Another Throwback Thursday review: Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
Like most suburban, lower class white kids my age I was enraptured by grunge. It was angry, but interesting. It could be violent, but introspective. It spoke to my angst and helped give it a voice. Of all the bands in that initial grunge movement, Nirvana screamed the loudest.
I did my best to stay current with their releases, but as any lower class individual can attest to, I couldn’t buy the albums as often as I’d like. That money had to go to other things like-you know-food, so I wasn’t able to get my mitts on Unplugged in New York until well after Kurt Cobain had ceased to be. For me, it’s probably my favorite record by the band of their entire catalogue. Here’s why:
- Cobain had a knack for crafting some visceral, sonic work with his manic voice and sloppy guitar playing. But when those cacophonic anthems were translated into acoustic gems, a completely different sonic landscape was painted. Suddenly, “Come as You Are” and “Polly” transformed from bleak punches to the temple into warm, embraceable coffee shop fodder. It was an amazing work of genius.
- The breadth of the covers performed during this set are both entertaining and interesting at the same time. They showcase Cobain’s off-kilter sense of humor with tracks like “Jesus don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” These songs are proof that Cobain had the capability to smile once in a while.
- The additional instrumentation throughout the set is delectable on their own it lead me to an interesting question: Should Cobain not have died, would there have been more composed and layered material in the band’s future? If they indulged on the additional guitar, concertina and string section for this set, it’s entirely feasible.
Although the following point has nothing to do with the review at hand, I need to put something on record here. I truly, honestly believe that if Dave Grohl hadn’t joined the band, Nirvana never would have had the success that they did. Sure, Cobain wrote some interesting stuff and Kirst Novoselic helped to maintain some order to Cobain’s work, but Grohl’s style of playing is so vivid and huge sounding that it appeals to everyone. Even metalheads could take a listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and not hate it. If Grohl hadn’t been a part of Nirvana, the band would have remained at the same level of notoriety as their idols-The Melvins-and Cobain would likely have lived a lot longer (maybe still be alive? Not sure).
ANYWAY, if you haven’t spun this album in a while, do so. You’ll enjoy the trek down memory lane to a time when MTV actually cared about music and the hits on the radio weren’t so ambiguous.
Also, special thanks the The J for hooking me up with a digital copy of his album. I went to play my physical version the other day, only to discover the case empty. After 15 years, the thing disappeared on me. Sad day.
- About A Girl
- Come As You Are
- Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam
- The Man Who Sold The World
- Pennyroyal Tea
- On A Plain
- Something In The Way
- Oh Me
- Lake Of Fire
- All Apologies
- Where Did You Sleep Last Night
- Dave Grohl on the post Nirvana haters
There were some people who really resented me for starting this band, "How dare you start another f*cking band......
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