Alternative NRG (Hollywood)
By John McAlley
"Danger…disaster…crisis…hazard…. Nowhere to go." "Kerouac's dream has become our nightmare…. We are all on the road…. Cars, cars, cars, cars." These apocalyptic ravings crowd the sprawling, information-crammed booklet accompanying this CD, but they merely hint at the energizing force of the music harnessed on Alternative NRG, a Greenpeace benefit album.
In a one-of-a-kind mobile recording unit powered by the sun, producer Robert Margouleff and Greenpeace execs Dave Wakeling and Kate Karam crisscrossed the United States to capture the live performances of an eclectic assembly of rock, alternative and hip-hop benefactors. Underscoring Greenpeace's conviction that our environmental problems are urgent and near cataclysmic, much of the music on the compilation is cautionary—and has the cacophonous fury of a train wreck.
Alternative heavies Soundgarden find an unlikely collaborator in Queen guitarist Brian May and deliver a thundering "New Damage." Dissonant anarchists Sonic Youth shred the sound barrier with "J.C." The Jesus and Mary Chain spit out a corrosive Cramps classic, "New Kind of Kick." And the riotous impulses of rock and rap ignite EMF's version of Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy," Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy's "Everyday Life Has Become a Health Risk" and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.'s "Fam Bam."
Among Alternative NRG's other coups are the ways in which familiar studio tracks have been sparked to life. Mainstream treats (sorry, Bono) include a sonic blitzkrieg from U2 on "Until the End of the World," R.E.M.'s balls-to-the-wall reanimation of "Drive" and P.M. Dawn's revelatory "Looking Through Patient Eyes," in which the song's delicate aural layering is pumped with ecstatic spirit.
Indeed, on a record that also includes Midnight Oil, the Soup Dragons, James, UB40, Annie Lennox and aboriginal phenoms Yothu Yindi—and gives the last word of outrage to grrrl group L7 ("Shitlist")—it's clear that Greenpeace celebrates everything under the sun.