Binaural is an unappealing record; the cover is dark, while the opening trifecta of harsh rockers don’t give an accurate perception of the entire album. Coming after the prettiness of Yield, the harshness and claustrophobia found on much of Binaural is jarring.
But digging deeper into Binaural, there are plenty of examples of Pearl Jam’s now honed songcraft. ‘Sleight Of Hand’ is my favourite song of the album, with an atmospheric verse and a crashing chorus, while ‘Insignificance’ uses similar textures with a more jaded mood; both songs benefit from the claustrophobic mood of Binaural. There is very little uplifting material on Binaural; Vedder was going through a divorce, so it’s up to Ament (‘Nothing As It Seems’) and Gossard (“Thin Air’) to provide rare moments of optimism.
Binaural is one of my less favoured Pearl Jam albums, even if it’s hardly an outright failure; it’s bleak and can be a tough listen.