Binaural (album): Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Studio album by Pearl Jam
Released May 16, 2000
Recorded September 1999 – January 2000 at Studio Litho, Seattle, Washington
Genre Alternative rock
Length 52:05
Language English
Label Epic
Producer Tchad Blake, Pearl Jam
Professional reviews
Pearl Jam chronology
Riot Act
Singles from Binaural
  1. "Nothing as It Seems"
    Released: April 25, 2000
  2. "Light Years"
    Released: July 18, 2000

Binaural is the sixth studio album by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released on May 16, 2000 through Epic Records. Following a full-scale tour in support of its previous album, Yield (1998), Pearl Jam took a short break before reconvening toward the end of 1999 to commence work on a new album. The music on the record featured an experimental sound, evidenced on songs that utilized binaural recording techniques.

Binaural debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album became the first Pearl Jam studio album to fail to reach platinum status. The album's 2000 tour spawned an enormous collection of official bootleg releases. The album has been certified gold by the RIAA in the United States.



For its sixth album, Pearl Jam brought in producer Tchad Blake, known for his use of binaural recording. Binaural recording techniques were utilized on several tracks, giving a "warm" sound to the music, such as the acoustic "Of the Girl." The songs are also identified with an asterisk next to the song names in the lyric book. This was the first Pearl Jam studio album following the departure of drummer Jack Irons, and features drummer Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden, who had previously drummed on Pearl Jam's U.S. Yield Tour. Binaural was recorded in late 1999 and early 2000 in Seattle, Washington at Studio Litho, which is owned by guitarist Stone Gossard.[10]

Similar to the process for Yield, the band members worked on material individually before starting the recording sessions together.[11] Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder called the making of the album "a construction job."[12] Binaural was the first album since the band's debut that was not produced by Brendan O'Brien. Gossard stated that the band "felt like it was time to try something new,"[11] and that they "were ready for a change."[13] Regarding Blake, Gossard said, "He was just there for us the whole time, wanting us to create different moods."[14] The album was initially mixed at Sunset Sound Factory in Los Angeles, California with Blake; however, the band proved to be dissatisfied with how the mixes turned out,[15] wanting the songs to sound "heavier."[16] The band then turned to its former producer O'Brien, who was called in to remix several tracks at his mixing facility at Southern Tracks in Atlanta, Georgia.[17] It was with O'Brien that the band determined the final sequencing of the album.[18]

During the making of the album the band ran into several problems. Vedder has admitted that while working on the album he suffered from writer's block, which made it difficult for him to come up with lyrics.[19] This apparently inspired the hidden track "Writer's Block" that appears at the end of the album. Vedder had written music for several songs, including "Insignificance" and "Grievance", but was having trouble coming up with lyrics for the songs.[15] He decided to not write any more music, and to focus only on lyrics, even banning himself from playing guitar. Unable to write more lyrics, Vedder said he saw a ukulele and thought "that's not a guitar," and wrote the song "Soon Forget" using the ukulele.[20] Guitarist Mike McCready went into rehabilitation to receive treatment for an addiction to prescription drugs.[15][18] Gossard said that "because Mike wasn't all there, and there was a 'get-to-know-you' thing with Matt, everyone wasn't on the same page."[13]

Music and lyrics

Problems listening to these files? See media help.

Binaural found the band dabbling with experimental art rock. The album opens with three up-tempo songs before growing more diverse.[21] Jon Pareles of Rolling Stone said, "Apparently as tired of grunge as everyone except Creed fans, Pearl Jam delve elsewhere: jumpy post-punk and somber meditations, tightly wound folk rock and turbulent, neopsychedelic rockers that sound like they boiled out of jam sessions. The album reflects both Pearl Jam's longstanding curse of self-importance and a renewed willingness to be experimental or just plain odd."[7] Vedder explained, "We'd rather challenge our fans and make them listen to our songs than give them something that's easy to digest. There is a lot of music out there that is very easy to digest but we never wanted to be part of it."[19]

A few songs on the album show classic rock influences. The intro to the opening track "Breakerfall" uses a guitar riff similar to The Who song "I Can See for Miles" (from the 1967 album, The Who Sell Out).[18] The song "Nothing as It Seems" has been compared to the style of Pink Floyd.[11] Additionally, "Soon Forget", which features Vedder playing a ukulele, is heavily influenced by The Who song "Blue, Red and Grey" (from the 1975 album, The Who by Numbers). Vedder thanks Pete Townshend on the lyric sheet.

Bassist Jeff Ament wrote the lyrics for two songs on the album ("Gods' Dice" and "Nothing as It Seems"), and Gossard for three ("Thin Air," "Of the Girl" and "Rival"). The album is lyrically darker than the band's previous album Yield, with Gossard describing the lyrics as "pretty sombre."[22] Vedder addressed the social criticism contained in the album's lyrics by stating, "I think what everyone's looking for, y'know, is freedom...That's part of being comfortable in your own skin. I know I had a problem with being told what to do, and had a problem with being mentally and physically constricted. All of humanity is searching for freedom and I think its important to know when you have it, too."[22] Ament stated that "Gods' Dice" is about "judging anybody who has any sort of belief system whether they believe in God or not."[11] Vedder called "Evacuation" a "song about change."[14] Ament said he wrote "Nothing as It Seems" about his childhood growing up in a rural area of Northern Montana.[23] Vedder stated in an interview that the moral of "Insignificance" is "the ineffectiveness of political struggle."[24] Vedder took inspiration from the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle when writing "Grievance",[24] and said the song is about the dangers of technology.[19] Gossard has said that the song "Rival" is his reflection upon the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.[25] The album was the band's first to not contain any profanities in the lyrics, despite the ferocity of some of the music and subject matter.

Release and reception

Binaural sold 226,000 copies during its first week of release and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 album chart. It was held off the top spot by the Britney Spears album, Oops!... I Did It Again.[26] Binaural became the first Pearl Jam studio album to fail to reach platinum status. Binaural has been certified gold by the RIAA,[27] and, as of December 2002, has sold 718,000 copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.[28]

Binaural received generally favorable reviews from music critics according to Metacritic, where it holds a 69 after 16 reviews.[29] NME gave Binaural a nine out of 10. In the review, Binaural is called "a seething, furious album; a declamatory statement against cynicism and passivity and the simple injustices of everyday life." It’s also said that "even when the band slow the pace, the songs are coloured by a heartfelt intensity."[5] Allmusic staff writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album four out of five stars, saying, "The songs are sharper, the production is layered, and the performances are as compassionate as ever, resulting in their finest album since Vitalogy."[1] Time reviewer Christopher John Farley said that the album is "less impatient and rage filled than much of Pearl Jam's earlier work." Farley added that "Pearl Jam, rather quietly, is building a long-term career to rival the rock legends of the past."[9] Jim Farber of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+. He said, "Weighty subjects...[give] Pearl Jam's introspective lyrics and stone-faced rock a refreshing edge." He added, "If PJ long ago lost the zeitgeist, at least they've kept a hold on their hearts."[3] Critic Robert Christgau described the album as "Rock as inner struggle, eternally externalized."[2]

Spin gave the album seven out of 10 stars. The review said, "Everything you want is still there—goofy experimentalism, guitar frenzy, Eddie's self-abusive wail. It's just more solid, more clear."[8] Q gave the album three out of five stars. The review said, "Grunge may have died, but Pearl Jam it seems will never be slayed."[6] Rolling Stone staff writer Jon Pareles gave the album three out of five stars, saying that the album "comes across as part of an extended conversation among the five band members...and fans loyal enough to check in for Pearl Jam's latest musings on love, death and social responsibility."[7] The Guardian also gave the album three out of five stars. In the review it’s stated that Pearl Jam "are dignified, musicianly, sincere... and a teensy bit dull." The review observed that "Vedder's affecting vocal angst drowns in a sea of pessimistic riffola." The review called Binaural "a warts-and-all album; it has grabbers, songs that sink in slowly and a few absolute duds."[4]

Two singles were released from Binaural. The lead single "Nothing as It Seems" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 49, and reached number three on the Mainstream Rock charts. The album's other commercially released single, "Light Years", did not chart on the Hot 100, but it did place on the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. At the 2001 Grammy Awards, "Grievance" received a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.[30]


The album's cover art is a Hubble Space Telescope photo of the Hourglass Nebula. Hubble Space Telescope photos of the Helix Nebula and Eagle Nebula are also featured in the inside cover and liner notes for this album, respectively. The photos were used with the permission of NASA. Regarding the artwork, Ament said, "The reason that we went with Tchad [Blake] is because he provides an amazing atmosphere to songs....So, I think we wanted the artwork to represent that....One of the themes that we've been just realizing that in the big scheme of things, even the music that we make when we come together, no matter how powerful it is, it's still pretty minuscule. I think for me the whole space theme has a lot to do with scale. You know, you look at some of those pictures, and there are thirteen light years in four inches in that picture."[21]

The album's title is a reference to the binaural recording techniques that were utilized on several tracks. Binaural literally means "having or relating to two ears." Regarding the choice of the title, Gossard said, "When we looked up the word 'binaural,' it meant to listen with both ears. So it seemed like a fitting title for the album."[31]


Pearl Jam in Columbia, Maryland on September 4, 2000.

Pearl Jam promoted the album with tours in Europe and North America.[32] Pearl Jam's 2000 European tour ended in tragedy on June 30, 2000, with an accident at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Nine fans were crushed underfoot and suffocated to death as the crowd rushed to the front.[33] After numerous requests for the crowd to step back, the band stopped playing and tried to calm the crowd when the musicians realized what was happening, but it was already too late. The two remaining dates of the tour were cancelled, and the band seriously considered retiring after this event.[33] Pearl Jam was initially blamed for the accident, but the band was later cleared of responsibility.[34]

A month after the European tour concluded, the band embarked on a two-leg North American tour. The first leg of the tour focused on the East Coast of the United States, and then the band moved to the Midwest and the West Coast for the tour's second leg. On performing after the Roskilde tragedy, Vedder said that "playing, facing crowds, being together—it enabled us to start processing it."[15] On October 22, 2000, the band played the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first live performance as a band. Vedder took the opportunity to thank the many people who had helped the band come together and make it to 10 years. He noted that "I would never do this accepting a Grammy or something."[35] The tour's final night took place on November 6, 2000, in Seattle, Washington at KeyArena where the band performed for more than three hours. The European and North American tours were documented by a long series of official bootlegs, all of which were available in record stores as well as through the band's fan club.[36] The band released 72 live albums in 2000 and 2001, and set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard 200 at the same time.[37] Following the conclusion of the 2000 tour, the band released Touring Band 2000, a DVD which featured select performances from the North American legs of the tour.

Track listing

All lyrics written by Eddie Vedder, except where noted. 

# Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Breakerfall"     Vedder 2:19
2. "Gods' Dice"   Jeff Ament Ament 2:26
3. "Evacuation"     Matt Cameron 2:56
4. "Light Years"     Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Vedder 5:06
5. "Nothing as It Seems[*]"   Ament Ament 5:22
6. "Thin Air"   Gossard Gossard 3:32
7. "Insignificance"     Vedder 4:28
8. "Of the Girl[*]"   Gossard Gossard 5:07
9. "Grievance"     Vedder 3:14
10. "Rival[*]"   Gossard Gossard 3:38
11. "Sleight of Hand[*]"     Ament 4:47
12. "Soon Forget[*]"     Vedder 1:46
13. "Parting Ways[I]"     Vedder 7:17

^  I "Parting Ways" contains the hidden track "Writer's Block" at 6:49.

^ * Asterisk denote the use of binaural recording techniques

Japanese bonus disc

All lyrics written by Vedder. 

# Title Music Length
1. "Footsteps (live)"   Gossard 5:24
2. "Better Man (live)"   Vedder 4:37

Original track listing

When the tracklisting for Binaural was first released in late March 2000, it was quite different from the final version.[38] Some tracks that were originally on the album were dropped and not released until the 2003 rarities compilation, Lost Dogs, and "Gods' Dice" was added to the final version. The original version is as follows:

  1. "Breakherfall"
  2. "Insignificance"
  3. "Evacuation"
  4. "Letter to the Dead"
    • Later renamed to "Sad"
  5. "Rival"
  6. "Grievance"
  7. "Light Years"
  8. "Of the Girl"
  9. "Thin Air"
  10. "Nothing as It Seems"
  11. "Fatal"
  12. "Sleight of Hand"
  13. "Soon Forget"
  14. "In the Moonlight"
  15. "Parting Ways"
  16. "Education"


Three instrumentals featured on the Touring Band 2000 DVD ("Thunderclap", "Foldback", and "Harmony") come from the early Binaural sessions.[39] Several songs were rejected from the album that eventually found their way on to the 2003 Lost Dogs collection of rarities. These include "Sad", "Hitchhiker", "In the Moonlight", "Education", "Fatal", and "Sweet Lew".[40] "Sad", originally called "Letter to the Dead", was called "a great pop song" by Ament, but he said the song didn't fit the album because the band doesn't "really [write] very many pop records."[41] "Sweet Lew", about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,[40] was cut from Binaural because it didn't fit the album according to Ament.[41] "Fatal" was producer Tchad Blake's favorite song to come out of the recording sessions.[40] "Strangest Tribe" and "Drifting" were also recorded around the time of the album's recording sessions,[40] and both songs were released on the band's 1999 fan club Christmas single as well as Lost Dogs.


Pearl Jam
Additional musicians and production

Chart positions


Chart (2000) Position
Australian Albums Chart[42 ] 1
New Zealand Albums Chart[43] 1
US Billboard 200[44] 2
Canadian Albums Chart[45] 2
Italian Albums Chart[46] 2
Norwegian Albums Chart[47] 2
Top Internet Albums[44] 2
German Albums Chart[48] 4
Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[49] 5
Belgian Albums Chart (Wa)[49] 34
Dutch Albums Chart[50] 5
UK Albums Chart[51] 5
Irish Albums Chart[52] 6
Swedish Albums Chart[53] 6
Austrian Albums Chart[54] 8
Swiss Albums Chart[55] 8
Finnish Albums Chart[56] 10
French Albums Chart[57] 12
Hungarian Albums Chart[58] 21


Year Single Peak chart positions
US Main
US Mod
[42 ]
2000 "Nothing as It Seems" 49 3 10 7 98 27 6 33 5 42 40 83 22
"Light Years" 17 26 25 52
"—" denotes singles that did not chart.


  1. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "allmusic ((( Binaural > Review )))". Allmusic. Retrieved March 21, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Pearl Jam". Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Farber, Jim (2000-05-19). "Binaural". Entertainment Weekly.,,20234349,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  4. ^ a b "Other pop releases". The Guardian. May 12, 2000. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Pearl Jam: Binaural". NME. May 11, 2000. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  6. ^ a b (July 2000). "Review: Binaural". Q (p. 121).
  7. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (2000-06-08). "Pearl Jam: Binaural". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-28.  
  8. ^ a b (July 2000). "Review: Binaural". Spin (p. 149).
  9. ^ a b Farley, Christopher John. "Binaural Pearl Jam; Lifehouse: Elements Pete Townshend" (Binaural review). Time. June 12, 2000. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  10. ^ "Pearl Jam: Timeline". Retrieved 2007-06-27.  
  11. ^ a b c d "Jeff Woods with Pearl Jam for Radio Rock Network". Radio Rock Network. May 15, 2000.
  12. ^ Dwyer, Michael. "Steady Eddie". Rolling Stone. August 2000.
  13. ^ a b "Interview with Stone Gossard and Mike McCready". Total Guitar. November 2002.
  14. ^ a b Kaufman, Gil. "Pearl Jam's Anti-Career". Sonicnet. May 15, 2000.
  15. ^ a b c d Weisbard, Eric, et al. "Ten Past Ten". Spin. August 2001.
  16. ^ Calil, Ricardo. "The Shadow and the Darkness". 89 Revista Rock. 2000.
  17. ^ (2000) Album notes for Binaural by Pearl Jam, [CD booklet]. New York: Sony Music.
  18. ^ a b c Aledort, Andy. "Aural Exam". Guitar World. July 2000.
  19. ^ a b c Gabriella. "Interview with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam". August 2000.
  20. ^ Vedder, Eddie. "KROQ Interview with EV 5/12/2000". KROQ-FM. May 12, 2000.
  21. ^ a b Ament, Jeff. "CFOX radio's Jeff O'Neil with Jeff Ament and Mike McCready". CFOX-FM, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. May 11, 2000.
  22. ^ a b Mulvey, John. "Interview with Pearl Jam". NME. May 13, 2000.
  23. ^ Basham, David. "Pearl Jam's Ament Probes Childhood With "Seems"". May 3, 2000.
  24. ^ a b Tannenbaum, Rob. "Rebels Without a Pause". George. July 2000.
  25. ^ Manning, Kara. "Pearl Jam On Columbine-Inspired New Song". April 19, 2000.
  26. ^ Mancini, Robert. "Britney Scores Record Sales Week". May 24, 2000.
  27. ^ "Gold and Platinum Database Search". Retrieved 2007-02-12.  
  28. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2002-12-05). "Riot Act finds Pearl Jam in a quiet place". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  29. ^ Binaural by Pearl Jam.
  30. ^ "43rd Grammy Awards". Rockonthenet. Retrieved 2007-09-05.  
  31. ^ Stout, Gene (2000-05-16). "Pearl Jam's 'Binaural' ear-marked by unusual sound mixing". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-06-28.  
  32. ^ Pearl Jam: Set Lists.
  33. ^ a b Stout, Gene (2000-09-01). "Pearl Jam's darkest hour: Seattle band thought about quitting after concert deaths". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-06-28.  
  34. ^ Pearl Jam Rumor Pit (2000-08-02). "Pearl Jam Releases Full Text of Letter Written By Roskilde Police Department Commissioner Kornerup". Retrieved 2007-06-28.  
  35. ^ "Pearl Jam: 2000 Concert Chronology Part 3"". Retrieved 2007-07-01.  
  36. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2000-08-31). "Pearl Jam's Bootlegs Give Others the Boot". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-06-28.  
  37. ^ Davis, Darren (2001-03-07). "Pearl Jam Breaks Its Own Chart Record". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 2007-06-28.  
  38. ^ "Binaural Tracklisting!". March 29, 2000.
  39. ^ "Pearl Jam: Touring Band 2000".
  40. ^ a b c d (2003) Album notes for Lost Dogs by Pearl Jam, [CD booklet]. New York: Sony Music.
  41. ^ a b Cohen, Jonathan. "Pearl Jam: Spreading The Jam". Billboard. March 30, 2001.
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  51. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2007-02-16.  
  52. ^ "Irish Album/Singles Chart". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
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  55. ^ "Schweizer Hitparade". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  56. ^ "Finnish Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  57. ^ "French Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
  58. ^ Pearl Jam in Hungarian Charts. Hungarian chart Retrieved on June 4, 2008.
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  61. ^ "The Irish Charts — All there is to know". Retrieved 2007-04-29.  
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  63. ^ "Norwegian Single/Album Chart / Pearl Jam / Longplay". Retrieved 2008-02-19.  
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  66. ^ "Chart Log: 1994-2006". Retrieved 2007-06-11.  

External links

Preceded by
Bardot by Bardot
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
May 22–28, 2000
Succeeded by
Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty
Preceded by
Bardot by Bardot
RIANZ number-one album
May 28 – June 3, 2000
Succeeded by
The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem

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