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NIRVANA

NIRVANA

2002

1-You Know Youre Right | 2-About A Girl | 3-Been A Son | 4-Sliver | 5-Smells Like Teen Spirit | 6-Come As You Are | 7-Lithium | 8-In Bloom | 9-Heart Shaped Box | 10-Pennyroyal Tea | 11-Rape Me | 12-Dumb | 13-All Apologies | 14-The Man Who Sold The World


INFO

Nirvana is a "Best Of" album by the defunct rock band Nirvana. It was released on October 29, 2002 by Geffen Records.

The remaining members of the band had intended on releasing a box set, containing all of the unreleased Nirvana material, but there were legal difficulties, when Kurt Cobain's widow Courtney Love tried to get out of the partnership with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, claiming she was under the influence of drugs at the time she signed the contract.

The CD contains the long-anticipated track "You Know You're Right", the last song Nirvana recorded before Cobain's 1994 suicide.


TRACKLISTING

1. You Know You're Right (previously unreleased)
2. About a Girl (Bleach)
3. Been a Son (Blew EP)
4. Sliver (Incesticide)
5. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nevermind)
6. Come as You Are (Nevermind)
7. Lithium (Nevermind)
8. In Bloom (Nevermind)
9. Heart Shaped Box (In Utero)
10. Pennyroyal Tea (In Utero)
11. Rape Me (In Utero)
12. Dumb (In Utero)
13. All Apologies (Unplugged in New York)
14. The Man Who Sold the World (Unplugged in New York)

Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Unplugged in New York)
Something In The Way (Unplugged in New York)

European and Australian versions contain "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" as bonus track.

Japanese version contains "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" and "Something In The Way" as bonus tracks.


MULTIMEDIA

You Know Youre Right (album version)
Audio (small) | Audio (big)

Youve Got No Right (live version)
Audio

Nirvana ad
Video


SONGS INFORMATION

1. You Know You're Right
Recorded January 30, 1994. Robert Lang's Studios - Seattle, WA. Previously unreleased.

2. About A Girl
Recorded December, 1988. Reciprocal Studios - Seattle, WA. Bleach.

3. Been A Son
Recorded September, 1989. Music Source Studios - Seattle, WA. Blew EP.

4. Sliver
Recorded July 11, 1990. Reciprocal Studios - Seattle, WA. Incesticide.

5. Smells Like Teen Spirit
Recorded May-June, 1991. Sound City Studios - Van Nuys, CA. Nevermind.

6. Come As You Are
Recorded May-June, 1991. Sound City Studios - Van Nuys, CA. Nevermind.

7. Lithium
Recorded May-June, 1991. Sound City Studios - Van Nuys, CA. Nevermind.

8. In Bloom
Recorded May-June, 1991. Sound City Studios - Van Nuys, CA. Nevermind.

9. Heart Shaped Box
Recorded February 14-March, 1993. Pachyderm Studios - Canon Falls, MN. In Utero.

10. Pennyroyal Tea (remix version)
Recorded February 14-March, 1993. Pachyderm Studios - Canon Falls, MN. In Utero (edited version).

11. Rape Me
Recorded February 14-March, 1993. Pachyderm Studios - Canon Falls, MN. In Utero.

12. Dumb
Recorded February 14-March, 1993. Pachyderm Studios - Canon Falls, MN. In Utero.

13. All Apologies
Recorded November 18, 1993. Sony Studios - New York, NY. Unplugged In New York.

14. The Man Who Sold The World
Recorded November 18, 1993. Sony Studios - New York, NY. Unplugged In New York.

15. Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Recorded November 18, 1993. Sony Studios - New York, NY .Unplugged In New York.

16. Something In The Way
Recorded November 18, 1993. Sony Studios - New York, NY. Unplugged In New York.


SONGS MEANING

You Know Youre Right - ???

About A Girl - A song written for Kurt's girlfriend Tracy, she threatened to kick him out if he didn't get a job.

Been A Son - Song about a girl whose parents wanted a boy.

Sliver - A semi-biographical song about being deserted by your parents.

Smells Like Teen Spirit - An attack on the apathy of our own generation.

Come As You Are - A song full of contradictions on how we act versus how we think society thinks we should act.

Lithium - A first person narrative of a nervous breakdown, or an update of the Marxist description of religion as 'Opiate of the masses'. An ode to disconnection.

In Bloom - An attack on people who listen to certain music for the wrong reason. Imagine the macho, gun toting guy who sings along to Nirvana, but has no clue what he's singing about.

Heart Shaped Box - Themes of co-dependancy and many other themes.

Pennyroyal Tea - A song about making a tough decision and the difficult choices around it and the guilt following it. Pennyroyal Tea is an abortive substance.

Rape me - In Kurt's words, the song is a sort of poetic justice. A guy rapes a girl, he ends up in jail, and is raped there.

Dumb - Ignorance is bliss. There is a certain care-free happiness involved in being dumb. Drug related themes dominate the song.

All Apologies - Contrary to popular belief, this song is not about Francis and Courtney. He wrote it for them, but none of the lyrics really apply.

The Man Who Sold the World - Cover of David Bowie song.

Something in the Way - A song about Kurt's experiences living under a bridge when he was kicked out of home.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night - Cover of Huddie Leadbelly song.


ALBUM PICTURES

Front | Back | CD

Inside | Inside 2 | Inside 3 | Inside 4 | Inside 5

Credits


LINER NOTES

On Sunday, January 30, 1994, Kurt Cobain walked into Robert Lang Studios in northern Seattle and recorded the first song on this album. It would be Kurt’s final session with Nirvana, and he made it count. He was also late. Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl had been at Lang’s for two days: waiting for Kurt, using the time to fill the tape with some of Dave’s songs. But when Kurt finally rolled up on the third day, with no particular explanation, the real work was done in minutes.

Nirvana had already performed “You Know You’re Right” in concert - on October 23, 1993, at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago – and fired it around in soundchecks that fall, under different names (“Autopilot”, “On A Mountain”), with touring guitarist Pat Smear. Strangely, two nights after the Aragon show, Kurt practically denied even writing the song. “I don’t have any new songs right now”, he told me. “I have absolutely nothing left. I’m starting from scratch for the first time. I don’t know what we’re going to do.” That Sunday at Lang’s was Kurt’s first formal recording date with Nirvana in nearly a year, since the In Utero sessions with Steve Albini in February of ’93. The band played all day but finished only this one song.

It was enough, Kurt, Krist and Dave connected with a fierce telepathy, tearing through “You Know You’re Right” in one live take. Kurt then put down a few vocal tracks and a little extra guitar. There was no need for more. “You Know You’re Right” was a perfect storm, consummated with prophetic urgency and –although it seems crazy and cruel to say it now – something that sounds a lot like joy, the kind you get when a band has its whipped-raw back to the wall but plenty of fuck you left, ready to fly. You could drown in the black rains of distortion and sarcasm: “Things have never been so swell/And I have never been so well.” We know now that everything was wrong and getting worse. But you can live in this noise too: Kurt’s prayer-bell harmonics, plucked from behind the bridge of his guitar in monastery echo; in the spears of feedback and the saving blaze of the chorus, where Kurt belts and holds the single word pain in one long murderous breathe; in the brotherly lock of Krist’s marching bass and Dave’s fighting drums; and in the diamond-hard melodies that always cut through the chaos.

To Kurt, music was shelter, because he never enjoyed or truly knew any other kind as a child, raised in a broken home, and an isolated uprooted teenager. On Nirvana’s 1990 Sub Pop single “Sliver”, he turned a mundane slice of boyhood – getting dropped off with his grandparents for a night of mashed potatoes and television – into searing flashback, acute memories of desertion intensified by the mounting tensions in Kurt’s vocals: the grainy double harmonics; the way he jumps into a higher strained register. Even as a star, Kurt never made peace with the material rewards that hit him like a ton of bricks. “If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it,” he said that night in Chicago, “It might have helped me.”

Kurt recognized the power of myth, of a juicy twisted truth: He long claimed that he really lived for a time under the bridge in the first line of “Something In The Way” on Nevermind. But Kurt slept in abandoned buildings and on a long line of couches, in Aberdeen and Olympia, Washington, on his way to Nirvana. “His thing was, build your own world,” Krist once said of Kurt. “Whenever he lived, he’d have all this stuff on the walls, drawings or music he had collected.” The floods of impulse – lyrics, letters, artwork – that he poured into his journals; the songs he wrote to put on records; the shows and tour-van rides; those three-and-a-half minutes of “You Know You’re Right” at the end of January, 1994 – for Kurt, that was home.

The absolute magic and democracy of rock & roll is that anyone with a good hook and a fighting heart can change the world overnight. Kurt did it twice: on September 24, 1991, the day Nevermind, Nirvana’s second album, went on sale and loudly announced that Michael Jackson was toast and rock was a weapon again; and on April 8, 1994, when Kurt’s body was found, dead by his own hand, in a room over his garage in Seattle. The gaping hole he left in the belief the rock & roll saves lives is still there. So is the fear of going all the way that has paralyzed so much of the music ever since.

But this record is about what happened before, and between, the turning points. It tells us how Kurt was reborn, and bloomed, inside his writing and singing. And it makes brutally, brilliantly clear how Kurt and Krist – bounded since high school in Aberdeen – and Ohio-born Dave, a D.C.-hardcore veteran who joined on the eve on Nevermind, made the music a living thing, along with those who passed through the early bedlam: guitarist Jason Everman; drummers, Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Dale Crover of the Melvins and Mudhoney’s Dan Peters. “All the albums I ever liked,” Kurt said, “were albums that delivered a great song, one after another: Aerosmith’s ROCKS, the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks …, Led Zeppelin II, Back In Black by AC/DC.” That’s exactly what you get on Nirvana.

Rightly, the last great song Kurt wrote is followed here by the first. “About A Girl,” track three on Nirvana’s 1989 debut album, Bleach, is a conflicted love song draped in spidery jangle and hung on a bewitching see-saw melody, invented one night after Kurt spent hours listening nonstop to Meet The Beatles! Kurt later complained that Nirvana had not done enough with the power of quiet, that he’d waited too long – until “Dumb” and “All Apologies” on In Utero – to show how much he loved and learned from the Beatles and R.E.M.. But in the Clean swing of “About A Girl” and the Gregorian-garage spell of Kurt’s double-tracked singing, with that extra haunted vocal floating just over his shoulder, Nirvana proved that punk and grunge were very small words for the pop in Kurt’s head. The amazing thing about these songs, and the recordings, is the force of subversive detail, especially on Nevermind: the tidal crash of Dave’s tom-tom roll at the front of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the literal sound of a revolution at birth: Krist’s watery bass intro to “Come As You Are” and the way Kurt reconfigures the word memory with a long Spanish sigh at the end, as if hypnotized by need; the whiplash contrast in “Lithium” between Dave’s jazzy restraint in the verses (tingling cymbal, the one-two doorknock of the kick drum) and the power-trio avalanche in the chorus. Kurt transcribed the uproar of his life into words and music with care, often over time. Song titles changed; the meat of an arrangement could turn from one rehearsal to the next. Krist remembered first playing “In Bloom” at practices, “like a Bad Brains song. But Kurt went home and he hammered it.” When Kurt was done, he called Krist and played the song over the phone. The nuclear sugar inside had come out.

Success made Kurt distrust that gift. He responded with In Utero: made at breakneck speed with Albini, the king of live fuzz-box verite. Nirvana cut the album in two weeks; Kurt sang most of his vocals in a day, in one seven-hour stretch. But the haste bothered him. “Heart-Shaped Box” was given to R.E.M. producer Scott Litt for a remix. Even after the album was released in September 1993, as Nirvana played the new songs on tour, Kurt openly spoke of his disappointment: “Definitely “Pennyroyal Tea” – that was not recorded right… I know that’s a strong song, a hit single.” Litt remixed “Pennyroyal Tea” for a 1994 release, but Kurt’s death ended all promotion for the album, and the single was cancelled. Eight years later, Litt’s treatment is finally on record, and we can hear “Pennyroyal Tea” the way Kurt wanted to hear it.

Kurt also felt that, with In Utero, he had worn out the soft/loud dynamic in his writing, gutting it of all worth and fun. He was wrong. “Heart-Shaped Box” is an explosive tangle of devotion and exhaustion: the heart and worry jammed into the sharp sudden shout, “hey! Wait!”; the raw hopeful arc of Kurt’s guitar break. In “Rape Me,” the jolt from droning surrender in the verses to the full-throttle violation in the chorus comes with a cleansing defiance. And it’s worth noting that “Dumb” was first recorded as an electric-trio whisper for the BBC in the fall of ’91 before Nirvana-mania. Here, with the combined melancholy of cello and Kurt’s vocal harmonies, the song carries the added weight of those two years with a cracked-leather- grace. “I think I’m dumb, maybe just happy”: Kurt was never the former, still aching for the latter.

A confession: I did not watch the original broadcast of Nirvana’s performance on MTV Unplugged. I have never seen it on video. I don’t need to. I was there, at the Sony Studios in New York on November 18, 1993, and I keep that hour in my head, with a clarity unspoiled by jumping camera angles and commercial breaks: the garlands and candlelight, the hushed strength of Krist, Dave, Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldstein; the hint of dare in the way Kurt opened the show with “About A Girl” (“This is off our first album. Most people don’t own it.”) and how “All Apologies,” near the end, affirmed that early promise. And I recall my own gasp of recognition when I heard the slithering-cobra guitar of “The Man Who Sold The World,” David Bowie’s 1970 reverie on power, celebrity and death. “I guarantee you, I will screw this up,” Kurt said. But he slipped into Bowie’s silken ambiguity – and the unmistakable parallels to his own life - like second skin. Kurt did not sound bummed or bitter, just painfully wise, willing to laugh at himself and comfortable in a good song.

“It’s easy to remember him being sad,” Dave told me last year. “But the things that I like to think about are his happiness, and how much he loved music, whether is was sitting in a living room and playing an acoustic guitar, or playing at the Off Ramp in Seattle. He really, really loved creating music.”

This is the world Kurt built for himself, when the real world was not enough. Listen again if you think you know it; listen loud if you don’t know it yet.

Then build you own.

David Fricke
New York City
October 2002


CREDITS

Steve Albini - Engineer, Mixing
James Barber - Project Director
Corbis Bettman - Photography
Chad Channing - Drums
Kurt Cobain - Guitar, Vocals
Jack Endino - Engineer, Mixing
Robert Fisher - Art Direction
Steve Fisk - Engineer, Mixing
David Fricke - Liner Notes
Lori Goldston - Cello
Dave Grohl - Drums, Vocals
Adam Kasper - Engineer, Mixing
Scott Litt - Producer, Mixing
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Michael Meisel - Project Director
Frank Micelotta - Photography
Nirvana - Producer
Krist Novoselic - Bass
Frank Ockenfels - Photography
Dan Peters - Drums
Charles Peterson - Photography
Redferns - Photography
John Silva - Project Director
Pat Smear - Guitar
Andy Wallace - Mixing
Butch Vig - Producer, Engineer


REVIEW

With its chorus of double-tracked, serrated, drowsy bellowing, "You Know You're Right" is the most Sabbath-esque song Kurt Cobain ever wrote. The last recording of his short career centers around harsh drones and repetitions. It is not upset and losing it; it is upset and inert. Cobain sings it with certainty. Here, after Nevermind, after the MTV enshrining and all the interviews, he knows what turns the crowd on.

In this single-disc collection's one jarring segue, "You Know You're Right" is followed by "About a Girl," from Bleach, written under the influence of early Beatles. There's a big difference between 1989 and 1994: Cobain loved jubilant teen nonsense to the end (he was a serious Beat Happening fan) but had moved under a cloud.

Neither track is by the great rock band, the one that for a time after it ended stunned rock into near-irrelevance. The band as popular history knows it begins with track five, which is called "Smells Like Teen Spirit," where the trio strikes that wise, contorted pose that took it through two albums: I am bored, I am cranked up; I'll kill you, I am dovelike; I loathe fame, I am fame; I miss the comfort in being sad.

A surprising continuity rolls through all the familiar songs on the set; new juxtapositions yield little. The band had its style mapped out, and Cobain was one of pop's unerratic perfectionists; though drawn to punk chaos, he also saved it for end-of-album filler.

Collections typically reveal the collector's agenda, but you can't say what aspect of Cobain the set favors, since starting with Nevermind he presented one tormented, often contradictory aspect. His songs went from sad and sorry to sad and angry to sad and loving; the ones selected here are all troubling, and all good. (Too bad about the exclusion of "On a Plain," "Stay Away," "Serve the Servants" or "Scentless Apprentice.")

But Nevermind and In Utero are like best-hits collections: one memorable song after another. They were already the result of a selection process. Boiling down three albums (and some odds and ends) to one feels beside the point.

RELATED LINKS
Nirvana Special
You Know Youre Right
You Know Youre Right Video Stills


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