10 in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand.
At Metacritic, "Gigaton" registered the group's second highest cumulative critical score — only bested by their diamond-certified 1991 debut, "Ten". Among numerous positive reactions, Associated Press exclaimed, "PEARL JAM come roaring back with superb new album." In a four-out-of-five star review, Rolling Stone wrote, "The group has blended the miasmic angst of 'Jeremy' and 'Alive' with a sense of tenderness and even flashes of hope." UPROXX promised, "PEARL JAM is reliable on 'Gigaton' at a moment when nothing else is," and Spin christened it "Their best album since the late nineties."
Opening up about the album, Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament appeared on "The Bill Simmons Podcast" for a marathon two-hour interview.
Speaking on their eagerness to return to the road, Vedder said: "We're kind of reclusive by nature. So, in some ways it feels normal to be away from people, that's not necessarily out of my wheelhouse… but I just keep thinking that first time we'll be in front of people, it's even hard to imagine when or how, it's going to be different. It's not like we didn't appreciate it before, it's just even tenfold."
Regarding the seven-year creative journey to "Gigaton", Vedder revealed: "It grew on its own. It just started different, and it ended different, and everything that happened in the middle was different, and that's what felt great about it. At some point, we had to finish. At some point, we zeroed in and thought, 'Okay, I think we got this and now let's nail these bits and pieces" …This last fall, we really leaned in heavy and hard and gave ourselves a little bit of a deadline finally, which was cool, I thought it was very mature and grown-up of us to say, 'Okay, now let's actually finish! That can be the hard part'… After all of that fun, now we have to set it down in concrete."
In terms of the full sequence and final vision, he related it to a formative childhood memory: "Certain things find their spot. It's like a setlist. I think that's why they maybe let me take a first crack at some of that stuff, because of the whole setlist thing. We still make records to be listened to — not that everyone will listen to a record track one to twelve in a row or side A or Side B — but we still make 'em in case somebody does want to listen to it like that, that's how we make em…In a way, it's also like a live show, we put the songs together in a way that have a flow and an energy, the one song passes the torch to the next…Really I think a lot of comes back to keeping score when I was a little kid in baseball games…Obviously, I wasn't good at math and didn't go to school for acounting, but what I did do was stare at the scoreboard at Wrigley Field and I think that really helped me."
"Gigaton" represents PEARL JAM at the peak of progression. From moments of guitar-fueled catharsis such as "Who Ever Said" through the icy absolution of "River Cross", the lyrics, riffs, and rhythms transmit a message of hope, culminating on Eddie Vedder's final words, "Here and now…won't hold us down…share the light…won't hold us down."
Produced by Josh Evans and PEARL JAM, "Gigaton" marks the band's first studio album since Grammy Award-winning "Lightning Bolt", which was released in October 2013. Internationally, the album is available and distributed by Universal Music Group.
Photo credit: Danny Clinch