It’s been a little over five years since Pearl Jam released an album of new material and it doesn’t seem like one is coming at any point in the immediate future. “It’d be fun to record or even just write a song together,” bassist Jeff Ament recently told Rolling Stone. “I think when Chris [Cornell] passed, that’s really been a tough one to wrap our heads around, and then there’s just life stuff.”
Ament did say that the group has at least attempted to record new material in recent years. “We’ve gone in, probably, four or five times in the last couple of years, so we have a whole ton of unfinished stuff,” he said. “We’re just sort of in a little bit of limbo. I’m sure everybody’s got a bunch more riffs, and I’m sure Ed’s got a handful of journal lyrics. It’s just going to take us all getting into a room together for six weeks and just knocking something out.”
Pearl Jam have taken long breaks between releasing new albums in the past — most notably between 2002’s Riot Act and 2006’s Pearl Jam and 2009’s Backspacer and 2013’s Lightning Bolt — but this is the first time it’s gone quite this long. That doesn’t mean, however, that the group has been inactive. They toured heavily to support Lightning Bolt in 2013 and 2014 and have done shows every year since, besides 2017 when they only played at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Many of their American shows in the past few years have been at baseball stadiums, a practice they began in 2013. They played Chicago’s Wrigley Field on July 19th of that year and picked the occasion to debut the title track to Lightning Bolt, which was due out that October. A colossal storm (complete with actual lightning bolts) hit the city that night and the group was forced to delay the show for nearly three hours after playing just seven songs.
“It was a little tense here and there, because the band really wanted it to work out,” Pearl Jam producer Brendan O’Brien told Rolling Stone shortly after the show. “This was a real big moment for those guys — for Eddie, for all of them. They were really concerned it was gonna get blown out. I don’t believe there was a ‘rain day’ anywhere. There wasn’t a chance to make it up.They were determined to make it work. Their road manager, Smitty, just worked those people at the neighborhood coalition to let them extend the curfew until two a.m.”
Here’s a fan shot video of the premiere of “Lightning Bolt,” which was the first glimpse the fans had of the new Pearl Jam album. The group did release the new song “Can’t Deny Me” last March and they played it live throughout the year. With no concerts on the books for 2019 so far maybe they’re finally going to have the time to write more tunes and finish the album.