This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 23 covers from 24-28 August.
Monday 24 August – Alice in Chains
New working week which is devoted to Seattle and the grunge revolution. August 21 past was the 30th anniversary of Alice in Chains debut album Facelift (1990) and what better way to start the week. If truth be told, I wouldn’t get into the band until the release of their second album Dirt (1992). The lead track from the album, Would? featured on the Singles movie soundtrack which was a great album that didn’t have any Nirvana on it. Nirvana opened the floodgates for me in discovering all these new American bands.
Between 1992 and 1994 they released two EPS – Sap and Jar of Flies which explored a more acoustic side of the band instead of turning the volume up to 11. Both EPs are brilliant and songs from these records also feature on the MTV Unplugged album from 1996 which featured a new song Killer is Me.
The MTV Unplugged was Alice in Chains’ first concert in two and a half years, and contains live, acoustic versions of the band’s biggest hits and lesser-known songs. This album is one of my favourites of the MTV Unplugged series a close second to Nirvana’s set with Pearl Jam in third place. I literally get goosebumps listening to this.
The last studio album by the band with Layne Staley was their self-titled third album (1996) which featured a very sad looking three-legged dog on the cover. Sometimes referred to as the Dog Album or Tripod. The album was not as successful as Dirt but contained some great songs like Grind, Heaven Beside You and Again.
Sadly Layne passed away on 5 April 2002, exactly 8 years since Kurt Cobain died.
The retrospective album Nothing Safe (1999) is a best of/greatest hits album which would be a sampler for the Music Bank boxset. Nothing Safe contains songs from previous albums Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies, Alice in Chains and Unplugged, as well as the previously unreleased track Get Born Again, recorded between September and October 1998. It is a great collection and good introduction to the band.
Tuesday 25 August – Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam have been no strangers to the lockdown tunes and I have really enjoyed revisiting their albums over the last couple of months. Rather than a repeat listening I have opted for some personal favourite from the band in the form of the official bootlegs that the band release.
Two bootlegs featured here are from my first two Pearl Jam concerts. It took me so long to actually get to see these guys. August 18 2009 I managed to get tickets from their fan club for a show in London where they played at the O2 Arena. Normally I am sceptical of big arenas but this show was amazing. It felt so intimate even if people were situated in the higher up seats were standing up. A great show and really worth the wait to finally see them.
With the release of Backspacer (2009), a European tour took place in June and July 2010, where the band performed in Northern Ireland for the first time at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Previous Irish visits over the years were at Dublin and Cork but it was impossible to get tickets back then. I may be biased to say that this is my favourite Pearl Jam gig. I have seen them loads of times since including some Eddie Vedder solo shows but playing in my home city kind of ticks all the boxes. So good was this show that a wedding party had come along to the gig and Eddie called them out and played Among the Waves for them as their first dance – class!
Lost Dogs (2003) is a compilation of a difference as it mainly features b-side material along with previous and unreleased material. One of the songs on the album includes the hidden track 4/20/02 at the end of disc two, a tribute to Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley. Eddie had wrote that song whilst the band were recording Riot Act.
Pearl Jam Twenty (also known as PJ20) was a documentary directed by Cameron Crowe about the band. Crowe completed filming in April 2011, after using 12,000 hours of footage of the band for the documentary. A really great documentary on 20 years of Pearl Jam. I got to see the film at QFT in Belfast. The documentary charts the history of the band, from the demise of Mother Love Bone, their battle against Ticketmaster and the tragedy of the Roskilde Festival in 2000. You can feel the sadness there after Andy Wood dies and also how the band were feeling after the tragedy at Roskilde.
The soundtrack is a companion piece to the film with select live tracks over the years with demos and home recordings. A nice celebration of the band who are still going strong to this day.
Wednesday 26 August – Soundgarden
Like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden have featured quite a lot during lockdown as well a Chris Cornell’s solo stuff. Again instead of revisiting albums previously listened to here, I went for a live album and two best of albums.
The first best of Telephantasm (2010) followed with the band’s reunion earlier that year. The career-spanning retrospective album includes an unreleased track, Black Rain, taken from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions. The album includes select cuts from their albums including Birth Ritual from the Singles soundtrack. This album is a good introduction to the band.
If you want to take it further, Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path is a 3-CD compilation album from 2014. The album is a collection of rarities, live tracks, and unreleased material spanning the group’s history. It includes previously released songs, such as Live to Rise, Black Rain, and others, as well as a newly recorded rendition of a song from the band’s pre-Matt Cameron 1985 demo, The Storm, now simply titled Storm. The 3- CD set is split as originals, covers and oddities and is a nice collection.
Live From the Artists Den was recorded at the final show of the King Animal tour in 2013 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. A posthumous release since lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Cornell’s tragic and untimely passing in 2017. I got to see the band when they came to Dublin for this tour and it will be a record I will definitely keep returning to as it was a brilliant live album.
Thursday 27 August – Mudhoney
The original’s from the Seattle scene. Again it was thanks to the Singles soundtrack that was my introduction to them with the track Overblown. I picked out their early works here and hope to have a listen to their most recent output later.
Mudhoney (1989) was their first LP after several singles and an EP Superfuzz Bigmuff. I was listening to the 2008 deluxe edition which expands on the original. Piece of Cake (1992), My Brother The Cow (1995) and Tomorrow Hit Today (1998) were their all released when the band were on a major label.
Mudhoney’s sound is pure grunge which kind of sets them apart from their peers. They are overlooked by many who would probably know Nirvana more than Mudhoney but the band are a major influence on the early Seattle scene.
Here Comes Sickness (2000) is a collection of recordings that the band have done for BBC including session tracks recorded for John Peel (1989), the Evening Session (1995) and the rest of the album was recorded live for the John Peel show from the 1995 Reading festival. Also quite fitting to listen to this today on what would have been the Reading Festival weekend which I expand more about on the next day featuring Nirvana. I got to see Mudhoney earlier that year supporting Soundgarden in Dublin.
Friday 28 August – Nirvana
Closing the week of all things Seattle with Nirvana, the band who started it all for me. This was a gamechanger and was really just a case of right album at the right time. I look back fondly of that era and feel lucky enough to have seen them live.
Nirvana have been here before on lockdown tunes so without repeating myself again I went for the last two collections of the band – With the Lights Out (2004) contains three CDs and one DVD of previously rare or unreleased material, including B-sides, demos, and rehearsal and live recordings.
This collection was due to have been released in 2001 to mark the band’s 10th anniversary but it never happed due to the legal battle between Cobain’s widow Courtney Love and Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic. But it finally seen light of day three years later.
It included a 60-page booklet which contains liner notes by Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth and journalist Neil Strauss, as well as photographs and a chronological catalogue of the band’s recording history, including studio sessions, television and radio appearances, live performances and home demo recordings sessions.
A very nice collection and definitely one for completists. If you want the shorter version then you go for the 2002’s best of album Nirvana which included the previously unreleased You Know Your Right. The demo of the song was included in the boxset.
Quite fitting that I picked Nirvana to end the week on the Reading Festival weekend which of course was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Nirvana played here first in 1991 when they were lower down the bill headlined by Iggy Pop. A year later, the success of Nevermind brings the band to a headline slot.
Live at Reading (2009) features the band’s headlining performance at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992. It had been bootlegged for years and I have a copy of the performance that I taped off the radio. A 25 song strong set just sounds brilliant and you wish you had been over there for that. Thankfully I got to see them in Belfast a few months beforehand.