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).