Binaural Review

artist: Pearl Jam date: 04/05/2007 category: compact discs
Pearl Jam: Binaural
Released: May 16, 2000
Genre: Rock
Styles: Alternative Pop/Rock, Hard Rock, Grunge
Number Of Tracks: 13
The songs are sharper, the production is layered, and the performances are as compassionate as ever, resulting in their finest album since Vitalogy.
 Sound: 7.7
 Lyrics: 8.3
 Overall Impression: 8
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overall: 8
Binaural Reviewed by: stip, on december 02, 2004
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Binaural incorporates the experimentalism of No Code with the straight rock of Yield, with overall positive results. The album is a mix of straight out rockers (Breakerfall, Grievance), heavy soundscapes (Insignificance, Sleight Of Hands), ballads (Thin Air, Parting Ways), discordant numbers (Light Years, Rival), playful interludes (Soon Forget), and just about every other style the band has dabbled with at one point or another. Nothing as it seems has some of Mike McCready's best guitar work ever, and Insignificance is another standout. Binaural rewards frequent and patient listens, much more so than most Pearl Jam albums. For a band that is rarely accesible right off the bat, this is maybe their most challenging album ever. Headphones are a must, and greatly add to the experience. The album was recorded with them in mind. This was Matt Cameron's first studio ablum with the band, and he actually writes one of the songs (albiet, not one of the best ones). The biggest problem with Binaural, musically, is that it is often more interesting than engaging. These are easy songs to appreciate, and tougher songs to love, with a few exceptions. There are also some songs (Evacuation, God's Dice, and Thin Air) which just don't seem to go anywhere and prevent the album from ever really finding its stride. // 8

Lyrics: Vocally Eddie turns in a performance similar to Yield, although he is even more restrained here than on Yield. Except for Breakerfall and Grievance he rarely lets himself go, to the detriment of songs like Light Years and Insignificance, songs that are almost classics but can't quite get over that hump. There doesn't seem to be any thematic unity to most of the songs, unlike the previous three albums. Lyrically the standouts are Grievance (about the WTO protests and the best politcal song Pearl Jam ever wrote), Insignificance (the second best political song Pearl jam ever wrote--about trying to make sense of why your country gets bombed from a third world perspective), Sleight of Hand (about trying to find meaning in a reified world), and Light Years (a touching goodbye to a lost friend). Like Yield (and Riot Act) Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard pen some lyrics, and they are largely forgettable (although there are some great lines in Nothing As It Seems). Thin Air and God's Dice in particular are real throw away numbers. Rival and Nothing As It Seems are both good songs that could have been great songs with some better writing. // 8

Overall Impression: Binaural is a good record, but not great. Breakerfall is a solid opener (Pearl Jam has always been good at kicking off a record) but the album stalls with God's Dice, which has a generic, vaguely punk feel to it, and Evacuation, which is too awkward to be loved. Light Years and Nothing As It seems are both quite good, but not classics, and Thin Air, a fairly boring acoustic love song, disrupts the momentum once again. The back half of the record is actually superior to the first. Insignificance is a titanic song, and the guitar work is excellent. You can hear the shockwaves of the falling bombs, without any cheesey sound effects. Of A Girl has enough eastern mystery to make it enjoyable, and Grievance is fantastic, the high point of the album. Rival channels Red Mosquito, but slower and off tune. Still, it is good enough to keep the record going. SLeight of Hand is interesting, but difficult. Worth a listen, but once again stalls the record. Soon Forget is a fun little parable about greed, featuring Eddie on his ukulele. Parting Ways channels a bit of Long Road, and is a moving song about a decaying relationship, and a nice way for the album to end. This is an album for Pearl Jam fans, and they'll enjoy it, but not one for new converts. Probably their most uneven record to date, and the item in their catalouge I'd pick up last. However, even a flawed Pearl Jam record has its gems, and likely to be better than anything compareable bands are putting out. What is really frustrating is that the Lost Dogs records had several fantastic songs from the Binaural sessions that inexcusably failed to make it onto the record. If you swapped out God's Dice, Evacuation, and Thin Air, for Sad, Education, and Fatal Binaural suddenly becomes one of their best records. // 8

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overall: 7.7
Binaural Reviewed by: DownInAHole., on august 18, 2006
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: This album immediately jumped up to the #3 spot of their first six records I own. It's only behind Ten and Vs. (current fav) and might have a chance to go higher. That being said, most people seem to need some time with this album to fully appreciate. I'll tell you how I came about to enjoying it right away. To start, the opening song blared out of my speakers in my car as the bass shook the mirrors. That doesn't happen too often in my car but it was a rather explosive way to start the album. The song itself didn't stick with me until a few more listens but it's one of the better songs and opening songs in PJ's catalogue. The next two songs, God's Dice and Evacuation, are nothing too special and are just all around quality songs. The album really started for me with Light Years. Not only does it perfectly capture the feeling of the artwork PJ have become known for(heavy astronomy theme with explanations to the pictures in the back of the booklet) but it's the best song on the album. It's a slower song that as far as I can tell is about a woman close to the band that died. The chorus quickly got me moving and one of the best lines Ed has ever written is here as "We were but stones, your light made us stars". After that song blew me away I was hit by another strong song called Nothing As It Seems. The guitar riffs and short solos are breathtaking and really make this song work along with Eddie's haunting vocals. 'Thin Air' ups the tempo a little bit and is yet another strong song. At this point I've heard three very strong songs follow three average to good openers. I hoped it wouldn't end there and I was rewarded with Insignificance. The chorus is very memorable and Ed has a few of his signiature wails and such throughout. The next song, Of A Girl, is probably the song that gets me moving the most. The beat is just amazing to go along with some great lyrics and vocals. I really can't do this song justice with words, you need to hear it. Though this album has some political threads it's far from overbearing. As a Republican for the most part I'm never offended throughout this album. I chalk that up to strong, open lyrics that don't try to bash me over the head. This is where Grievance comes in. Despite the message I must say this song has really grown on me to be one of my favorites. It's more of the bridge at the end of the song that gets me. 'Rival' has an interesting beginning of what sounds like 2 dogs fighting or one just growling. It kind of surprised me at first but the song that follows is good enough to make me forget it. Sleight of Hand is a hit or miss song with people. For those that don't know, the album is called Binaural because of the way it was recorded. It was meant to listen to with headphones and if you don't have two working speakers or ear pieces you're only going to get half of the songs. Sleight of Hand is really the perfect song to demonstrate this and I can't describe it other than 'haunting'. Soon Forget is a vintage quarky PJ song that isn't too long. You might very well soon forget it but it's not bad. Parting Ways is a solid closer though far from their best way to wrap up an album. // 7

Lyrics: After the first 4 songs or so I found myself surprisingly unenthused. What the heck? These songs suck! I said to myself as I ate nachos on my couch. However things picked up as it went on, and by the end I was pleased with it. I've since listened to it many a time and have chenged my tune about some of the tunes. Eddie Vedder is an excellent force in alternative music and it really shows on this album. // 8

Overall Impression: All in all, this album to me was much heavier and had a greater variety of great songs than any of their previous three albums (which are all great in themselves). If you find yourself having a hard time getting into this just give it more listens. It's defintely one of their most underrated albums and needs to be any every PJ fans collection. As always if you're new to Pearl Jam start with Ten and work your way up. // 8

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overall: 8.3
Binaural Reviewed by: cuige, on april 05, 2007
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: After masterpieces like Ten, Vs. and No Code it seems that Pearl Jam have moved from the raw, deadly sound that made them so popular. A popularity that brought their debut album Ten to number 1 in the U.S. While Binaural's sound is still effective and entralling to listen to it no longer takes your breath away. No longer does Eddie Vedder's voice send shivers down you spine. No longer do songs blast you off your feet with outros like Ten's "Alive" or Vs.'s "Go". The inclusion of Matt Cameron as drummer is undoubtably a good one as he pounds so unmerciably. But still this album's sound leaves you wanting a little more. Songs like "Grievance" and "Insignificance" will keep the rockers happy and the mellower of listeners will love "Nothing as it Seems" and "Light Years". Overall a different Pearl Jam sound that capitivates but leaves you longing for the old to be honest. // 8

Lyrics: As ever Eddie Vedder blows me away with his lyrics but it is important to note that guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament put in their fair share in the lyric department with "Thin Air" being contributed by the former and "Nothing As It Seems" by the latter. Collectively the lyrics do everything the sound doesn't. Fully entralls and captivates and not leaving you dissapointed. As ever Eddie delivers them brilliantly. He has perhaps slipped into more of comfort zone here as he did in 1998's "Yield". No more does he yell himself hoarse like in "Rearviewmirror". The closest he comes to doing so is in "Grievance". All the same you can't fault him. He is one of the better vocalists of the current day. The note he hits to the end of the opening track "Breakerfall" makes the song for me. It uplifts. Overall the lyrics focus on love but more broken love. A heatfelt album. // 9

Overall Impression: I'm going to give a track-by-track commentary here. 01. Breakerfall - a good opener. It is a rock song to get things rolling. As I mentioned earlier, the note Vedder hits towards the end is amazing. It earns the song an extra mark. It is a song to get the juices flowing. 02. Gods' Dice - this is an Ament song. Not the most memorable song. It is a song that you must listen to a few times to get into. A decent song but nothing special. 03. Evacuation - I must confess. I've never been a fan of fade-offs. A technique that put me off "Yield". However, this song still does grab me. The music was written by newcomer Cameron. 04. Light Years - the first song on the album that can be considered a Pearl Jam classic. It is a moving song. "We were but stones, your light made us stars". A great line for me. A Vedder song. One of my favorites. 05. A great song to follow Light Years and probably outstrips it for me. This is an Ament song. The lyrics move me and this is in my all-time Pearl Jam favourites. 06. Thin Air - a Gossard song. I like the refrain i.e. "I know she's reached my heart in thin air" but the verse has never taken me. I listen to it for the chorus but apart from that I find it a weak song. I do have a feeling, however, that other Pearl Jam fans are going to disagree. 07. Insignificance - one of my favourites on the album. Another Vedder song. I love this song. I love the verse, the chorus, the lyrics. Fair play guys for this song. 08. Of The Girl - I don't have anything against Mr.Stone Gossard but I find this song of his also weak. It bores me andnever takes off. Again fans are going to disagree with me but I find my concentration leaving me everytime I listen to it. 09. Grievance - my concentration quickly returned with this scorcher. Again I take my hat off to Eddie Vedder for this song. "Pledge my grievance to the flag". Great lyrics. Great song. I love the outro in this song as well. As previously mentioned the song that Eddie comes closer to his former self. 10. Rival - again not one of the band's best works. Again from Gossard. This one is better than Of the Girl so he raises himself a bit. Still I find myself waiting for the next song. Never a good sign. 11. Sleight Of Hand - this is an Ament tune and Vedder lyrics. An interesting song. I like the lyrics and, while it took me a few listens, I also like the tune. Good song. 12. Soon Forget - this song for me is the highlight of the album. A Vedder masterpiece. Eddie picks up the ukalele for this track. The story of the man with all the money but no happiness is captivating. "He's barely living a day he's soon forget". Great lyrics. Grat song. My favourite along with Insignificance and Grievance. Short but sweet. 13. Parting Ways - a good song to end the album. Perhaps ironic as the band and fans part ways again after another album. A Vedder song. He writes about a couple who know their relationship is fading but they keep on smiling. A sad song. Overall the album satisfys the musical appetite but leaves you wanting dessert. The guitars of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are, as always, effective. As a whole the band works in a strong a unit as ever but is lacking that energy they had. I would still probably buy it gain if I lost the cd, my ipod got smashed and my computer crashed and lost all it's contents. Hopefully I won't be that unlucky. I would recommend this album if you already have Ten, Vs., No Code and Vitalogy but if you don't I'd say to get those first. A good album but just lacking spice. // 8

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