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2000 studio album includes "Nothing As It Seems".
Pearl Jam lowered its profile after becoming a worldwide musical phenomenon in the early '90s, pulling back from the touring, radio, and press fronts. And this diverse 13-song outing, lacking another "Alive" or "Better Man," isn't the album to thrust Pearl Jam back into the limelight. Binaural kicks out the jams with a grandiosity worthy of the Who, as Pearl Jam roars through the loose, raucous two-minute-plus opener "Breakerfall" and into another brief rave-up, "God's Dice." Quickly, though, the loud MC5-style guitar outpourings that begin PJ's seventh album (and first to feature former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron) morph into the edgy, taut "Evacuation" and the midtempo "Light Years." The spare, mournful "Nothing as It Seems" (with lyrics and music by bassist Jeff Ament), "Thin Air," and the lilting "Parting Ways" all reflect romantic introspection. Eddie Vedder's poignant ukulele-accompanied "Soon Forget" is an affecting aside, and the rollicking "Insignificance" and Middle Eastern-tinged "Of the Girl" are all noteworthy. That's a strong lineup, but Binaural nevertheless falls short of the heights this talented group scaled in the past. --Katherine Turman
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It has several good rockers and ballads each, but one of the things that makes it different from and better than either NO CODE or YIELD is the '70s progressive rock sound of "Nothing As It Seems" and "Sleight of Hand." The tragic "Nothing As It Seems" sounds very Pink Floyd-esque, complete with David Gilmour-style lead guitar, which was new for Pearl Jam. Jeff Ament wrote the music for both songs and the lyrics for "Nothing," while Eddie Vedder wrote the lyrics for "Sleight of Hand," which is mysterious and provocative.
The first two tracks are speedy rockers, "Breakerfall" by Vedder and "God's Dice" by Ament, and the third track, the New Wavish "Evacuation" by Matt Cameron with lyrics by Vedder, continues the high energy. The other two rocking songs are among the band's best, "Insignificance" and "Grievance," both by Vedder.
Stone Gossard contributes two fine ballads, the beatiful "Thin Air" and "Of the Girl." The great lyrics to "Light Years" are by Vedder, while Vedder, Mike McCready and Gossard collaborated on the moving music. The last number, "Parting Ways," is a lovely breakup song by Eddie.
That leaves two minor songs that bookend the stunning "Sleight of Hand" -- "Rival" and "Soon Forget." The latter is a little ditty featuring Eddie and his ukelele, a cautionary tale: "[s]orry is the fool who trades his love for hi-rise rent," "a man we'll soon forget." Gossard's "Rival" strikes a humorous note and reminds me of Mike Patton & Faith No More's "RV" from ANGEL DUST, as well as "Glorified G" from VS.
BINAURAL was the first Pearl Jam album not to go platinum. It sounds to me like a breakthrough to a higher level of musical realization following the band's escape from grunge (NO CODE) and initial forays into the broader sonic terrain they discovered (YIELD).
I didn't hear it at the time of its 2000 release, but I'm glad to finally catch up!