Unconscious in heaven
Unplugged in New York
It's a split decision: underneath the noise and distortion and hoarse growl that defined Nirvana lay finely constructed pop songs, catchy melodies that underscored (perhaps even usurped) the intensity of the lyrics Kurt Cobain choked out. But what made Nirvana a monumental achievement in rock history, especially on In Utero, was the noise and distortion and growl; this was a band that played loud because it seemed as though it had to, rising to fame on a monster punk-rock rage that was so immediate and desperate. Nirvana, at its best, came off like a hammer to the forehead; Cobain's words--so defiant and defeated--were just the nails.
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So Geffen releases the "final" album, which we have seen and heard a million times since its initial airing on MTV nearly a year ago, and the music world shrugs: no surprises, no apologies. Aside from Bleach, it's the Nirvana album Nirvana fans are likely to keep on the shelves when they need their fix; it's less an artistic triumph than a digital souvenir of a moment we've relived every day since Kurt ventilated his skull and Courtney spit into the gaping maw (all together now: "Asshole! Asshole!"). Got the T-shirts and posters, get the CD and complete the collection.
Advantage: without the video, the record becomes an intimate experience finally, not too different from listening to a band record demos in its living room late at night. And Cobain, on "Oh Me," finally sounds like the young Neil he probably wanted to be in the end--ragged, lovely, haunted. Disadvantage: the rest's just boring.
Math and mud
Blind Melon O Aerosmith + Primus = Jefferson Airplane. Nine Inch Nails x Red Hot Chili Peppers - Porno For Pyros + Jackyl O The Neville Brothers = Ten Years After. Rollins Band x Green Day + Melissa Etheridge = The Who. Metallica x Blues Traveler x Cypress Hill + Traffic = Canned Heat. The Cranberries - Sheryl Crow x Bob Dylan = Joan Baez. Live x Violent Femmes = Sha Na Na. Joe Cocker O Slash x Salt-N-Pepa = Joe Cocker. Crosby, Stills, and Nash = Crosby, Stills, and Nash. -Robert Wilonsky