NO ALTERNATIVE Sunday 03 June, 2012

Charity records are usually to be given a wide berth. This one, however, is so stellar that it has a gravitational field which will suck you into a warm and grunge-tinged embrace.

It’s 1993. I’m fifteen years old. I’ve grown my hair so that it now rests halfway down my back (and unlike now it wasn’t actually just back hair!). After years of only listening to hip hop and electronic based music I’ve learned to love guitar music. This broadening of the musical horizon, initially, had little to do with music and more to do with girls. I quickly realised that the girls still didn’t like me but that I very much liked this other music.

Imagine the delight then when the Red, Hot & Blue AIDS awareness charity embarked on a series of musical projects to raise funds for their work. One such project was NO ALTERNATIVE. With a charity record by various artists you usually only get a few artists that are enticing and a load of chaff. Not here. With a charity record by various artists you usually only get a few songs that are enticing and a load of chaff. Not here.

This album is stunningly brilliant. You might never had heard, or even heard of, it. How can I interest you in it? Let’s start by listing the artists involved. Contributing original or cover versions to this album are: Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins, The Breeders, Patti Smith, Goo Goo Dolls, Sarah McLachlan, Uncle Tupelo, The Beastie Boys, Soundgarden, Urge Overkill, Buffalo Tom and Bob Mould. Pretty impressive, right? Yes. It is.

There are some cracking songs on this album. Soul Asylum’s cover of ‘Sexual Healing’ is a treat. Urge Overkill’s ‘Take A Walk’ is a stirring delight. Bob Mould’s ‘Can’t Fight It’ is a melancholy tinged hymn to the process of breaking up.Uncle Tupelo do a super job of covering Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Effigy’.

Not only are all the songs on this album great but it also works quite well as an album in its own right. No mean feat when each consecutive song is performed by a different artist.

So far, so brilliant but wait there’s one more thing to come. The icing on this grunge cake is that track nineteen (on my copy of the album) isn’t listed or mentioned anywhere on the cover artwork or sleevenotes. I remember putting the CD on for the first time and just thinking it must have been one of those stupid blank two second tracks somewhere on the album. It wasn’t and it isn’t. The uncredited track nineteen is by…Nirvana! As a fifteen year old that totally blew my mind. The biggest band in my universe at that time were so cool that they didn’t even list their track on the album. Almost as if they didn’t want the credit for helping. What was even more amazing was that ‘Verse Chorus Verse’ is one of Nirvana’s best songs.

I realise, in retrospect, that the album may have shifted many many more copies had they listed Nirvana as having contributed to the album but for me it was like the best secret gift I had ever had on an album.

Like an awesome mixtape made by a friend who really knows what you like NO ALTERNATIVE is sure to thrill the fifteen year old grunger that lurks within us all.

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  • Justine says:

    A fantastic CD to educate and delight those not lucky enough to already know these bands!!

  • Leena says:

    I remember you playing this to me for the first time! Great album! When can I borrow it again? I haven’t heard it in ages. :o)

  • Nook Harper says:

    I loved and still love this album. I even had the VHS video. Amazing

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