So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing the shit out of Nirvana: Unplugged in New York. In doing so, I have discovered that perhaps they weren’t the cliched, drug addled mess I had always mistaken them for being. I write that realising that anyone reading this is likely to have more than a passing interest in music and is therefore in the process of introducing their palm to their face. Well, whatever, never… you know the rest.
Anyway, a defence- of sorts.. One is that at the time I went to Uni, although Nervermind had been released 4 years previously, people still seemed to be, er, playing the shit out of it. And I was into stuff like Tricky and Massive Attack. I didn’t want to hear some bloke screaming his head off. Sorry, I didn’t. And so when I first heard Nevermind, it was the haunting Something in The Way that I really loved. I could take or leave the rest. A friend of mine played me In Utero– I think he even made a copy of it for me- I declared it, after one listen, to be unlistenable and left it in the same pile as Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches, never to be seen again. Such arrogance!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never thought Nevermind was shit- I just didn’t need to hear it ever again and so have never been minded to seek out any more Nirvana stuff. That changed at Christmas with Jo’s purchase of the Unplugged dvd for her dad. Her dad spent most of Christmas day playing it, which wound me up initially and then I heard the last track. I mean really heard it. I don’t really want to talk about why someone I don’t know did something so terrible 18 years ago, but it seems to me that perhaps there is something in the way Kurt Cobain gets inside the climax of Where Did You Sleep Last Night? that might provide a clue. On the other hand, perhaps he was just performing at the very top of his game.
And that may be the worst thing for Nirvana devotees, listening to what is- by any standards- a pretty magical performance, Kurt seems in very good form as he laughs and jokes about being in a “big rich rock band” and messing songs up. How did he get to that moment in his life, just months later, when he decided enough was enough? Nobody will ever know, but what we do know (or you know and I am learning) is that he left behind quite a legacy. Having, as I said before, been entranced by Unplugged, I decided to risk In Utero again. I have only listened to it once, but already I can hear that it is not the unlistenable racket I once considered it to be. Far from it. Perhaps I’ve been softened up by two years of listening to The National’s Matt Berninger. Of course, the songs that I already know from Unplugged are obvious hooks for my attention- I love Dumb and All Apologies– as is the recognition that the Prodigy sampled Very Ape for their song Voodoo People.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to love this album, I’ve got the dvd of their Reading show on the way too.
By the way, how did the italics thing work for you? Not sure of it myself…
Nirvana- Something In The Way
Where Did You Sleep Last Night?