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 Post subject: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 3:51 pm 
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Here’s where I am with Lightning Bolt when it came out. I didn’t really have any particular expectations for the album. S/T produced some of my favorite songs in the catalog, and Backspacer was, from top to bottom, in the top half of the catalog. I was happy where pearl jam was, and was pretty confident that I’d enjoy the album. My biggest concern was that it be good enough to do something about the interminable Backspacer bitching that had come to define RM.

Since it’s come out I’ve probably listened to this album more than any pearl jam album upon its release since maybe Vitalogy, mostly because it is the one album my daughter likes to listen to on the way to work. So I probably hear this thing at least 4-5 times a week. And I’ll always have very positive memories of this album because of those personal associations (Swallowed Whole being the first of my songs I heard Ellie sing along to, her asking ‘what’s next?” after each song, her complaining about MFS whenever it starts ‘no daddy I don’t like this’, her remarking ‘it’s loud!’ at the start of infallible, singing Future Days to Mia each night before bed). It also helps that I think it is, from top to bottom, their most consistent record since Vitalogy. I basically like every song on this album, and there are a few I love. It doesn’t quite have the high spots of S/T or Yield, but it lacks those albums low points. It’s basically Backspacer without Supersonic. But the stero in my current car really sucks, and so it’s been forever since I’ve really listened to the album carefully, and with headphones.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 3:53 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 3:54 pm 
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then this is your lucky day!

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 3:54 pm 
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stip wrote:
S/T produced some of my favorite songs in the catalog, and Backspacer was, from top to bottom, in the top half of the catalog. I was happy where pearl jam was, and was pretty confident that I’d enjoy the album.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 3:55 pm 
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Getaway: I like the way the song stutters its way into a full gallop, and the chunky bounciness to the song. Eddie’s voice sounds a bit too clean, like it’s been heavily scrubbed (which maybe it was) and I think it does not work to the songs benefit. A bit more scratch would have made this one dirtier. He’s also pretty high in the mix, which isn’t always a good thing since it neuters the guitars a bit. But I like the melody and I lke the commitment and he basically sounds good. Just not great.

On the studio version he does a good job keeping up with how wordy this song is.

I really like the delivery on the ‘we all could use a seditive right now’. It’s a good line too. Lyrically there are some nice moments here, but it’s a very wordy song, and while there aren’t many bad lines here (some bizzare ones though), it’s not like the sentiments and ideas require this much time and space to develop.

I like what Jeff is playing. I wish Matt was doing more, especially during the chorus.

Mike’s solo is fine, but not one of his best. I sometimes forget its in here.

Three song highlights: The bit where everything drops out but the bass and vocals

The way the guitars come roaring back after that moment, and the way the second guitar sounds like a scuffed up razor blade. I wish that tone was more prominent in the song. It gives it an edge it doesn’t otherwise have.

The RVM style outro, especially with the siren guitars and Eddie’s voice has that lived in quality I really like in his later vocals—I wish it showed up earlier--is great (2:45 to the end)

It’s a good opener. Solid. It does lots of stuff pearl jam is good at, and the tone and feel of the song is a bit different. But it doesn’t feel essential. It’s a good filler track, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s like an MFC. A song that does a nice job keeping the album moving along, but it’s not a highlight on the tour. A surprising choice for an opener, especially given the song that follows

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:02 pm 
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Mind Your Manners: This is my favorite song on the album, and easily a top 10 of the decade for me. It should have been the opener. This song does almost everything right. The metal opener feels new—ominious and powerful. I do wish it had an even harder edge to it. The transition from the opening part into the main riff is also nicely done. The main riff feels a bit too familiar (and I liked it better on Comatose) but everything else is great. Eddie’s delivery and general sound on this one is great. This is the vocal territory he should mine going forward for the faster songs. He sounds gruff and empassioned and engaged without feeling like he’s pushing himself places his voice can no longer easily go. The melody is good. There are some really nice lyrics here, too—the ‘this world’s a long love letter that makes me wantt o cry’ is a fabulous line.

I like the starts and stops with the chorus, and how sarcastic it manages to be without the frothing hatred you get in Comatose. The way Eddie delivers the ‘mind your manners’ phrase is excellent.

The guitar solo is strong—probably the second best one on the album, and pretty interesting.

The call and response outro was the best part of Ole, and it’s just as good, if not better, here. I guess it’s not a new trick at this point, but a welcome one nevertheless. One of the first moments on the album that goes someplace a bit new. There are actually quite a few of those on this album—it’s not only really diverse (perhaps too diverse) but it’s also mining some fairly new territory on quite a few songs.

But the best part is EASILY the second chorus (self realized and metaphysically redeemed…) I just love how this sounds—so committed and compassionate and concerned. And it’s so smooth, with great transitions out of that sequence into a strong bridge or a strong outro.
My only complaint here is that I once again wish the guitars were just a bit louder and a bit more savage. Eddie’s voice sounds gritty enough here that I mind less. He feels more seamlessly integrated--it’s not blowing the guitars away like it does on Getaway. Especially for the intro/outro music.

Great scream at the end…

This is a 5 star song for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:13 pm 
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My Father’s Son:

I hardly ever get to hear this. The music is cool—we don’t usually get songs dominated by the bass like this, and I’d get real tired of it if this happened a lot, but it’s a nice change of pace.

I like the twisted little bits stone is playing around the bass.

Nice energy all around

Not a fan of the lyrics in this one for the most part,a nd it takes the song down a bit for me. Combined with the music and delivery it makes the verses a bit too much like a temper tantrum.

I love the chorus—normally I don’t like when eddie’s voice has this shine attached to it, but it feels right with the music. I also like the haunted quality to the music, which fits well with the song.

This bridge is great. Like a twisted carnival. I like how the keys and guitar kinda melt into each other a bit. Best lyrics in the song, too. Nice transition into the final verse, too.

Other than the lyrics there’s nothing here I don’t like, and I think the chorus and bridge are great. The music is interesting. But the verses turn me off to the song a bit. It’s a good song that was almost a great one. It reminds me of habit in that regard—habit has more high spots but there’s no deal breakers here, and Habit has that horrendous chorus.

I'd give this a 3.5. It'll probably be a 4 some day. I just don't want to give it a 4, but I don't really know why.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:15 pm 
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Sirens: This feels out of place following MFS. Some of the worst sequencing on any album.

I love how Eddie sounds on the ‘hear the sirens’ lyric, and really throughout the whole first verse. In general I think he sounds great on this whole song—it’s not my favorite vocals on the album (yellow moon is the best), but it’s a such a nice trip down memory lane since it’s been so long since we had a performance like this—with Eddie unabashedly belting stuff out nice and clean, and the way the lower register envelopes you.

There’s nothing all that remarkable about Mike’s core song, but everything around it sounds good—Matt’s rolling drums (although I get why someone would roll their eyes at them), the piano is prominent, but fits the song well, and the whale sounds that Stone is making throughout the song sound great—the musical equivalent of the regrets and fears that haunt the song.

The chorus is a bit over the top (and probably too long), but they own it. I bet this would be a lot of fun to sing at a karaoke bar.

Eddie’s really far out in front of the music on this one too, but this is a vocal showcase, so I don’t care. It’s another slightly scrubbed performance, but it fits in well with the music, and sounds great.

I don’t care for Mike’s solo here at all, and I usually go in for his wankery. I know Sirens is his baby, but he’s the least interesting person here.

I really like how the acoustic guitar comes back out from under the lead during the solo.

RM meme or not, I like the over…whelemd part.

The background vocals are genuinely touching, I think.

Like Future Days this is a song drowning in over the top sentiment, but I feel like they walk the line successfully here. We get drama rather than melodrama. It took me a while to come around to this one, but it’s an album highlight for me. It’s a long song, but it never feels that long, and is one of my favorite songs to sing along to. I think that’s one of the reasons why it works. On eddie’s super personal sentimental stuff I often feel like there’s no room for the listener to be invited in (and what’s being said is not profound enough to justify simply listening). But Sirens makes space for you here.

Come Back got compared to Black when it came out. I’m not sure that one made sense. Sirens/Black does, and while Black is by far the superior song, it’s not that Sirens fails. It just gets beat.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:35 pm 
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Lighting Bolt:

I have a few complaints about this song.

1. Eddie is too loud in the mix in the beginging (and the guitars are too muted in general)
2. The first few lyrics are a bit weak
3. The chrous lyrics are a bit weak
4. That fucking fade out. That’s the biggest travesty in their catlaog.

Otherwise I think this is one of the best anthems in their catalog.

I like how the guitar creeps up your back in the first verse. Once the song kicks into gear at 30 seconds it is just climbs higher and higher.

I really like what Matt’s during doing the second verse before the chorus (he could be louder), and the spacey effects which really add to the senesation of taking flight (and atmospheric effects like that make sense in a song called lightning bolt)

Someone noted that the guitar part in the ‘you know you’ll never let her go’ part of the chorus is like WWS, but since that’s one of my all time favorite songs that’s a good thing. I like Matt’s shakers (again, they make the song crackle a bit). The way the guitars sound like they’re sawing into something is great.

Mike’s solo (both parts) is a highlight. It’s simple and pure and free—a great distillation of anthematic rock in 15 seconds. Some of his best stuff.

The song does a great job coming back down after the chorus and solo without ever actually losing momentum. They’ve gone in for this twinkling sound before (the fixer bridge is the most prominent place) but it works best here thus far. I like the edge of pleading vulnerability that creeps into Eddie’s voice, which contrasts nicely with the assertiveness in the rest of the song—and how he gradually gains confidence throughout the verse.

“flipping through the worn out pages in stages when you knew not who to be” is as close to a late period Michael Stipe lyric you can get without actually having him write it.

I kinda like the electric shimmer in Eddie’s voice during the chorus. Feels appropriate with the title.

The last 1:45 in this song is just fantastic. We come back to the same music as the beginging, but now instead of something creeping up behind you it is bursting out of your chest. The ‘she holds her lovely breast (which is not a great lyric)’ verse feels so free—it’s so easy to picture a flock of birds taking flight over a vast expansive forest.

Matt does a really nice job controlling the incredible pacing in this song. I don’t think L-bolt gets enough credit for doing such an amazing job sustaining what is basically a constant build throughout the song. The last time they did this so well was probably corduroy. There have been better songs since then, obviously, but none that master this little trick.

I adore Eddie’s performance during the final verse. And the lyric ‘all her problems/they won’t die with you’ is a wonderful final exclaimation point before the outro.

The guitars in the outro sound like church bells. I wish they were louder.

Stone’s mini solo at the end is really nice.

You know what would make this even better. If we cut this song off right as its glorious finale is just beginging. I wish someone would do that.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:48 pm 
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Infallible:

At least the fade in from L-bolt is cool. Not enough to justify this war crime, but still..

I love the music at the start of this. It’s ominous, martial, off kilter, and different. They’ve got nothing that sounds like this, and it’s really cool. Eddie’s lyrics are excellent, and his delivery strikes the right mix of prophecy and possibility—a darker future is comign but we’re not locked into it yet.

The chorus is a mixed bag. I like it. I like how Eddie sounds. I like how it draws a hopeful and optimistic contrast to the more forboding verses. I get why it was done. But it is really poppy and it’s not so much that it doesn’t work as much as I really liked what they were doing, which was new and fresh and didn’t need this. This works, but keeping the tone darker probably would have worked better. I think this is the kind of contrast that might have made more sense as a bridge.

The way Eddie turns the idea of infallibility back onto our own passivity and cynicism is smart and clever. I’m a big fan of the ‘somehow it is the biggest things that keep on slipping right through our hands’ lyric.

‘Time we best begin here at the ending’ is another excellent lyric.

I can’t decide if this song is too long or not.

The transitions into and out of the verses are well done. I like the background vocals in the second chorus. Also a fan of those soaring notes Eddie hits here.

The bridge reminds me of My Father’s Son, but more like a bad dream you’re coming out of than one that’s pulling you in deeper.

The transition into the outro is excellent, especially with that screeching noise grinding the optimistic love in to a halt. Maybe it’s not prophecy, but it certainly is a warning.


This is an interesting one. I really loved the song on this listen—and it’s doing lots of new stuff. It feels different, and feels important. But heavy listening takes something away from this one. Like something profound that gets diminished with too much repetition. So it’s a really good song, but lacks the sustainability to be a great one.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 4:56 pm 
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Pendulum: it’s hard to picture this coming out of the Backspacer sessions. I loved this from the moment I first heard the tour promo. This may very well be my favorite piece of atmospheric music in the catalog. It’s sad, haunting, foreboding, punishing, and seductive.

Eddie is way too loud in this mix. He sounds really good, I think, but too loud. The music is just too interesting to take a backseat here.

I like what Matt is doing on this one, but stone and jeff are the stars. Almost every moment on this song has something interesting to focus on.
I like the fractured notes that get played after ‘easy left me a long time ago’—but eddie should be dissipating out behind rather than in front of the music.

Really interesting change of pace at 2:30—with the acoustic guitars and the ah ah ah vocals. They way they sound so lost and knowing and sexy at the same time—like its promising you some dark illicit truth if you only step just a little bit closer.

This is another song that pretty much does everything right—other than some quibbles with the mixing.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:04 pm 
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Swallowed Whole: I should really like this song more than I do. I like it, but I should love it. This is Pearl Jam covering REM. The lyrics are really good. There are lots of interesting moments. A strong bridge, a cool outro. I think it’s really Eddie. This is maybe the song where the general cleanliness of Lightning Bolt is used to the worst possible effect. This should be a dusty, lived in song that’s celebrating finally feeling free. It needs to feel less controlled than it does.

I guess I’m not a huge fan of the tone of the guitar at the start. I like the jangle though.

I like matt’s playing here, even if its simple.

The chorus is really nice. ‘whisper songs inside the wind/breathing in forgiveness’ and ‘what is clear far from the noise gets swallowed whole’ are nice lyrics.

The d-d-d-d-d-drown part is stupid.
I should really love when the song ramps up after. I really like what the guitars are doing. But Eddie is too loud and too clean. They get diminished too much as a result.

The bridge is good. Nice piano flourishes, and I like how the guitars kinda swirl around wtihout committing to anything in particular.

This is, like Sirens, another Mike solo I find underwhelming, even though I usually like this kind of playing. It’s a bit too sharp, maybe.

The final chorus is a great example of Eddie being too clean. Eddie should sound like he does at the end of Lightning Bolt, methinks.

I like the abrupt quiet stop in the outro. It reminds me of Tremor Christ.

Like Getaway this is a song that ends up playing the role of solid filler between more interesting moments. A good song, but not a highlight. Unlike Getaway I feel like this one SHOULD have been. It’s almost there. If the album had a different overall asthetic it probably would have made it.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:06 pm 
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Fuck BOB is the worst. :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:15 pm 
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Let the Records Play: This is a song that doesn’t deserve the vitriol that it gets. Not that it's a great song. I'm just not sure it's worth hating. I’m not sure I like the really abrasive intro at the start, but I like the deep, rolling riff that it turns into. Interesting feel to Eddie’s vocals that I think is pretty cool in the song, but not something I want to see him come back to. The lyrics are good too. It does a nice job capturing the ‘drinking yourself to death in a seedy southern bar, possibly pausing long enough to start a fight’ feel to the song.

I personally like the line dance chorus. It’s catchy. It’s enjoyable. But like the infallible chorus it does feel a bit out of place. I enjoy listening to it so I don’t care, but I don’t think this was the best choice for the song.

Big fan of the bridge. It’s the right kind of song for handclaps, and I like the way the guitars almost sound like horns, as well as the descending part that gets played at the end of each of eddie’s lines

Another dirty bluesy solo from mike (both of them) that I feel strangely disconnected from. Mike is easily the least valuable player on this record.

Since Riot Act there’s been a random light hearted song thrown in before the final stretch of the album. Actually if you count mankind they’ve been doing it longer. This is my favorite of all of them, by a lot, but in most cases pearl jam is just a bit too earnest to be fun, at least in the studio, and these songs frequently feel like theyre working at cross purposes with themselves. This one is not really any different.

Hmm, other than get right I think they’re all stone songs. THIS is the kind of stuff he should be saving for solo albums.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:29 pm 
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Sleeping By Myself: This is one of my favorite songs on the album, and BOB can wipe out quite a few sings by pushing for it. It’s a wonderfully jaunty take on such a sad song—it puts on such a brave little smile in such a terrible little place.

Matt does a great job setting the pace on this one (this is probably my favorite performance of his on the record), and the empty spaces and pauses in the music make everything sound so simultaneously carefree and vulnerable. The richer guitar parts accent the transitions nicely, and Eddie sounds great on this—delicate and and powerful and loud and understated at the same time.

Mike’s solo is maybe a bit too loud (and the final part he plays during the last few choruses)

I love the inclusion of the uke going into the final verse.

The layered vocals are used to nice effect.

The butchering of disaster is odd

This song has every business being on the record, and is one of the highlights of the final stretch. This is a better album for its inclusion

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:38 pm 
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Yellow Moon:

I’ve maybe overplayed this one a bit, but this is another song I love. I think this is Eddie’s best vocal performance going back a long long way. I know some people wanted this to be dustier, but I like how stately and cinematic this song is. Like the universe is writing your eulogy.

The guitars sound great—so rich. Eddie is beautiful—another peformance I never thought we could get out of him. I like the lyrics—simple but effective, and the childlike wonder contrasts nicely with the dark subject matter.

I like the flourish in the chorus. Eddie is way out in front of the music. I like it because I love how he sounds. I wonder if it would have been even better if he was more subdued. I guess it’s really a question of whether you want this guys final moments overshadowed by the vast space around him. Same thing with the bridge. Where do you want the drama coming from.

It’s a bit too piercing in its tone, but I do like the part Mike is playing here, and the crying keyboard part that emerges from underneath it.

This is a gorgeous bridge, with the best lyrical stretch on the album, and (I think) one of his best period. It is dramatic and significant without being overwrought.

I like Mike’s final solo (and the lowlight piano), but again it’s a bit too sharp.

I think what I like most about this song is the way it approaches death by looking at whether or not the act itself has any significance in a vast universe. It’s an incredibly personal song that is desperate to affirm its own significance to a world that isn’t going to notice that he’s gone.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:46 pm 
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Future Days: Ahh, future Days. I really like this song and won’t apologize for it. The song wouldn’t want me to, since it is maybe the most unapologetic song on any of the formal albums.

I prefer the keys underneath the intro to the piano, which doesn’t sound that good, and there’s such a disconnect between it and the guitars and vocals when they come in. They’re loud, but they feel recessed.

I don’t think this is a particularly nice melody or anything, but I do like how Eddie sings it.

The lyrics are what they are. They only work if you have had the experience he’s describing, and even then only if you’re willing to shut the critical faculties of your brain off and just surrender to it

The keyboard is nice throughout the song, and the harvest moon violin is lovely, and attaches itself nicely to the guitar.

The keyboard sounds like the shades of the people they’re remembering during the second chorus.

I like the bridge. These are actually pretty good lyrics, I like how Eddie is layered, and the dramatic sweep of it is a nice contrast to the song that surrounds it.

It’s cheesy and sweet and sometimes you need that. ‘No resistance, no alarms’

I get disliking this song. It’s a guilty pleasure. But it’s a guilty pleasure I’m happy to have.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 5:49 pm 
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I still hear this album enough I'm not sure I have any new insights or anything into it, other than the 'every song sounds better on headphones rather than shitty car speakers' no brainer. There are a few songs where the clean production on the album hurts the songs (getaway and swallowed whole are maybe the two biggest offenders), a few songs where Eddie is too far in front of the mix (Lightning Bolt and pendulum), some songs that mostly get everything right except for an overloud guitar (Yellow Moon and Sleeping By Myself) and some questionable directions in the chorus (Infallible and Let the Records play). Almost every song has something about the studio version that holds the song back. In some ways this is one of their more deeply flawed records. And it's a shame because as a core group of songs this is, I think, one of their strongest outings. So in the end I'm a big fan of the album, but it's easy to imagine it being even better.

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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 6:06 pm 
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stip wrote:
Almost every song has something about the studio version that holds the song back. In some ways this is one of their more deeply flawed records.


This


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 Post subject: Re: Lets Actually Listen to the Album: Lightning Bolt
PostPosted: Thu February 13, 2014 6:59 pm 
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stip wrote:
Lighting Bolt:

I think this is one of the best anthems in their catalog.



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