The buoyancy in Vedder’s vocals and a nice use of vocal overdubs on the chorus serve as sonic sweetener. The song is much less obvious (and better) without the overwrought sense of drama. Pearl Jam has taken a “Sad” song and made it better.
The blistering guitars of “Alone” atone for the bland “Hitchhiker” and the silly “Don’t Gimme No Lip.” Pearl Jam has never been known as a particularly rhythmic band, but “In the Moonlight” opens with a tight groove. The groove is accented by hints of keyboard and then gives way to an understated chorus.
The inclusion of “Yellow Ledbetter” will be the highlight of the first disc for many fans. “Yellow Ledbetter” has for years enjoyed a mythical status akin to Radiohead’s “True Love Waits.” It is one of those songs that got away, but has been a fan favorite in concert. The riff is a cousin to Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing." (On the band’s Seattle #72 bootleg from their Binaural world tour, McCready weaves Hendrix’s masterpiece into their performance of “Yellow Ledbetter.”) and the lyrics are an indecipherable stream of consciousness by Eddie Vedder. A B-side that got considerable airplay on alternative radio stations in the early and mid 90’s, “Yellow Ledbetter” might be the most significant justification for releasing the package.
Perhaps the best segment of the collection comes on the second disc. “Fatal,” “Other Side,” “Footsteps,” “Wash,” and “Dead Man” are some of the finest songs Pearl Jam have wrought. Their exclusion from previous Pearl Jam releases until now is inexplicable. “Fatal,” “Other Side” and “Footsteps” are astonishing, acoustic-based songs. There is a warmth and wistfulness in Vedder’s voice as he opens “Other Side” with the refrain “It’s not the same without you.” Pearl Jam has learned to affect without bombast.
Imagine how songs on “‘Lost Dogs’” would have impacted the albums for which they were originally recorded. “Sad,” “In the Moonlight,” and “Fatal” were recorded during the Binaural sessions. Binaural could easily have been one of the best releases of 2000 if these songs replaced three others from that album. Even "Education" would have been an improvement over some of the more forgettable moments on Binaural. Riot Act was a very good album and would have been even better if “Down” and “Other Side” had made the cut. (These oversights can now be corrected, thanks to the advent of the iPod.)
“4/20/02,” a bonus track, will be an important song to any fan of the early 90s alternative scene. April 20, 2002 is the day Alice in Chains’ front man Layne Staley was found dead in his Seattle-area apartment. Staley died of a drug overdose. His body lay undiscovered for approximately two weeks according to a coroner’s report. His death may have come eight years to the date of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. For this one, Vedder has not gone through the trouble of writing opaque lyrics that hide his feelings in riddles. Unfiltered emotion flows through the words with only electric guitar accompanying his vocals.