Review Summary: Control Myself, CHAPTER 6: “Standing on the Outside Hating Everyone Here…”
As Mike McCready reasons in PJ20
came out at a time when people were saying, ‘well, maybe we’re over (sic)these guys now’”. As candid as any artist can be about their most awkward piece, McCready was right. Long since gone was the grunge movement that birthed them and brought them to prominence and gone too was Kurt Cobain, as of 1994 the martyr of the Seattle Scene. The preferred genre of the day was now nu-metal, and it was artists such as Limp Bizkit and KoRn that were garnering the most attention in the rock world. Pearl Jam at this point were now considered ‘old’- while they were soon to be classified as Rock & Roll Icons, they had to move through a difficult transitional period to get there- essentially the purpose and endgame of Binaural
As much as the record is about proving unassailably that Pearl Jam were beyond the need to be classified by relevancy, it at times seems a band uncomfortable with their now uncertain career trajectory. The heavier moments get heavier and the ballads get more experimental and atmospheric, with the former relying on the albums uncontrollable trash presence on “Breakerfall” and “God’s Dice”, which utilize new drummer Matt Cameron (Soundgarden alum) to brilliant effect. Album closer “Parting Ways” too accentuates the latter, by providing a cold and atmospheric end to an album embittered by the 21st century.
However not all moments bear such brilliant hallmarks as the tracks that bookend the record. Brilliant though “Nothing As It Seems” and “Thin Air” are, they remain hampered by compositional and length issues that hold them back from confronting the listener as much as they should. A particularly poor vocal performance on “Evacuation” both scars and induces cringing with a muddy mix not assisting either in its development. Overall the tracks sound more like teething problems that should’ve happened earlier, now sounding like what the band were- uncomfortable with themselves and becoming laboured in the process.
would mark a period for Pearl Jam that no other band from the grunge movement could claim- a peak. While it left many albums from the likes of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden to age markedly better, by staying around so long Pearl Jam had guaranteed themselves a career far outliving that of any other band from the ‘grunge’ movement. A necessary failure by some extents of the word, Binaural
provides the occasional heavy hitter tucked between fluff that hasn’t aged remarkably well. However, as ‘02s Riot Act
would confirm, Pearl Jam were coming back confidently with a take no prisoner mentality that would soon wash away any lingering taste of the discomfort permeating this release.
NEXT: “A Texas Leaguer…”