Pearl Jam - Dark Matter (2024)

Some Pearl Jam band members said this new Dark Matter their 12th album, is the best of their career. Is it true? Of course not, but it's not the worst either and this is good news to me. I am an old fan and I was seriously worried after Gigaton, for me the lowest point of their career. I feared the inspiration was gone for good, instead, I found lots of good things on Dark Matter. Here is my opinion, track by track.

01. Scared of Fear
It's a great opener and a breath of fresh air, considering that I didn't love the singles I heard before the release. This is a great introduction to the album,  energetic, and mature, with a great chorus. Scared of Fear is definitely one of my Top tracks of Dark Matter.

02. React, Respond
Continues the tradition where the second track of a Pearl Jam album is punky and energetic (World Wide Suicide, Got Some, Mind Your Manners, Hail Hail, Save You, Spin the Black Circle, the list is long...). Another very cool track, with great riffs and another catchy chorus, this time very peculiar, almost disco. 

03. Wreckage
This is more Eddie Vedder solo material, rather than PJ and with some Tom Petty vibes. You know what? I enjoy the song despite that. Maybe it's a little too long and it doesn't represent the band much but overall I have to admit I enjoy listening to this one.

04. Dark Matter
It was the first single of the album, released a couple of months ago. The song is not bad at all and it features a Matt Cameron "Soundgarden edition." but I struggle with the Andrew Watt sound approach, a little too modern and rich, while I prefer something more straightforward and old style.

05. Won't Tell
Wait, what's this? What band is this? "Won't Tell" is a giant MEH for me, a (not very glorious) pop song. 3 minutes and 28 seconds feel like 10 minutes, with a long coda. This one is a big no for me. Skip Track

06. Upper Hand
When it comes to famous bands you always read "This reminds me of the atmosphere of their first works" and stuff like that. In the majority of cases this is not true but "Upper Hands" could be really in an old Pearl Jam album. To me something in between "Come Back" and "Nothing as it seems".
The intro is more U2 than PJ and the end is a little too long, but the vocal lines and the guitar solos are beautiful. This is definitely a Top track.

07. Waiting for Stevie
Reading opinions online I see this one is almost everyone's favourite. I prefer other songs on this album, despite a beautiful second part, with a spectacular combo of Mike McReady/Matt Cameron and backing vocals reminding me of something from No Code.

08. Running
The second single of the album is something in between Got Some and World Wide Suicide, to my ears. I like those two but honestly not this one, too wordy and not very inspired. (I don't like the chorus at all. Eddie, where are you?).

09. Something Special
This one reminds me of Sleeping by Myself on Lightning Bolt. That one goes directly on my personal "worst songs by PJ" list and Something Special is probably straight after that. Absolutely Skip Track.

10. Got to Give
Not very Pearl Jam, more Bruce Springsteen, I would say. Not a bad song, I find it overall enjoyable (I like the bass lines by Jeff Ament) but not a great track. It's something I would listen to in the context of the album but not as a stand-alone track. It reminds me of something from "Avocado".

11. Setting Sun
Calm and slow tempo conclusion to the album, again more Eddie Vedder than Pearl Jam, with intense lyrics. This could be on Gigaton, slow, musically not very inspired, and to me long (almost 6 minutes) without a reason.

While on Gigaton I didn't like the majority of the tracks, here I enjoyed at least half of the content. Some of the songs are lowering the overall quality, to me, but I think Dark Matter is a decent album for a band out there for almost 35 years, far from their masterpieces but with some good highlights.

Rating 67/100

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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