CD Reviews of Binaural by Pearl Jam

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starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Sony
Released: 2000
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For those of you who abandoned Pearl Jam in the mid-1990s, you're missing out on some great music. While it's true that Eddie Vedder and his gang have moved away from the sound that first propelled them into stardom with 1991's Ten, the music Pearl Jam is producing these days is more refined, more mature and more polished than their earlier work. With Binaural, the guys who helped popularize grunge a decade ago once again deliver an album crammed with fantastic writing, exceptional guitar-playing and potent vocals.

Binaural jumps off into an immediate jam session with a trio of rockers -- "Breakerfall," "Gods' Dice" and "Evacuation" -- that will perk any retro-Pearl Jam fan's ears. In particular, "Gods' Dice," the finest of the three, echoes the grunge sound from Ten and 1993's Vs. But from there, Binaural adopts a much more mellow tone, beginning with perhaps the album's finest achievement, "Light Years," an addictive song about the loss of a loved one that rivals any past PJ ballad thanks to Mike McCready's slick guitar and Vedder's delicate lyrics: "I've used hammers made out of wood / I have played games with pieces and rules / I've deciphered tricks at the bar / But now you're gone…I haven't figured why." In much the same mold, the toned-down "Thin Air" immediately impresses while "Nothing as it Seems," the gloomy single written by bassist Jeff Ament, is highlighted by rolling guitars that would make Neil Young proud. The tempo picks up again with songs like "Insignificance" and "Rival" before wrapping up with a few more subtle tunes, including "Soon Forget," a song that features Vedder's subdued voice accompanied only by a mellow ukulele.

With a collection of songs that jumps from one end of the rock spectrum to the other, there's plenty to love on this disc. Unfortunately, the guitar work of McCready and Stone Gossard isn't as prevalent on Binaural as it's been on past releases, but former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron's presence is electrifying in his first Pearl Jam studio release, making for perhaps the band's most diverse album to date. You may not find anything as forceful as "Alive" or "Even Flow" here, but give it a chance and Binaural will soon be one of your favorites./p>

~Jamey Codding