This Day in Music History: Pearl Jam’s ‘Binaural’ Released (Video)
Pearl Jam’s sixth studio album, Binaural was released on May 16th, 2000. In many ways, the album serves as an interesting time in the band’s career. It was the first time a Pearl Jam album didn’t reach platinum status in the United States. After three straight #1 albums, it was kept out of the top spot on the Billboard charts by the Britney Spears album, Oops!... I Did It Again. That’s a disturbing fact, but it gives you an idea of what the musical landscape was at the time. 15 years and 4 studio albums later, one can now look back with better perspective. The album is a unique and important piece of the Pearl Jam catalogue.
Binaural wasn’t their first foray into the unexpected. 1996’s No Code was a curveball at a time when Pearl Jam was arguably the biggest rock band in the world. Even before that, 1994’s blockbuster Vitalogy contained 4 completely experimental, oddball tracks. But Binaural was altogether different. After having a run of 3 successful albums in a row produced by Brendan O’Brien, they changed things up and went with Tchad Blake, known for binaural recording (hence, the album’s name). This style of recording provided newfound atmospherics to several tracks on the album, and was especially effective on the mellow tracks “Of the Girl” and “Sleight of Hand”, and also on the brooding “Nothing As It Seems”. The artwork for the album, which features NASA photography, is an attempt to represent the spaciousness and atmosphere of the music.
During recording, frontman Eddie Vedder suffered from writer’s block and guitarist Mike McCready battled prescription drug addiction. You can hear the struggle. The lyrical themes of the album are darker, somewhat somber. Song titles like “Insignificance”, “Grievance” and “Evacuation” are obvious in their themes of struggle, whether it be political, societal or technological. It’s not an easy album, and serves as a severe change from its slick and polished predecessor, 1998’s Yield.
Nothing As it Seems
Of The Girl
Sleight Of Hand
Remarkable performance of "Nothing As It Seems"... McCready wails!