Angst Endures for a Pioneer of Grunge [Lightning Bolt album review]

Tiago Canhoto/European Pressphoto Agency.   Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, which is releasing its 10th studio album today.

Tiago Canhoto/European Pressphoto Agency.
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, which is releasing its 10th studio album today.

Published: October 14, 2013
The New York Times

“All the demons used to come round,” Eddie Vedder sings in “Future Days,” the ballad that closes “Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album. “I’m grateful now they’ve left.” Well, not entirely: Pearl Jam still needs something to brood about.

“Lightning Bolt” (Monkeywrench) is Pearl Jam’s current answer to the open question of how to create honest rock as a grown-up. The music that has made Pearl Jam an arena headliner for two decades, with a huge and loyal following, is based on churning and seething, on Mr. Vedder’s mournfully forthright voice and on tensions that often explode into choruses of desperate affirmation. With songs about self-doubt, loss, abusive relationships and political fury, Pearl Jam nevertheless turned out to be the one stable band (give or take a drummer) among the major pioneers of grunge; its members have prospered and settled down.

But complacency would undermine Pearl Jam’s music. So Mr. Vedder continues to ponder and agonize: this time, often, over mortality and faith. “Go to Heaven, that’s swell/ How you like your living in Hell?,” he taunts in the punky “Mind Your Manners.” He warns humanity against arrogance and shortsightedness in “Infallible,” as the music hints at the Beatles’s “Magical Mystery Tour.” The eerie, gorgeous “Pendulum” suspends Mr. Vedder’s voice amid echoing keyboards and guitar as he sings about looming despair. But he also finds euphoria, a oneness with Nature and spirit, as major chords peal all around him in “Swallowed Whole.”

“Lightning Bolt” is not as raw or reckless as the music Pearl Jam made in the 1990s; it also trades away the rough-and-ready sound of Pearl Jam’s previous album, “Backspacer” from 2009. With the producer Brendan O’Brien, Pearl Jam now offers some of the most unrepentantly pretty arrangements in the band’s entire catalog; “Sirens,” an apologetic love song that also warns, “We live our lives with death over our shoulders,” has the sheen of “Hotel California.”

Whether he’s singing a ballad or a rocker, Mr. Vedder carefully outlines the melodies, no matter how worked up he gets (and he does). Even when the music goes hurtling forward in hard-riffing songs like “Getaway,” “My Father’s Son” and the album’s peak, “Lightning Bolt” itself, what comes across is the teamwork of musicians who have been working in tandem for decades. They’re grown-ups with fewer demons and more polish, but they’re still pushing themselves.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS opens tomorrow in NYC


Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane Dehaan, KILL YOUR DARLINGS is the previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution. This is the true story of friendship and murder that led to the birth of an entire generation. OPENS TOMORROW AT LANDMARK SUNSHINE AND THE WALTER READE THEATER AT LINCOLN CENTER!

‘Kill Your Darlings’ Trailer

Kill Your Darlings: Daniel Radcliffe Talks Finding the Beats

By Movie Fanatics

For Kill Your Darlings star Daniel Radcliffe, making the relatively unknown story at the heart of the film was about as new of an experience as an actor can get who has already made many movies in his young life. “See, The Woman in Black was filmed in England. and If you’ve done a Harry Potter film you’re never going to work again in England without knowing someone on the crew,” Radcliffe said to Movie Fanatic and laughed.


“So doing Kill Your Darlings was a huge thing for me because it meant I would be working with nobody I knew and I would have to find out who you are on a film set again. So it felt like I was starting fresh in a way.”

Among those benefits for Radcliffe was finding unique ways of channeling his craft. “Working with John (Krokidas, director), he introduced me to techniques in ways of working that I’d never been shown before,” Radcliffe said.

So it is easy to say that Radcliffe has been on quite a journey since those doors of Hogwarts closed. “I think from doing How to Succeed in Business, the musical, and through Kill Your Darlings, that was a great period of transition for me in the way I worked.”

As shown in the Kill Your Darlings trailer, the story follows members of the Beat Generation and how those writers all interacted, including Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg. They all met at Columbia University and forged a literary revolution that we’re still feeling today. There’s also that little murder that few people knew about when Carr was accused of killing David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).

We wondered if Radcliffe had any inspiration from those guys and if he’d ever taken pen to paper to create poetry that mirrors his onscreen alter ego Ginsberg. “Yeah, I definitely have my fair share of some really bad poetry that I wrote when I was 17 or 18,” Radcliffe said and laughed.

When it comes to the Beat writers and their inspiration that is still felt today on a literary scale, to capture the moment in time in his mind, Radcliffe went to another place in history… one he could more relate to as a British citizen.

“In terms of the Beats, there’s something about the way they did what they did. As somebody who grew up outside the States, we don’t have that. The thing I compare them to and I used for my point of connection is the punk movement between ’75 and ’79 because that had the same kind of excited nihilism about tearing everything up and starting again,” Radcliffe said.

“There’s something really thrilling about that. It says something that really applies to the Beats that there are two types of poets. There are people who write poetically about their lives and there are people who live poetically and write about it. That sums it up.”

Radcliffe also felt a powerful duty to portraying Ginsberg as he is someone that appreciators of his work hold dear. “I think you do have a certain responsibility,” he admitted. “There’s a lot more material for you to hang onto and go, ‘He actually did that.’ You get a real insight into somebody’s character, so you’re not starting from scratch.”


Since there is so much emotional pull between so many characters in Kill Your Darlings, Radcliffe felt that Ginsberg was the heart of the story and that too added a sense of accountability to his performance. “Allen is somebody out of the three characters we played who is probably the easiest to find empathy with or compassion,” Radcliffe said. “But there are still moments where he’s so easily manipulated by Lucien where there is a part of you that wants to shake him as a person!”

Of all the powerful scenes in Kill Your Darlings, there was one that particularly resonated with the man who was Harry Potter and even saw him grow as a thespian. “The scene where I come back and find Lucien and he tells me he’s leaving and going off with Jack. That was a scene we had done a lot because it was the audition scene. You worry about a scene that’s that intense and emotional having done it so many times,” Radcliffe said.

“The day just as we started the scene, John asked the crew to leave the room for our first rehearsal and then took me to one corner and gave me a goal. He said to me, ‘Whatever happens, just don’t let Lu leave.’ Then he said to improvise the scene without any of the lines. As someone who wasn’t used to working in that way, it should’ve been intimidating, but it wasn’t in that moment. And within two minutes I was crying, it was very real. It was an amazing exercise because I had never really had that real, intense, emotional experience during acting before. So that was very, very cool.”