February 9, 2009 by MK
With the news that Pearl Jam is once again hitting the studio to produce original material, we become the adjective “eager.” So, in which direction do they head on this, their 9th studio album? Well, from the Defective vantage point, the hope has been [and will be] for a decidedly experimental direction. Which brings us to Pearl Jam’s great missed opportunity.
2000’s Binaural was the unconventional album that never quite was. The whole idea was to record with a new producer [Tchad Blake] who employed a different method of production. “Binaural recording” approximates the ears of a listener in the room with the band. An audiophile’s dream, it was to be the headphone record par excellence. While some tracks committed to this idea, the band seemed to get cold feet as the release date grew nearer, eventually bringing in stalwart Brendan O’Brien to remix tracks and make them sound more Pearl Jam-y.
The result was something of a mixed bag. If you look at the tracks that stayed dedicated to the binaural style, they’re the most intriguing songs on the album: Nothing As It Seems, Rival, Sleight of Hand, Of The Girl.
Some other great songs were left off the album entirely, later to surface on the B-sides collection Lost Dogs [Education, Sad, Fatal]. Looking back, it was their aborted chance to be Pearl Floyd. They followed Binaural with the downtrodden Riot Act and the solid-if-unspectacular Pearl Jam — two more detours on the route to truly different.
In sum, it’s always best to follow the immortal advice of the great Joe Cabot via Reservoir Dogs: “Shit your pants and dive in and swim.” Or in the less vulgar words of the Tom Petty album cover, “Damn the Torpedoes.”
Pants should be shat. Water should be swam in. If you fail, fail big. Art rock big.
There’s the gauntlet. More to come.
P.S. In case you forgot why Eddie Vedder is the Everyman’s Frontman, head here.