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PEARL JAM: Dark Matter Theatrical Experience

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Monkeywrench Records/Republic Records

Out Now

Unlike most of my reviews, no-one actually asked me to do this one. Since my wife is such a massive fan of Pearl Jam though, she decided to drag me along for the Dark Matter Theatrical Experience. As the story goes, we get to listen to the album in full in a dark cinema, and then we get a second run through it with some visuals. I overheard that the experience would last a couple of hours, so we all load up with some lollies and those massive cups of drink that they sell you so that we’ll definitely need to get up for an inconvenient piss at some point. It’s a bit counter-productive really.

So, my first critique here is that the screen was still dim-lit for the initial listening. In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, it should have been switched off for complete darkness because the soft glow of the massive I-Max screen was just ever so slightly distracting. It’s actually really weird sitting here listening to an album in full, in the dark, kind of. It’s like I’m a teenager again, and on this first listen I just sit and listen. And on that note, someone dropped a fart I could taste, and I’m thinking it’s one of the teenage girls over in the next row. Probably a vegan going by the methane levels in that one.

The album kicks off with some dark noise/matter but then very quickly rocks into some very familiar-sounding Pearl Jam stylings. It’s no 10 or Vs opener, but it is a bit of a rocker. The visuals so far are just the album artwork kind of spinning around and transitioning in and out of itself. There are also lyrics like those annoying lyric videos, but I have no idea what the song is called, so I do us all a favour for this review and check out the album listing. It’s called Scared of Fear, but I had it originally tagged “We used to laugh”.

The following track is one bass note short of a bond theme song, and it’s another straight-up rocker. Eddie Vedder doesn’t disappoint with his vocals and his token lyrics that are extremely hard to understand. Luckily, there are still lyrics behind some fiercely spinning thing that is happening on screen. This may have been called “Don’t react, respond”, but it turns out that it’s just called React, Respond. This would have been easier for me and everyone else if they displayed the song titles for each track. Anyway, a ripping guitar solo ends the song, and we move onto track 3.

Track 3, or Wreckage as I now know it by, brings us what sounds like a single. It’s an acoustic track which doesn’t excite me much, and I don’t have much to say about this apart from the fact that I originally had it down as “Combing Through the Wreckage” due to those very lyrics being sung in the chorus.

Thumping tom rolls start the title track Dark Matter, which soon turns into what sounds like Pearl Jam’s version of a Nu-Metal song. I actually don’t fucking mind this one, because I’m a Nu-metal guy from way back. I’m also a Pearl Jam guy from way back. Well, for their first two albums, anyway. The lyrics in this one are a bit deep and also a bit woke. It’s probably the stand-out track for me so far, with a ripper solo at the end. Oh, and the visual was like a black hole or something.

I Won’t Tell you what the next song title is, although I just might have. It slows the pace down again as the visuals turn to a small squiggle a bit like a Windows screen saver. Pretty much this whole Theatrical Experience so far has been a screensaver with lyrics for each track. I don’t have much to say about this track either apart from Eddie’s vocals being quite strong.

Another change of screensavers brings us to Upper Hand, which starts with some synth. You all know how I feel about that … and this one seems to go forever. Well, at least for a whole minute and a half. This is another one of those slow, soppy ones that Pearl Jam do so well. It’s no Black though.

I’m not sure how I feel about this whole Dolby Surround thing. It just seems a bit muddy sitting right in the centre of it all. I mean, everything is super clear and super crisp, but also messy and washed out. And I know that doesn’t make sense, but it would if you were sitting where I am right now.

Unfortunately, it’s time for another cruisy one, although a little more upbeat this time around, not much though. You can’t be loved by anyone while Waiting for Stevie, or at least that’s what Eddie tells us. It’s got a good rhythm to it once it gets there, and to be honest it’s probably another single, although a couple of minutes too long for radio. The guitar solo at the end is pretty tasty, and it almost sounds like an album closure during the outro. We all know there is still more to come, though, don’t we?

A rocking bass line in the intro to Running picks the pace back up again and from the previous tracks, which is exactly what I needed right now. I was starting to lose interest with 3 ballads in a row. So many lyrics though, and fuck knows what Eddie is saying, it’s so fast that the lyric video can’t even keep up.

Oh no, it’s another acoustic track that sounds like some random country jam. Leave that shit up to Beyoncé boys. There’s a weird little Adam’s a family Rap bit in that first verse that can stay though. Oh, Eddie just swore, naughty boy Eddie, naughty boy. Fuck me, there is even a slide guitar solo. That was Something Special, but it really wasn’t that special. Next.

Ok, this next one Got to Give sounds like an album closer with its album closure vibes. But I probably already know that because I’ve just listened to this whole album, like 45 minutes ago. It’s a good album ender, for a good album. A great album maybe, but I may need a few more listens to make that determination.

With egg on my face, and a shit-eating grin to suit, I eat my own words about that last track being the album closer because this one titled Setting Sun is the actual album closer. That’s quite a suitable album closer name, isn’t it, almost makes sense now. I may even fall asleep this time around, cause this one is really slow, and the album probably didn’t need it to be honest.

Fans of the slower Pearl Jam stuff will love it. Again, it’s no Black, but they are managing to hang in there. This Dolby surround thing though is belting it in to in all directions, which is a bit counter productive for such a cruisy song. I swear it went for like, 10 minutes, but it turns out it tapped out at 6.

The coolest thing about this whole Theatrical Experience is that you get to listen to a full album twice, undistracted. That’s just unheard of these days in this 90-second TikTok world.

This dumb fuck decided to distract himself though by writing a review that no one asked for. He may or may not have also already posted 90 second TikTok reels of his Theatrical Experience.

Until next time, at the show in November … cheerio!

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