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.


      20 Responses to So…you just bought Binaural

      1. Tad says:

        God’s Dice isn’t bad, and Binaural is their absolute worst album. Pick a few of the songs they left off it from Lost Dogs and make your own mix. It will be much better. (And Sleight of Hand is a great song.)

      2. BonerJam says:

        I thoroughly enjoyed this album, why so much hate? If it’s Pearl Jam it’s better than almost every other shitty song on the radio despite how crummy the song(s) actually are.

      3. Ferg Breen says:

        Very entertaining read.
        I love Binaural. I’d keep God’s Dice over Rival a million times over.
        Any album that has ‘Breakerfall’, ‘Light Years’, ‘Nothing As It Seems’, ‘Thin Air’, Insignificance’, ‘Sleight of Hand’, ‘Grievance’ and the absolute sublime ‘Of The Girl’, is a winner in my book!!!

      4. mary wilson says:

        Brutal review! As much as I love PJ, I try to keep and open mind and not follow blindly. However, I really love Binaural. I enjoy the diversity of the album. Its pure Pearl Jam

      5. PW says:

        As a huge PJ fan, I love some of the turns and twists that the band may take on their albums. I don’t compare each album so much against their others. I find too many people hold it against the band that they never live up to Ten or VS. I realize the band was hungry back then. I love it when they throw curveballs. I personally don’t want to hear the same songs recycled over and over again. I want to see growth. I’m not a huge fan of Binaural but I definitely appreciate the work. I love Breakerfall and Light Years. And if God’s Dice is mid-90’s punk, i’m ok with that too. Bad Religion and Pennywise are still fixtures in my car stereo so I got no problem with PJ feeling the vibe. I respect your opinion of Binaural. I like Yield better than Ten, so I’m sure i’d get some shit for it if I threw that out there on a blog too!! 🙂

      6. jeremyt says:

        and the first one?

      7. Old_MR says:

        You are the worst.

      8. Wow says:

        Binaural is my favorite!

      9. Ryan M. says:

        I’m not sure I “get” this. Is it supposed to be a parody of something? Or do the guys genuinely hate Binaural. I’m skeptical that the owners of the best PJ fan site would complete trash an album legitimately.

      10. Jorge says:

        Oh, this is just hilariously idiotic. In a world where Backspacer and Self-Titled are around, Binaural is a beacon of hope that this band is capable of interesting things– sounds, textures, dynamic songwriting and studio creativity. “Evacuation” is a wonderful song, it’s just a little too classy for the Ten-hungry PJ fan.

      11. Pauly says:

        I’m interested to know what your number 1 is?! (for me, its Riot Act, yawn…)

        Anyway, Binaural for me is pretty much hit and miss, some very good and some fairly poor (but still good by other bands standards) songs… i do love Sleight of Hand though, possibly my favourite PJ song.

      12. Dave says:

        Hilarious! Bravo.

        For those who don’t get it.

      13. fred says:

        I agree with most… don’t “get” it. Binaural is amazing – most underrated PJ album. Most fans reading this will likely agree. Or not. Whatever. If this was tongue-in-cheek, the tongue (or the cheek) wasn’t big enough. Don’t give me reasons to question your judgement, Gremmies!

        Anyway, I’ve had a few beers. Hate this post, love this site!

      14. Black`Leaf says:

        This album just sounds depressing, i dont really care about the relics(which is kinda strange not to care about pj`s lyrics) but still i think its more a feeling for this one than a theme or an idea

      15. Mike says:

        Binural is my least played Pearl Jam CD. I like the cover but that’s not enough for me to listen to this. I bought it when it came out and was dissapointed. It is by far thier worse studio cd of them all.

      16. trey says:

        ….Says the fan who screams “PLAY JEREMY, PLAY Black!”

        Binaural is the BEST Pearl Jam record. You won’t hear Eddie singing those silly deep growls that made his voice copied many times over. Thank GOD!

        If you can’t find anything to like with: Insignificance, Grievance, NEM, Breakerfall, or Sleight of Hand”, then I suggest you go play your copy of MTV Unplugged where you’ll get your dose of Black and Jeremy…

        Easily their most artistic and clever album.

        But hey! Thats why we are all different.

      17. Dr.Brainwave says:

        Easily their worst effort imo but mainly due to my hatred of the production. All the rockers sound better on the boots and their is a great album in there somewhere if, like suggested earlier, you remake the track listing with b sides that are better than half the record as is.

      18. Welcome to the year 2000 says:

        Did it just take you 12 years to write a review? …When can we expect your review of Californication?

      19. Susan says:

        I am a huge PJ fan and this article just cracked me up. Can’t believe people are hurling abuse at such a cleverly written, hysterical review. Thanks for the biggest belly laugh I’ve had in days. I’m going to have to listen to Binaural again.

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