Sleight of Hand
Whatever gripes some fans might have with Binaural, it’s hard to argue with the beauty of the artwork, the hourglass nebula, the eagle nebula with its nascent stars, the sheer magnitude of the shapes and structures is overwhelming and powerful. No song quite captures the spectral nature of the photography like “Sleight of Hand”, which were it not for its earth-bound lyric, would make great background music at a planetarium. The glassy-textured guitars swirl through the mix, over Cameron’s odd-metered drum pattern, while Vedder spins his tale about a different kind of drifting.
It might be interesting to take a poll of folks who are persuaded by Ament’s other offerings if they feel the same way about “Sleight of Hand”, with its twinkling ambiance balanced by grinding choruses. My guess is that the song is a special sort of fan favorite, a dark horse. As for me, I’m not particularly moved by the lyric, although that could change come mid-life crisis, but I find it’s always worth it to sink into the celestial arrangement of another late-period Pearl Jam anti-anthem. The choruses feel heroic in the same way as earlier material, but the rest of the song shrugs it off, much more concerned with texture, color, and unique sounds. As a fairly rare live occurrence, I was grateful to hear it in person back in ’06.