On its latest full-length, Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam reinforces why it’s become one of rock’s most earnest and enduring acts, easily moving from thrash-y rockers such as “Mind Your Manners” to poppy, mid-tempo tracks such as “Infallible.” But although there’s a breathless urgency to this set—especially on the disc’s first three tunes and the title track—Pearl Jam’s always been at its best with songs that breathe, morph and grow. Hence, the more dynamic numbers—such as the haunting “Pendulum” and the down-tempo ballad “Sirens”—seem to resonate more than the out-and-out stompers. ★★★☆☆
From the gloomy dirge of opening track “The Sinking Night,” it’s clear that on its new album, Burials, AFI isn’t messing with the winning mixture of punk beats, goth theatrics and New Wave textures that the NorCal band has adopted and refined since its 2003 mainstream breakthrough Sing the Sorrow. Nearly every track on Burials features the quartet’s signature shout-along choruses, melodic guitar lines and fist-pumping rhythms, so although Davey Havok & Co. don’t break much new ground here, with instantly catchy tracks “I Hope You Suffer,” “17 Crimes” and “Heart Stops,” their fans won’t mind. ★★★★☆
McCartney’s new album kicks off with “Save Us,” which features a riff that wouldn’t be out of place in his Wings catalog, somewhat defying the newness indicated by the title of this latest solo effort from the former Beatle. But stick around, and new surprises when you least expect it. For every ’70s throwback such as “Alligator” or “Everybody Out There,” Sir Paul throws a curveball such as “Appreciate,” built around a shuffling funk beat with synth flourishes and distorted vocals, or “Road,” a moody, atmospheric number with a hint of post-punk menace. ★★★★☆
Upcoming on Pj’s radar …
Things are looking lean as the holiday season approaches, and the only music on the horizon are Christmas cash-ins (even indie darling Bright Eyes is getting in on the yuletide action). But there are a few highlights before the year’s out. NOV. 26: A Perfect Circle fans can gift themselves the epic CD/DVD box set A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo, which includes a custom-made guitar pick. NOV. 29: Jack White’s pal Brendan Benson drops his next solo album, You Were Right, on vinyl, of course.