First Appeared at The Music Box, uly 2000, Volume 7, #7
Written by John Metzger
Binaural is quite the fitting title for the latest Pearl Jam release. Produced by Tchad Blake, who is best-known as a member of the Latin Playboys and for his work with Los Lobos, wouldnít have it any other way. His projects tend to grind and clank with garage rock atmospherics, which seem paradoxically to be juxtaposed with a stereophonic headphone swirl more befitting of something out of the Pink Floyd arsenal. His presence is deeply felt throughout Binaural, creating some interesting twists on what has become the typical Pearl Jam formula.
In part, Binaural owes more of a debt to earlier Pearl Jam works like Vs., Vitalogy, and even Ten than it does to their last outing Yield. Songs like Breakerfall, Godís Dice, and Evacuation push hard and fast over the pounding rhythm of bassist Jeff Ament and former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. On these songs, the group unleashes an avalanche of sound with explosive fury, resurrecting their early edgy grunge-based beginnings.
On the other hand, Pearl Jam continues to explore more somber meditations with increasingly quiet translucence. The first single Nothing as it Seems strikes a middle ground somewhere between The Beatles and Pink Floyd, Of the Girl shimmers against an acoustic backdrop, and on the folk tune Soon Forget, Eddie Vedder accompanies himself on ukulele.
Lyrically speaking, Binaural continues the bandís explorations of various socio-political thoughts and ideas, including life and death (Light Years; Insignificance), isolation and drug abuse (Nothing as It Seems; Of the Girl), bigotry (Rival), and misguided, wasted lives (Soon Forget). Taken as a whole, the album deals with the disillusion with oneís life and the false escape most people seek in lieu of invoking true change. By pairing the weight of Ament, Stone Gossard, and Vedderís words with the seriously dark and dangerous sonic landscapes the group delivers, Pearl Jam creates music that is downright haunting in its implications.
Itís true that Binaural is not as strong an album as Yield, but sometimes a band needs to take a small step backward in order to make a giant leap forward. Thereís no question that Binaural would be more highly regarded had the order of the groupís two most recent efforts been reversed. As it currently stands, however, it canít help but be a bit of a let down. Yet, Binaural still fares better than most, and it further expands Pearl Jamís string of consistently strong releases. Ĺ
Binaural is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box