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With the Lights Out (Geffen
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CLICK HERE FOR OUR REVIEW OF NIRVANA'S ON
THE MUDDY BANKS OF THE WISHKAH
Copyright © 2005
All rights reserved. Posted January 9,
The reputation of being the voice of a generation has been both a blessing
and a curse to Nirvana's legacy. Now, a decade after lead singer Kurt
Cobain committed suicide, it is hard to separate the music from the mythos.
There has been a tendency to deify Cobain as a brilliant artist who died for
our sins, and I think that is doing him and the band a disservice.
What he was, instead, was a revolutionary rock musician who changed the face
of music -- at least for a while. With the Lights Out has been
in the planning stages for years now, however legal problems have held the
project up. The
label, the surviving bandmates (Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Krist
Novoselic) and Cobain's widow Courtney Love have finally put aside their
legal wranglings to release just about everything you could need from the
Good About It?
Nevermind, the band
has found its musical footing (if not necessarily having all the technical
tools at their disposal.) The potential on the rehearsal demo of
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" shines through like a beacon even if the sound
isn't that great. An angry acoustic demo of "Lithium" previews
Cobain's Unplugged success and "Verse Chorus Verse" is a mesmerizing
look at a song in progress (it was also performed with different lyrics as "In
By the third disk Cobain's unraveling is apparent, with songs like the
legendary "I Hate Myself and Want To Die" (previously only available on the
soundtrack to the movie Beavis & Butthead Do America) and raw
acoustic demos of "Rape Me," "All Apologies" and "Jesus Doesn't Want Me As A
Sunbeam." The bonus DVD is mostly made up of very early home-made
videos of live performances. However, the technical quality is
secondary importance because it does include one piece of rock and roll
history -- the first live performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at a
small Seattle hotel, with a disinterested audience. Right there on
that tiny stage, you are able to watch music being forever changed.The first disk takes you on an interesting ride from their very beginnings
when Nirvana wasn't a very good band doing Led Zep covers and lets you watch
as they gain confidence, skill and musical taste (trading up from three Zep
covers to three by Leadbelly and one by the Velvet Underground.)
Cobain's songwriting skills are blossoming, too, and by the middle of the
disk the terrific tunes of "About A Girl" and "Polly" shine through in the
sludgy bare bones production. By the time that they are working on
demos that would become their breakthrough album
Bad About It?
Three disks made up of all demos, b-sides and rarities makes for an
interesting history lesson on the band. However with very few
exceptions when there are studio recordings available of the same songs,
those were released rather than these works in progress for a reason.
So as interesting as it is to hear, for example, an early solo acoustic
performance of "Lithium," I have to admit if I want to hear that song again
I'm much more likely to pull out Nevermind or last year's Nirvana
compilation. An additional disk or two with the official versions of
songs would make this just about perfect.
Other than the studio work mentioned above, I can't think of a thing that
final grade: B+
This is an amazing look at a talented man growing more and more confident
and at the same time more and more tortured, before he finally crashed and
burned. The often questionable technical quality is made up for
because of their historic import.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted January 9, 2005.