I’ve wrestled with including these three instrumentals from the Touring Band 2000 film on this blog, mostly out of sheer laziness with not wanting to have to find them in the movie and figure out which was which. But through the wonders of the internet, it is possible to find strictly audio, labelled versions of these pieces, and because of popular demand, I’m giving them some solid listening. That the songs were titled, even though they sound very much like the demoed candidates for Binaural that they were, also makes them indispensible for this blog’s ambitions. Because of films like TB2K and Single Video Theory, plus a wealth of pre-album release interviews, we know that material such as these three instrumentals is constantly brought into sessions. Some of it gets put on hold indefinitely; some turn into fully realized songs on later albums. “Foldback”, “Thunderclap”, and “Harmony” each received the strange fate of ending up as montage music on a DVD. Through some clever triangulation and research between my own crumbling memory, Given To Wail, and an old Rumor Pit, I’m fairly confident in matching titles to the instrumentals.
According to GTW, the longest of the three tunes is “Thunderclap”, a broad and expansive tune that sounds more in keeping with the band’s work on Yield than Binaural (unless you count “Of the Girl”, which was supposed to have been attempted for Yield anyhow). When I first heard My Morning Jacket’s “Gideon”, I immediate thought of “Thunderclap”. Listening to them side by side, the two songs are astonishing in their similarities: a breezy guitar figure backed by tom-heavy drums, eventually underscored by a few well placed strums. “Thunderclap” is accomplished and lovely, and the imagination reels at what it would have sounded like completed, with lyrics. What I believe to be “Harmony” is the heaviest number, a crunching rock song that betrays a possible Matt Cameron writing credit, as the second half sounds remarkably like Soundgarden. It also would have proven a challenge to accompany with words, though its moody atmosphere makes it a worthy backing for imagery. “Foldback” is the slightest of the three and sounds like wistful Vedder tunes like “Wishlist” and “Untitled”. The playing here is relaxed to the point of not being completely in time. What all three prove beyond doubt is that the band has grown in its songwriting abilities enough to create music that is evocative without words. When a band’s relative castaways demonstrate more character than most radio acts’ hits, it just goes to show how much more there is to music than capturing the zeitgeist. These instrumentals were never “finished”, per se, but still found their own avenue to listeners’ imaginations.