Among the recent glut of good-cause charity albums, No Alternative stands out as the best, both for its performances and its cause (proceeds benefit the Red Hot organization in the fight against AIDS). The high points a... more »re Soul Asylum's unlikely cover of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing;" outtakes from recent albums by Chicago's Urge Overkill and Smashing Pumpkins; "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," the major-label debut by Pavement; a surprise hard-rocking Nirvana track, and "Memorial Song," an a capella tribute from punk godmother Patti Smith to the late Robert Mapplethorpe. --Jim DeRogatis« less
Among the recent glut of good-cause charity albums, No Alternative stands out as the best, both for its performances and its cause (proceeds benefit the Red Hot organization in the fight against AIDS). The high points are Soul Asylum's unlikely cover of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing;" outtakes from recent albums by Chicago's Urge Overkill and Smashing Pumpkins; "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," the major-label debut by Pavement; a surprise hard-rocking Nirvana track, and "Memorial Song," an a capella tribute from punk godmother Patti Smith to the late Robert Mapplethorpe. --Jim DeRogatis
Michael K. (destroyalltacos) from MALDEN, MA Reviewed on 4/20/2009...
Not essential, but it's worth picking up if you're a fan of at least a few of the bigger name artists on here. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Matthew Sweet, Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement all contribute solid non-album tracks, and it could also serve as a decent introduction to great but somewhat lesser-known acts like Bob Mould, Barbara Manning, and Buffalo Tom.
Lisa B. (Lisa) from CTR TUFTNBORO, NH Reviewed on 6/28/2006...
This is a great mix from the early 90s - a favorite.
A trip down Gen X memory lane
L. C. Murtaugh | Salt Lake City, UT USA | 05/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just popped this CD in yesterday, for the first time probably since 1996. What a great compilation! Anyone who wants to remember what the Great Rock Realignment was all about needs to pick up this album -- as does any fan of Soundgarden, Pavement, the Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana, all of whom contribute excellent tracks. (The last of which is uncredited.) The Pumpkins track, "Glynis," is especially wonderful, as it harkens back to the era when Billy et al. were still haunting and creepy, rather than just [mad]. It's a bit depressing to think about what was and what might have been, listening to this CD, and then to realize what we have on the radio today, but the album is also a good reference point: whenever you start to think that maybe Incubus or Linkin Park is actually a good band, you can pop this in and remind yourself what good bands really sound like."
Varied Collection, good mix, and a good idea
L. C. Murtaugh | 04/14/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I honestly bought this CD only for the hidden Nirvana track, "Verse Chorus Verse" and for the Smashing Pumpkins song "Glynis". But I found something else...this CD, at points, is extremely good. Aside from some of the trite and very loathsome pieces by an Early Goo Goo Dolls, a badly choosen cover of "Sexual Healing", particually on a CD about AIDS awareness, by Soul Asylum, this CD shines. The best track on here is by far Uncle Tupelo's cover of the CCR song "Effigy", overly beautiful, its loud, abrasive, and even more haunting then when John Fogerty ripped his way thorugh the song. Urge Overkill serves up a great song as well. Soundgarden comes up short, The Beastie Boys deliver, and Nirvana comes across with one of their most powerful songs, and most intricate ever. The guitar solo is worth the cost of this CD.But all in all, No Alternative has its moments of pure glory, and moments of recycled pessismism, and useless trite. It is with 19 tracks, and 78 mins of running time, a good buy, and good addidtion to any collection"
The kind of CD that never leaves you
shaxper | Lakewood, OH | 01/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"No Alternative is one of those CDs that you listen to on your way to work for a month straight, finally tire of, forget for a few years, and then remember all over again, listening to it on your way to work for a month straight. The beauty of compilations and soundtracks is that, when they're done right, they're diverse enough to keep your interest far longer than an album by a single artist ever could.
Yet, what makes No Alternative excel as a compilation is the fact that it does manage to maintain some commonality amongst the diversity; enough to keep things fresh and interesting with each successive track, but all while weaving them together with an emotional thread. Urge Overkill's "Take a Walk" and American Music Club's "All Your Jeans Were Too Tight" sound nothing alike, yet somewhere, in the deep emotional core of these songs, there's some commonality. Virtually every song on this album somehow deals with loss at its center. Some are uplifting, some despairing, some jaded, and some treat it with black humor. No two can be confused for one another; no two feel like they're consciously working for this effect. Yet, on a tribute album for an AIDS foundation, each of these songs seem to have taken the underlying cause to heart in a way that makes song transitions often seamless, even when the tone, beat, and volume change abruptly. The one exception to this is Nirvana's hidden track at the end, which (while worthy of inclusion on a Nirvana's Greatest Hits album) seems to have been contributed arbitrarily.
To provide some background (I guess I should have done this first), No Alternative was compiled in 1993, at the height of the Alternative/Independent movement. As the liner notes explain, the duel purpose of the album was to raise money for AIDS research ("there's no alternative") and to dispel the myth that Alternative could be considered a single style of music with distinguishable characteristics ("there's no such thing as Alternative"). This second notion accurately reflects the variety of talent signed on for this album.
No Alternative incorperates the works of nineteen independent artists, most still on the fringe of public awareness at the time of its release. Perhaps this was a gamble by its producers to inexpensively sign artists that had a chance of making it big right before the album hit stores. However, it's more likely that this was simply an attempt to catch a glimpse at the "true" alternative, occuring right outside the music mainstream, in all its diversity. Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum, and The Breeders were already Alternative brand names by the time of NA's release, Sarah McLachlan and Soundgarden's mainstream breakthroughs were still a few years away, and Urge Overkill and Matthew Sweet continued to remain on the fringe of public awareness, even while attracting large fan bases. Patti Smith and The Beastie Boys aside, I've never heard of the rest of the artists that compile this album, and I don't suspect that I ever will.
There are no bad songs on this album, but the truly best and most memorable songs are the intensely introspective "Take a Walk" (Urge Overkill), the dream-weaving, soul affirming "Glynis" (Smashing Pumpkins), and the desperate lament of "Hold On" (tremendously different alternative version by Sarah McLachlan). Nirvana's hidden "Verse Chorus Verse" is among their best work but, as previously stated, does not match the tone of the album. Fans of Patti Smith will be haunted and touched by how her "Memorial Song" differs from anything they've heard from her previously, but non-fans will be likely to scoff at the song (as I once did).
You don't need to be a fan of Alternative to appreciate No Alternative. After all, there is no Alternative. All you need is an open ear, willing to engage and appreciate various distinctive styles. But even if you approach No Alternative without that open ear, some of these songs will open it for you. There's a passion on this album that simply cannot be missed. You may not immediately hear it in Soul Asylum's cover of "Sexual Healing", but, sooner or later, one of the tracks on this album is going to catch you and, if it treats you the way it treated me, it may never let you go. "
g cooper | New York City | 02/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"this compilation was a great idea. not only are nearly all the songs brilliant, but it features great artists like smashing pumpkins, nirvana, mathew sweet, barbara manning, and urge overkill. i highly reccomend this, because it is one of the best cd purchases i have made in a long time. very worthwhile"
shaxper | 06/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD has been one my favorites for over ten years...so many great songs!The best cuts:
Pavement's "Unseen power of the Picket Fence", a tribute to my favorite band R.E.M.
Two of the best break up songs ever, "All Your Jeans Were Too Tight", and "Can't Fight It" (Bob Mould's best ballad IMHO)
An incredible mix of Sarah McLachlan's "Hold On"
Urge Overkill's "Take a Walk"Lastly, no Nirvana fan should be without this album, because of the amazing "Verse Chorus Verse"."