While listening to a co-worker rant about the merits of a Nirvana greatest hits album, I said: “Didn’t Nirvana already release a greatest hits album? It was called Nevermind.”
It’s easy to get cynical about Nirvana’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll history. Without Nirvana, there would have been no Pearl Jam, and hence no Creed. Conversely, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer would have one less subject to run his scientific analyses of ideal pop songwriting.
It’s also easy to get cynical about how said self-titled greatest hits collection came to be. For all intents and purposes, Nirvana is pretty much a CD single of the last song the band recorded. Damn those legal wranglings! And damn those file sharing whippersnappers!
But put the work of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl in a subjective vacuum, and it’s also to easy why Nirvana is lionized even today.
Put simply: damn that “Sliver” song is mighty fine.
Aside from “You Know You’re Right”, there’s nothing on Nirvana which fans haven’t already heard or don’t already own. That means this release has more use for people whose Nirvana collection begins and ends with Nevermind. (Yeah, I’m talking about myself.)
Although Nirvana’s major label work occupies the most real estate on the disc, the band’s earliest songs possess the most charm. Credit that to a lack of studio sheen later applied by Butch Vig on Nevermind and supposedly avoided by Steve Albini on In Utero.
Oddly enough, it’s the tracks from Nevermind that seem the most labored. Retrospection is an funny thing — at the time, Nevermind seemed unassailable, but in context of the band’s other work, it sounds as commerical as it became.
In the disc’s liner notes, writer David Fricke recounts how Cobain said he ran out of songs and had to start from scratch after In Utero. With “Rape Me” and “Dumb”, Cobain was starting to echo himself, as “Lithium” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” comparably demonstrates.
But before Nirvana’s star even had a chance to set, the story ended. Cobain recorded one last song and joined that “stupid club”.
Even as a stop gap measure before the release of an alleged boxed set, Nirvana does a satisfactory job of capturing the big picture. It may not tell us anything we don’t already know, but it certainly does remind us how things were may not have been what they seemed.
That’s a round about way of saying I ought to get Bleach.