Headlife jukebox #1

Introducing a new Headlife feature. Post your essential music album of all time, and why we should all listen to it before we die. One rule: it has to be British or American.

Pearl Jam: No Code

It’s hard to believe now, but I was a grungehead in my late teens. This means I shopped for clothes at Oxfam, bought vinyl records, went to gigs, watched MTV’s 120 minutes, and listened every night to Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio 1. I was also a purist: “true” alternative music meant stuff like Mudhoney and Sonic Youth. Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, whilst good, were just too “obvious” (oh the snobbery!) I actually had tickets to see Nirvana, but Kurt Cobain shot himself and grunge was “dead”.

Skip forward to 1997. I returned from serving my Mormon mission having lived two years completely detached from pop culture. My friends were raving about bands I had never heard of, so in my attempt to rediscover music I opted for something familiar: Pearl Jam and their No Code album. So much of music has to do with its setting. This was the first album I had really listened to for two years and it was honey to my virgin ears. I discovered it on holiday in Scotland with my best friend Dan. And, wonderfully, it marked an evolution from the pop sound of Jeremy: Pearl Jam were now kosher-cool. Stuart will remember me saying to him one rainy night in Oxford that the only true Pearl Jam fans are the post No Code crowd. I maintain that.

No Code has, for me, the best opening in music. They start with this weird, quiet little balad called “Sometimes” and then launch immediately into the mosh-brilliance of “Hail, Hail”. The album never recovers and rushes through grunge wash and acoustic melody. “Present Tense” is the perfect Pearl Jam song. So here’s my pitch: if you like guitar music but prefer something a little out of the MTV mainstream, give No Code a try. PJ are still churning out the music–a really class act. For more information, check out these links:

Pearl Jam: official website

Live acoustic set: listen to streaming audio from MSN

Ronan’s review of Pearl Jam’s Cardiff concert

For a limited time I have placed “Hail, Hail” on the Headlife server (here).



  1. Ronan has the eloquence I wish I was born with. I want him back in the UK so he can take up his appointed call as PM! 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fheadlife.blogspot.com%2F2004%2F11%2Fheadlife-jukebox-1.html" TITLE="daniel_kear at hotmail dot com">Daniel Kear<>


  2. He misses you too Dan – his PJ buddie – but he’s taking me to their next concert!! Ronan introduced to to post ‘Ten’ PJ, and Hail Hail is probably my favourite PJ song. 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fheadlife.blogspot.com%2Fbeckynews" TITLE="">Rebecca<>


  3. This might surprise you all but rather than being a teenage grungehead like Ronan, I was a teenage skateboarder (punk rock not rap). Thus, Ronan, I am sorry to tell you that all of the music you mentioned was simply sell-out music to me and my friends (although I admit now that it is good stuff). Back then we referred to your ilk as “Pearl-Jam Punks,” which was <>not<> a compliment.

    I never have gotten Allison into my bands from back then, such as Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Operation Ivy, Rancid, Voodoo Glowskulls, Tilt, NOFX, Fugazi, Youth of Today, Exploited, etc. I have gotten her interested in a few tracks by New Model Army, so that’s a start.

    But in truth, since returning from my mission in 1997, I have rarely pulled out any of that old music except for New Model Army and Bad Religion. I even went to a BR show in 1999, but Allison stayed home and I just went with an old skateboarder buddy.

    Bad Religion has some really great tunes that are a must. As a high-school kid it impressed me that BR’s lead singer, Gred Graffin, had a PhD and the lyrics were issue-focused, both politically and intellectually. (Very few, if any, love songs in the repertoire.) Bear in mind that post-mission this type of punk-rock intellectualism merits eye-rolling (especially for a snobby Oxford man like myself), but the tunes are still catchy, the harmonies tremendous, and the lyrics thought-provoking, in an eye-rolling kind of way. Even as a liberal arts undergrad I considered writing a new historicist review of Greg Graffin’s < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.badreligion.com%2Fnews%2Fessays.php%3Fid%3D5">Punk Manifesto<>, but opted instead to analyze an eighteenth-century counter-culture comic strip created by an otherwise classical German writer. (Disclaimer: I am not really familiar with anything of Bad Religion’s after the album <>Stranger than Fiction<> (circa 1995), since <>The Grey Race<> came out while I was on my mission and I haven’t been too into checking out their new stuff since returning in 1997, but they do have multiple albums out post <>Stranger than Fiction<>.) Their newest album is cleverly titled <>The Empire Strikes First<>, but I haven’t heard anything from it yet. Two compilation albums that I can really recommend for the newcomer are (1) <>80-85<>, which collects songs from that time period, and (2) <>All Ages<>, which collects songs from the very beginning of the band circa 1979-1980 to circa 1995. Some of BR’s best tracks come from <>Against the Grain<> (1990) and <>Recipe for Hate<> (1993):

    – Modern Man
    – Entropy
    – Against the Grain
    – Walk Away
    – Recipe for Hate
    – Portrait of Authority
    – All Good Soldiers
    – Watch it Die

    And many from <>80-85<> are a definite must, such as:

    – We’re Only Gonna Die
    – Part III
    – In the Night
    – Drastic Actions
    – World War III
    – Yesterday
    – Frogger

    You can hear some of these songs and others from the other albums at the < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.badreligion.com%2Fmedia%2F">official BR website<>.


    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fheadlife.blogspot.com%2F2004%2F11%2Fheadlife-jukebox-1.html" TITLE="john dot fowles at gmx dot net">john fowles<>


  4. JF, what’s the BR song of songs? 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?headlife.blogspot.com" TITLE="ronan at jhu dot edu">Ronan<>


  5. When I was in high school, I must have seemed pretty much a wuss (which, I am sure has changed). I remember when my punkier friends played songs from PJ’s “Ten” around me and were surprised that I actually liked the music. Must be that aura of whitebread that I strove to develop back in the day…

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blogger.com%2Fprofile%2F5058781">John C.<>


  6. Really, John? I did think PJ was sorta on the edge (my Oklahoma roots musta played a part in that…), but I really loved Ten. Vedder in the Jeremy video was spooky, but also damed cool! 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>Lance


  7. I think my friends thought I would call them out for listening to the Devil’s music or something. These were head-to-toe black proto Goths, so they thought all the music they listened to would be too out there for little ol’ me. 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blogger.com%2Fprofile%2F5058781">John C.<>


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