Tag Archives: 90’s

120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ’emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Braid – No Coast

Band – Braid

Album – No Coast

Label – Topshelf Records

Last year on my birthday I got to see Braid play live for the first time ever. Today I wore the Braid t-shirt I bought at that show but had no idea that when I had randomly got it out of the drawer to wear for the day that this would be the day I would get to hear Braid’s brand new album, their first studio album in 16 years. It’s weird, a lot of bands have reformed in the last few years, some of which you are willing them to make new music and some you just wish they’d stick to playing the old stuff. Braid broke up at the peak of their career, they had just released the classic, genre defining album ‘Frame & Canvas’ and had barely had chance to bask in the adulation that creating such a masterpiece would reward them with before they went their separate ways. ‘Frame and canvas’ deserved a follow-up record and not just compilation albums, Hey Mercedes certainly did well to fill the void that Braid left but it was never quite the same so thank goodness Braid decided to give it another go and let us be even more thankful that the new album is really, really good.

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If you’ve ever wanted Braid to make a new album then ‘No Coast’ is definitely the album you were looking for, it’s Braid all over. It ticks all the boxes that you had in your head when you were thinking what a new Braid album should be like. Big riffs, check. Brilliant duel vocals, check. Huge sound, check. And plenty more besides. The only real surprise with this record is how fresh it sounds. 90s emo bands have been referenced to death over the last few years, so much so that if you see a new band listing American Football as their main influence it starts to put you off. But no one has come close to emulating Braid meaning that the trademark big emo sound that Braid have made their own remains as exciting and interesting as it did at the end of the last century.

‘No Coast’ eases you in gently with the slow burner ‘Bang’ but really takes off with the catchy-as-hell second track ‘East end hollows’. My ears really pricked up as soon as this song started, I really didn’t know what to expect with this record as I’ve learned from past experience not to build my hopes up too high with comeback records but ‘East end hollows’ really put me at ease. And from here on in you find that Braid have made a really brilliant record that can stand proudly next to its predecessor. The 3rd song and title track ‘No Coast’ is classic Braid, the vocals intertwine as the song strays between a staccato verse to a more upbeat chorus and then with what comes next, ‘Damages’, you not only have a song you’ll wanna hear again and again but you’re also now desperate for them to come back on tour so you can see them play these songs live at full volume. When Chris Broach screams ‘It’s a call to arms’ I want to be flailing my arms crazily around screaming the lyrics back at him from the pit below.

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‘No Coast’ is an album of real quality right to the very end, the songs released earlier from the split with Balance and Composure sit perfectly amongst some really enjoyable new songs. Although this is instantly recognisable as a Braid record, there are some differences I’ve noticed on the several listens I’ve already had. The biggest being that the lead vocal duties seem to be more equally split between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach, I think this works really nicely, they both sound great separately and even better when they sing together. Other things you hear on this record that you may not have seen on previous efforts include the sublimely grunge ending to ‘Climber new entry’ and the Jimmy Eat World-esque ‘Pre evergreen’

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The album closes in an epic rock fashion, with a mid tempo head nodder and the kind of song you’d expect Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters to end a record with when they were in their heyday. The record drifts off with the refrain ‘This is not a revolution’ and while the same can be said with this record we weren’t looking for Braid to reinvent the wheel. We wanted a classic Braid record that we could fall in love with and that’s exactly what they have delivered. I am blown away with how much I like this record, I hope you will be too.

You can stream/download/buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, as always get in touch here. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter and ittoblog@gmail.com

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Interview: Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

If you hadn’t heard of Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) a few weeks ago, and if you like the type of music I write about then how couldn’t you have?, then chances are you have now. The competition they ran online recently which resulted in them digitally giving away their entire discography was a roaring success spreading their good name far and wide and it’s no more than they deserve. Having been consistently releasing beautifully amazing music since 2006 Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have become one of the most respected and revered bands of the current wave of emo. In just a few days they will be hitting the UK for an extensive tour with The Reptilian (dates are below) so I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up with the band, sling some questions their way and publish their responses. Here’s the results:

Is this thing on? – Congratulations on the success of your recent competition on Facebook/twitter/tumblr, are you surprised by the response you received?

Keith from Empire! Empire! – Very surprised!  I know this might sound disingenuous, but we are still very humbled and wowed by the fact that anybody at all listens to us.  We bought like 6,000 download credits thinking we would be more than fine, but very quickly realized that that wasn’t enough.  You could literally sit at your computer and hit refresh and watch the number drop every time.

ITTO? – Giving away your entire discography made it feel like everyone’s a winner, has it given you an opportunity to reflect on the history of the band? Anything you would’ve done differently?

Keith – We feel like we got a pretty big takeaway with the support everyone gave us, so I think we feel that way too.  As for reflection- it has, and there are certainly things I would have done differently.  The main thing would be not focusing so much on doing splits, and instead getting a new full length (or two!) out.  We never intended on that happening, it just sort of did.  But every release is important to me, and I am proud to say we never gave something less than 100%.  I don’t feel like there are any throwaway songs.

ITTO? – Is Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) still very much a band consisting of the 2 of you, Keith and Cathy, or do you now have a permanent full band line up?

Keith – It’s just me and Cathy, and I very much doubt it will ever be anything more than that again.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love a permanent line up, but it just wasn’t ever in the cards.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but we have always soldiered on and been able to keep going.   I think I was maybe a little too ideal in the few years in thinking that everyone else was going to give up everything just to have a shot at making this work, and after seeing a few members come and go, I sort of lost that ideal.  It’s a lot of pressure on you if someone is asking or expecting that and you don’t feel the same way.  Another problem we ran into was because this started out as a solo project, right off the bat the other members were playing songs they didn’t write.  For some reason, it seemed like we would lose members right before we would record something and I would end up having to do a majority of the instruments on the recording.  Which has advantages and disadvantages, but ends up being a lot more work on my part.  The more releases we put out, the more songs that other members didn’t write and feel that connection to, so as we went on it seemed less likely to find someone to stick. Once Jon left, we just decided to stop looking and operate the way we had already been doing for years.  It was far less stressful and we are just as productive, if not more.

ITTO? – What is the song writing process of the band?

Keith – It’s pretty strange, but mostly I can attribute that to the band only having two members, and one of them playing most of the instruments.  Usually I will write my guitar part and recorded it on my computer, and then Cathy will write hers over mine.  Sometimes we do it together before it gets to the computer.  Then I write and record a bass part, and then drums.  These are all to a metronome, but direct in and something that would never be worth showing anybody, haha.  Then we go into the studio and record all the music.  Once I have the rough tracks, then I sit down and write the lyrics.  I never do it beforehand or as we go, I have to do it after.  I like doing that for several reasons, but the biggest one is I like to know exactly how much space I have and how the vocals will fit over everything and not just my guitar part. I need a Point A to Point B to know when to wrap up the lyrics and effectively convey whatever story or theme it is I’m getting at.  This is always the longest and most gruelling part of the process, and I admit to agonizing over it more than anything else.

ITTO? – You’re coming to the UK in November, is this the band’s first time?

Yes and no.  We did a European tour in 2010 which covered mostly the mainland since we toured with a band from Hungary called marionette ID (shout out to my boys!).  We really wanted to get a UK show in, so we took an extra flight at the end of our tour with them and played a one-off show in Norwich.  We absolutely loved it; we met Andy from sncl and played with Pennines and What Price Wonderland? packed on to one bill.

ITTO? – Joie de vivre and Football,etc each received somewhat of a heroes’ welcome on their summer tour here in the UK, have they given you any idea of what to expect?

Keith – I really have no idea.  It warms my heart to hear from you and from them that they were so well received, but we certainly aren’t expecting anything of the sort.  I just hope we can meet some cool people and that we get to see a lot of the countries we are playing in.

ITTO? – Empire! Empire! Are considered one of the bands responsible for the current “emo revival”, being a fan of this music since the 90’s did you ever have a clue that there would be this resurgence of the scene and how much of a part of it that you would be?

I don’t think anybody had any idea that something like this would happen.  How could you, really?  But for some reason it did, and I am very proud to be a part of it.  Ever since I really got into music at 14 or so, this was the style of music I loved, and that never changed.  I don’t think I could play another style of music if I tried.  It does make our musical lives considerably easier though, and I am willing to bet a lot of bands would not have been able to carry on as long of careers without it.  Not me though, I’m stubborn as a mule when it comes to playing this style of music, and I would still be churning this crap out even if no one was listening.  You should have seen some of shows when we started- we stuck out like a sore thumb at literally every show, haha.

ITTO? – Is it ok to now be in an emo band and accept that you are an emo band rather than trying to distance yourselves from that label? Or is there still a stigma to it like there used to be?

Keith – When I started listening to this style of music, I think I never saw the stigma attached to the term.  I was the only person in my school who knew who Death Cab for Cutie, Mineral, Jimmy Eat World, Knapsack was, etc. and coming from a small town without the connection of social media/the internet, I don’t think I ever got why bands didn’t like the label until I was older.  Of course, by then bands had shed that moniker like the plague and the media got a hold of the word and bands like My Chemical Romance and Hawthorn Heights became associated with the term.  Goth became emo, and I still don’t fully understand that.

Anyway, to answer your question, I think we are re-appropriating the term, if you will.  The stigma is still there, but we live in such a small world as far as our fans/community/venues we play in that those people get it without having it explained to them.  So it’s ok by me.

ITTO? – Being in an amazing band and running an equally awesome record label (Count your lucky stars records) must take up a lot of time, do you sometimes have to sacrifice one for the sake of the other and if so which one comes first?

Keith – Ah, I don’t know about that, but thank you for the kind words!  Yes, it takes up almost all of my time and they are both big enough to lose time and compete with each other.  9 times out of 10, the label wins because bands and people are relying on me for that.  With Empire!, it’s just me so I can always push that back.  That is part of the reason it has taken us so long to get a second LP done though.

ITTO? – Apart from the upcoming tour, what can we expect next from Empire! Empire!? Another full length?

Keith – Yes!  We have two songs done, but the writing process (or rather finding time to write) has been slow-going at best.  But it will get done, we are not planning on scheduling any tours or anything major until it’s done.  There are also a few splits/comps we finished a while back that will find their way out sooner or later, so that should tide people over until then.

ITTO? – And finally, If CYLS records had been a label in the good old 90’s which record from that time would you most love to have put out? And why?

Keith – This is the best interview question I have ever had!  It’s a tough question, and I want to cheat and say like 10 records.   I’m going to cheat just a little and choose Death Cab’s We Have the Facts (it was 2000, but close enough) or Mineral’s EndSerenading.  It pains me to only choose two, I had typed up all ten, but decided to not just list my favorite bands from that decade, haha.

ITTO? – Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these questions and I can’t wait to see you on tour very soon x

Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)’s tour with The Reptilian of the UK and Ireland starts on monday, make sure you don’t miss out.

Here’s the dates:

05.11.12 UK Sheffield @ Tye Die Tapes HQ
06.11.12 UK York @ Stereo
07.11.12 Scotland Glasgow @ 13th Note
08.11.12 Scotland Dundee @ Club Kage
09.11.12 Scotland Edinburgh @ The Wee red Bar
10.11.12 UK Manchester @ The Bay Horse (matinee)
10.11.12 UK Leeds @ Wharf Chambers
11.11.12 Ireland Dublin @ The Twisted Pepper
12.11.12 Ireland Cork @ Cyprus Avenue
13.11.12 UK Bath @ Green Park Tavern
14.11.12 UK Falmouth @ Fish Factory Art Space
15.11.12 UK London @ The Blackheart
16.11.12 UK Southampton @  King Alfreds Pub
17.11.12 UK Brighton  @ The Green door store

For more information check the E!E!(IWALE) website HERE

You can download/stream their songs as well as anything else on Count Your Lucky Stars HERE

In the UK you can buy their split with Rika from Strictly No Capital Letters HERE

Thanks for reading x

www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

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Review: Basement – Colourmeinkindness

Band – Basement

Album – Colourmeinkindness

Label – Run For Cover Records

Coming up in tonight’s review:

“Holy fucking shitballs why the hell has this band split up!!?!!?!???!”

Last year Basement released one of my favourite records of that year, ‘I wish I could stay here’. It was a solid album full of Title Fight-esque melodic hardcore that I played time and again. I also got to see them play a show in Margate which really showed me what a great band they are so when news came that Basement were going on indefinite hiatus (splitting up) I thought it was a real shame. Now that I’ve heard ‘Colourmeinkindness’ I think this news is a fucking travesty.

This record is getting me all kinds of excited. If someone had said to me that all my favourite musical sub genres (grunge, punk and emo) would someday be combined together by bands to amazing effect I would’ve wanted to believe them but known that this’ll never happen. But to my disbelief it is happening. Playing ‘Colourmeinkindness’ and I’m suddenly transported back to that 13-year-old kid who lay in bed thinking my brother was a lying cock for coming home from his paper round with the news that Kurt Cobain was dead, or to the 17-year-old sitting in my friends flat being played Sunny Day Real Estate for the first time. Times when music seemed to be all that mattered, Basement make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and make me wanna get up and dance like an idiot the way all my best-loved bands do.

The album blasts in to life with ‘Whole’ and it’s an incredible start to the album. It shows Basement’s intentions from the start, they’re here to make a career defining rock album and they ain’t mucking about. The briefest of guitar intros quickly make way for the full band to kick in and already you’re left blown away by how loud and full on it is. What a way to start the record. The chorus makes you wish you were in front of the band in a packed venue screaming along with them and then the massive riff at the end makes you wish you were in the middle of the crowd going every kind of ape shit.

Before you know it the second song, ‘Covet’, has begun and here you have the first major nod to the early 90’s grunge sound with a song that owes a massive debt to the Pixies. Maybe it’s because I am still so in love with the music from that era but I’ve found a mass of grunge influences throughout the record. Maybe intentional or maybe I’m the only one who thinks it but here are a few examples of what I mean. ‘Spoiled’ reminds me of Alice In Chains, ‘Control’ has hints of ‘Superunknown’ style Soundgarden, ‘Black’ puts me in the mind of a sleazy early Stone Temple Pilots, ‘Comfort’ has a Yellow Ledbetter-esque intro and ‘Wish’ gives a big nod to a ‘Gish’ era Smashing Pumpkins. All of which are meant as huge compliments and all the while still retaining that Basement hardcore edge which attracted you to the band in the first place. You could hear this record a hundred times and get none of the references I just mentioned but you should be left with the same feeling. The feeling that you want to scream “Holy fucking shitballs why the hell has this band split up!!?!!?!???!” again and again until someone rings the council to make a noise pollution complaint against you.

Amongst all this you also have a couple of indie pop gems thrown in to the middle of the album. ‘Pine’ and ‘Bad Apple’ highlight a band capable of writing incredibly catchy pop songs that still never compromise on what the band is about. It’s another reason to love Basement and stops the record from becoming too much of one thing, it refreshes you so when they’re ready to unleash more 90’s inspired heaviness on you you’re more than ready.

‘Colourmeinkindness’ is a real surprise of a record. Not a surprise in the sense that Basement have made a truly brilliant album but a surprise in how they’ve done it. It at the same time feels like a unique record whilst also wearing their influences on their sleeve. Just over 10 years ago a massively exciting post hardcore band released a genre defining record called ‘Relationship of command’ and subsequently broke up before their time. Only time will tell if this record has that same impact, it could well do. I just hope that if it does that Basement don’t reform in 10 years time to headline Reading and appear like ghosts of their former selves. But, sod it, if they do I’ll be there singing along.

I love this record so much I’ve paid actual money TWICE for it. Downloaded from the Run for cover bandcamp page HERE.

And bought it on vinyl from Banquet Records HERE.

Basement play 2 final shows but they sold out quicker than I could say ‘ah, I’d quite like to go to that’

November 16 – Leeds – The Well

November 17 – Camden London – The Underworld

Thanks very much for reading. xx

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In a previous post I mentioned a teenage love of Pearl Jam. I was such a grunger in the early to mid 90’s that my group of friends at school were labelled ‘Grunge Club’. It was barely an insult, in fact I liked it, it seperated us from the people we despised or ‘Ravers’ as we used to call them. I was proud to be a grunger and I had the long hair and doc martens boots to prove it.

Pearl Jam were very much a part of this. Back in the day I was glued to MTV, which in those days stood for music television, they played music videos all the time and the videos for ‘Alive’ and ‘Even Flow’ used to be on heavy rotation on the channel. Then one day I came home and my brother had very kindly recorded the Pearl Jam MTV Unplugged for me. From the moment it begun I could see that this band were about to become very important to me. They were playing an acoustic set but it was electrifying to watch. The songs didn’t lose anything by being stripped down, in fact by being played in this way you could understand just how brilliant they were. I was sold. Pearl Jam, along with Nirvana and a host of other bands, became all my friends and I would talk about. Our deputy headmaster even gave us our own room at school where we could all hang out at lunch to talk about and listen to music we were so obsessed. Hence the nickname ‘Grunge Club’.

It seems so long ago now, 20 years in fact since Pearl Jam formed. And to celebrate comes the release of the documentary film ‘PJ20’. Made by former music journo/major film director Cameron Crowe, the film documents Pearl Jam’s entire career from the early days of Green River and Mother Love Bone right up to the present day. Sometimes, when you read a book or see a programme about a band you’ve liked for a long time you’re put off by the amount of stuff you’ve already seen but that’s not the case here. From the start there is a ton of amazing footage you will have never seen before. It’s incredible just how much there is of the early years, especially before the band formed including priceless footage of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament goofing round Seattle in the mid 80’s. The film is at it’s best with this early footage, taking you from the emotional and tragic end of Mother Love Bone, through Temple of the dog and to the start of Pearl Jam. It makes you realise what a short amount of time there was between the band forming and finding success. Eddie Vedder seemed to arrive in Seattle and days later the band had classic songs that they still play to this day. Shots of their second live show are testament to this as it shows them playing a near fully formed ‘Alive’. Things obviously took off incredibly fast for them and several other bands from Seattle. It’s amazing to think of how one scene from one city could change the face of rock music. Pearl Jam had to learn as they went along, the first big lesson as they explain was how to say “no”. This is illustrated with the bizarre and hilarious footage from the ‘Singles’ launch party, that shows Eddie Vedder to somewhat lose control. Having not seen any of this before it was amazing to see the band in a different light. The film goes on to show how the band evolved, taking control of what happened to them, taking on Ticketmaster and on to the tragedy at Roskilde that could’ve ended Pearl Jam. Cameron Crowe doesn’t use each album as chapters to tell the story instead relying on the major changing points in their history. I think this works really well to stop the film becoming a predictable, run of the mill documentary. Although the film does start to dip about two thirds of the way through. At one point it feels like it doubles back on itself by going into how some of the members met and grew up when the film already seemed a long way from this point. The dip coincides for me as to where my love for the band died down. Pearl Jam helped to introduce me to alternative music which would then turn me on to underground, independent punk rock and so on, so it was only natural that my obsession with this one band would fade. The film does keep you interested right to the end, however. It’s comforting to see Eddie writing setlist’s for shows minutes before they go out onstage, showing you that nothings changed and the band still have the same morals that made them a great band in the first place.

Apart from seeing most of Pearl Jam as Neil Young’s backing band at Reading festival 1995, it pains me to say the only time I’ve seen them play was at Wembley Arena on the No Code tour in 1996. It pains me because we had seated tickets at the very back! I wish I could’ve seen them play up close, the film has so much live footage from throughout their career it gives me regrets. Although, I do remember that even though it was a struggle to see them from the back they still had me captivated. There may have been a tear or two while they played ‘Animal’, tears of joy obviously. That night my friend Gee and I missed the last train home, but spent the time sat outside London Victoria station waiting to be picked up recalling all 25 songs they played, trying to put them in the set order. It certainly gave us comfort, which is just what two 16 year old, out of town boys needed because we were proper scared sat there at 2am.

PJ20 confirms and reaffirms what you knew all along, that Eddie Vedder is exactly the perfect ‘rock star’ you always knew him to be. He cares. He always puts the music and the fans first because he knows what really matters. He understands its important to get things right for everyone. Seeing him sat being interviewed on ‘Headbangers Ball’ with Fugazi written in pen on his arm reminds you that although he became a world famous front man he has never lost that independent mindset and his voice is one of the most memorable and mind blowing in music history. Why else would it have been copied so much if it wasn’t. Even Kurt knew he was a great guy, one of the films definite highlights is seeing the touching video of the Kurt and Eddie slow dancing backstage at the MTV video music awards. Pearl Jam will always hold a special place in my heart and this film is a great reminder of that. I said on this very blog a few weeks ago that nostalgia is bullshit, and it is, but there is nothing wrong in sitting for 2 hours watching a film about a band you used to love. Especially when the film is as brilliantly well made as this. If you ever liked Pearl Jam, grunge, music or the 90’s then I’d recommend very highly that you watch PJ20.
Cheers x

click here for the trailer!!!

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