They’re laughing at you, at us, at their own goddamn sense of self-importance; the Money Men at Geffen towers, care of some massive multinational or other, are slicking back their hair, parting your cheeks and butt-plugging you ‘til you roll over and beg, bleeding, for mercy. “Okay, we’ll buy it, again, and again, just stop the incessant raping of a reputation and cease this mockery-making of a legacy left close to ruin.”
Legacy? Well, certainly, but it’s time to face a fact, one that’s even clearer than we’d previously thought in light of this exhuming of material best left in Courtney Love’s garden shed: Kurt Cobain was no musical genius. It’s with no little rancour that such a statement is made – Cobain’s pop hooks and killer choruses made Nirvana the radio-friendly unit shifters they’d always really aspired to be – but much of their success is attributable to their choice of producers. Without Butch Vig Nevermind would have bore almost as much fuzzy filler as Bleach, and Cobain’s fondness for Steve Albini – his clutching at the indie straw that’d long since fallen from his grasp – made selling In Utero to critics and consumers alike easy, especially as the rift between band and label over the subsequent recordings was so well documented.
Since Cobain’s untimely suicide we’ve been gifted a brace of wonderful releases – the Unplugged set may not be a firm fan favourite, but its timelessness is unique to the series, and the Muddy Banks live record is perhaps the finest document of their prowess in such an environment that anyone could’ve hoped for – a neatly packaged but musically irrelevant box set summary of odds and sods, and now this. Granted, such dredging is in no way on a par with that done by Tupac’s estate, and it’s no secret that Love needs the cash these days, but Sliver is almost entirely unnecessary. Anyone who still cared enough for Nirvana own the aforementioned box set, With The Lights Out, already, and the bonus arm-twisters here, all three of them, aren’t worth re-investment.
Without the studio gloss provided by Vig, the Nevermind-era material here is abysmal. Yes, ‘boombox’ versions of The Big Hits are briefly arresting curios, but a few seconds in their company is all that’s required. The only actual songs of note, and subsequently the ones worth owning if you don’t already, are ‘Oh The Guilt’ and ‘Old Age’. The latter is an outtake from the Nevermind sessions – it plods along happily enough but lacks the huge swells of the final album’s finest songs – and the former is sourced from a split single with The Jesus Lizard. Akin to the noise of In Utero in its roughness, ‘Oh The Guilt’ is a splendid song that any Nirvana fan old or young should own. Thing is, ninety-nine per cent of them do already.
Two versions of ‘Rape Me’ seems rather excessive, especially considering that both feature on the box set’s tracklisting. The acoustic demo rendering possesses no little charm, but the full-band version, albeit again only of demo quality, is too close to the final cut to warrant exclusive purchase. The sole notable feature is a baby's cries during the first few seconds; can you possibly guess from whom they’re coming?
Filtering the shit, there are but a couple more half-baked highlights: a live recording of ‘Floyd The Barber’ is fairly shot-through with adrenaline, and the very earliest effort here, a 1985 take on ‘Spank Thru’, is worth a listen, even for a cheap laugh (and you will laugh). Sadly, though, it’s them that’re doing most of the laughing here. Don’t get suckered again, as no amount of ass-poundage is worth this cash-in catastrophe.
Ignore this and the legacy will survive, at least temporarily, with some credibility intact. Kurt knew his way about a pop song, but there's simply not enough substance to such writing to warrant this needless re-packaging of nothing much in the first place.
4Mike Diver's Score