Archive for December, 2004

Review – With the Lights Out

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

For The Obsessed:

For Others:

I have to admit to having been obsessed with Nirvana. When other class of ’02 kids were saving money for Nintendo 64’s in eighth grade, I was saving money for the Nirvana singles box set from CDNow. I was also saving money to order an import (the Japanese Hormoaning CD) from someone via e-mail, of all things! I was the kid sending two blank Maxell’s to some guy for a tape of rare Nirvana stuff. I even had a Nirvana lyrics website that got quite a few hits in its heyday, but has since been supplanted by superiour successors. In short, you could say I was a fan.

As a Nirvana fan, I love this stuff. Questions we’ve had for years (What’s the real name of “In His Hands”? What to call what we called “Verse Chorus Verse”?) have been answered (“In His Hands” was actually “Verse Chorus Verse.” “Verse Chorus Verse” was actually “Sappy.”). In addition to stuff we couldn’t get ahold of and high-quality versions of what we could, there are also demos — tons of them. From a boombox recording of “Teen Spirit” to acoustic demos of stuff from In Utero, this disc has a little of everything.

A little of everything — that’s the problem. See, on the 60-page booklet, there are lists of recording sessions. Songs included in the box set are listed in bold, the rest, in roman. And there are so many roman-face songs in those lists. So many interesting things that die-hard fans like me would love to hear, but can’t, yet. The die-hard, money-wastin’ freak in me is waiting for Nirvana — The Complete Studio Sessions. That would have been an interesting way to organized this set — I’d like to see a full CD of ‘rare’ tracks recorded in the studio. And one of acoustic demos. How about all the In Utero demos on one disc, all the Nevermind demos on another, all the stuff from the sessions at Reciprocal Studios on one or two more? I’m a content completist (just look at my Bad Religion collection or newly-purchased Bloom County/Outland books), meaning that I want all that’s available to absorb from my obsessions. I want to have every Nirvana song. I’m close, and this set brings me closer, but I want it all.

There’s a lot of poor-quality stuff. Hence, the rating for the obsessed (me) and others. Personally, it gives me goosebumps, partially because I like to record similar stuff myself and because of how haunting it can be. Aside from “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which inexplicably is included in a version that does not differ from that on Nevermind (Devalued Teen Sense Purchase Incentive Track, anybody?), With the Lights Out will turn off the Teen Spirit- and Heart-Shaped Box-fans. But Nirvana’s always had a thick coat of sludge — in cryptic coats of mumbled lyric, screaming feedback, and Drop-C# bass riffs. See past the sludge, however, and there’s the beauty: haunting, burning, ephemeral.

PS — I came across an recommendation list called “Where isn’t there a Nirvana US? Cultural Imperialism” or something. Basically, its author was complaining about bands from Britain with (U.K.) appended to their names. I’ll tell you what, we here in the US sure are oppressing the British, what with distinguishing between U.S. bands (bands here, one might say), and bands in the U.K! On behalf of America, I aplogize and offer a compromise — you got 200 years imperializing, and we’re almost done with ours. Any consolation?