- Ben Harper
- Glen Hansard
- pearl jam
- signature live
- soul coughing
- star anna
Congratulations! You just purchased Pearl Jam’s second worst studio album. Hope you didn’t pay more than your time is worth because you’re in for 52 minutes of mostly disappointment.
First thing’s first. Flip over to the tracklist on the back, get a Sharpie from the junk drawer in the kitchen, and put a thick, black line through the following songs: God’s Dice, Evacuation, and Parting Ways. You won’t be listening to them more than once. Why? Because God’s Dice is Pearl Jam knocking off cheapo, mid-90′s punk, Evacuation is the band letting Matt Cameron contribute out of fear his departure would perpetuate their already Spinal Tapian drummer’s chair, and just FUCK Parting Ways; it’s the exit music for a daytime Soap Opera. And not one of those classy joints like Days of Our Lives. I’m talking D-Grade, the WB, Baywatch Nights bullspit. And Breakerfall….did I not mention Breakerfall? We’ll leave that one alone for now, but I got my eye on you, with your chintzy Jerry Lee Lewis cosplay.
You’ll notice the cover staring at you. That’s the Eye of Providence. It’s encircled by two stains; the kind you see recessed into the coffee table of a guy who never had a woman buy him coasters. And they’re orange which I can only assume means this person drinks orange Gatorade. The description of the photo inside the case says it has something to do with Outer Space, but if I wanted my Pearl Jam to have Sci-Fi in it I’d go back writing fan fiction. I had this one short story where Ed was Han Solo and Boom was Princess Leia and they got really friendly with some Wookies…but I digress. So, the cover is the Eye of Providence with coffee stains. On the left hand side there’s some Japanese writing, so I guess it’s Japanese Outer Space? So where’s Godzilla? Or Space Godzilla I guess? Oh, it’s just the Japanese version of Binaural? Are you sure? Ok. Would be cooler if Godzilla was on it fighting the Eye of Providence. Who would win? Nevermind. After you’re done listening to the album, there’s a good chance that it will be your first coaster anyway and you’ll be able to make your own stains around the Eye of Providence. No, not like that kind. You’re gross.
So start with track four, Light Years, because I take back what I said about Breakerfall. Skip it. “She can blame the world/ or pray till dawn”? I remember when I had my first beer, except I didn’t try and write a song shortly thereafter. Light Years is not about space travel, although the more I write about the Sci-Fi themes of this album, the clearer it becomes. Light Years was the second single from Binaural, but it didn’t have a cool b-side like, for example, Wishlist had with “U”. Still, it wails and the lyrics tell short, poignant non-sequiturs. A demo version of the song trickled out after Binaural came out called Puzzles and Games. You can find it here, and if you’re drunk while reading this you can find it h————-e—————r—————-e.
If you haven’t gotten laid in a while then the next track, Nothing As It Seems, can be your wingman. It’s bluesy, swaying riff, and Ament’s “something maybe two-toned” lyrics are the perfect foil for your dalliance with that half-in-bag, town bicycle. But take it from me, you’re gonna want to “get there” before the second to last chorus because that shit ends abruptly leaving only the sound of your saggy, naked thighs chafing against the deafening sound of an unimpressed 20-something named Jill.
If you got a girl who’s into Dave Matthews Band and you want to “Crash” into her sexhole, but either you don’t own the CD or you used it as a beer coaster at your frat house, you can use Thin Air as a viable substitute. It might not get you all the way to home base, but you won’t have to use your pitching wedge to score a touchdown in her hoop. I’m not good with sports metaphors.
Insignificance and Grievance are a lot like my ex-wife: they’re defiant, they sound good at parties, they got huge tits, and they’re surprisingly lucid when you’re drunk.
Of the Girl and Sleight of Hand might sound ethereal and a little boring at first, but 10 years from now you’ll come to appreciate them because they’re moody and meandering, and you’ll convince yourself that those qualities make for good music. You’ll be wrong, of course.
Rival is the “No Way” of Binaural. The studio version sounds great and fans clamor for it to be played live, but it rarely is because it becomes exposed as a overly simplistic riff they just happen to put cool lyrics to (see also: Tremor Christ). But it’s a good song. Heavy hitting and scornful, just like my dear mother.
If, like goof and I, you only ever heard Ed sing the word “horny” to you in your dreams, then you’ll love Soon Forget. This ukulele song might sound like Blue, Red, and Grey by Pete Townsend, but the theme is different. Ed took the protagonist from that song, but instead of relishing in the good life, pokes fun that he “counts his money every morning/ the only thing that keep him horny.” And that before long he’s “lying dead/ clutching benjamins/ never put the money down.” Ed’s funny. I mean – “Ed’s funny?” Is the same chap who also wrote “Once” and “Alive”?
If you wait long enough after skipping Parting Ways you’ll hear, “Writer’s Block” which ironically is 30 seconds of Ed fluidly typing on an Underwood. During the Binaural sessions Ed said he struggled with severe writer’s block and had trouble coming up with good lyrics (see also: Breakerfall, God’s Dice, Sleight of Hand, and Of the Girl). Goof and I admire his good sense of humor here. It’s pretty funny to see someone so earnest acknowledge his hard time by recording himself blowing off steam. It’d be like if Tiger Woods was having trouble sexting pictures of his Benetton flavored dong to toothy strippers and to cut loose by cramming a softball into his ass.
What did I tell you? I’m no good with sports metaphors.