Thursday, April 28, 2011

Album Review: Pearl Jam – Binaural

At this point in Pearl Jam’s career they were engaged in a wilful act of fan-shedding, removing most of the better songs from their studio albums and keeping them for 2003’s Lost Dogs rarities collection. Ok, they weren’t, but in retrospect it feels that way.

Binaural, released in 2000 was less accessible than previous album Yield. Rather than engaging tunes with big choruses, they preferred fast rockers without a chorus with Eddie Vedder groaning within an inch of his life such as Breakerfall, Evacuation, Insignificance etc.

None of these are particularly interesting. Elsewhere, Light Years and Thin Air have the ring of Wishlist (again from Yield) about them, that is a steady drumbeat and a big, catchy singalong chorus and a great vocal from Vedder. Nothing As It Seems was the lead single, kind of an odd choice for a single as it’s one of the murkiest, most brooding songs Pearl Jam have written, with lashings of electric guitar from Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. How anyone thought this would be a good choice for a single I don’t know, but it’s a great track, despite not having a commercial bone in its body.

The slower tracks work quite well. Tracks like Of The Girl, Slight of Hand and Parting Ways move at a fairly glacial pace but are fine tunes. Parting Ways in particular is a great tune, ending off with dark as hell guitar chords crashing ad nauseam giving an almost trance-like effect. Mention also to Vedder’s foray into uke-rock (ie using a ukulele) on Soon Forget.

I wasn’t quite joking about the fan-shedding. This album sold fewer than any of their previous albums, though for committed fans there is still plenty to get your teeth into.