What is Dark Slivers About?

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide

Wednesday lunchtime Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide went to print. I’ve a list of pre-orders at present so if this sounds interesting then do drop me a line NirvanaDarkSlivers@gmail.com and I’ll add you to it. I’m not taking payment (£10 plus P&P) until I have the first hardcopies back from the printers and can give people an accurate Postage cost. I will, however, deliver anywhere in the world and the first one hundred will be signed, inscribed and numbered to those people personally. 

Of course, seems important I tell you what the book’s about…

Well, as it says in the Foreword, this isn’t another story book biography chronologically ticking off the events. After years of reading every last word emerging about Nirvana I felt there was more to say, a more argumentative approach had been lacking. The book tackles issues thematically, one subject at a time, driving each to a conclusion, hopefully convincingly enough. I’ve tried to ensure that all evidence is cited so the reader can examine it for themselves.

The original book concept was a 25-35,000 word volume on Incesticide. Four chapters — The Greatest Gift, (MIA) The Complete Anthology, The Rich Man’s Eight Track Tape and Songs the Lord Taught Us — focus exclusively on Incesticide arguing its importance as a compilation and as the best-selling album of pure Eighties alternative rock, the errors in the back story plus the decisions taken in selecting its tracks, the curiosities within its track listing and structure, then details of the songs themselves.

My interests expanded far beyond that remit. The final work is 72,000 words and 260 pages. What I wanted to do was show how Incesticide was deeply integral to Nirvana’s musical path in multiple ways, using those points to jump off into wider discussions. Three chapters — Big Black Songs About…, Over the Edge and Family Man — tackle the forms which Kurt Cobain used for writing, how his writing changed over time and finally the cohesive nature of his lyrical fixations. Two Nuns and a Pack Mule describes the massive humour within Nirvana’s music at the same time as pointing out that a lot of that humour was for private consumption and had a brutal edge; My War argues that Nirvana’s political side has been underestimated and under-explored; Hairway to Steven shows how Nirvana’s use of cover songs flexed across their career and that the band often ‘spoke’ through the songs they chose to play. Double Nickels on the Dime tackles the subject of commerciality and destiny in the story of Nirvana, then Post-Mersh is a lengthy chapter arguing that Incesticide may have been the pinnacle of Nirvana’s experiments but it was not the most avant-garde or wild expression of Kurt Cobain’s experimental urges, dissecting the various currents of his known private demos.

I admit the more controversial chapters are the ones I’m proudest of — Family Man is one such chapter, I think it draws together known threads of Kurt’s work but unifies them in an original and coherent way (you decide.) Two other chapters that thrill me whenever I reread them are Project Mersh and Coda. The impetus behind Project Mersh was that I was fed up of reading arguments that either tried to claim Kurt was a non-commercial pure artist OR a committed careerist. I argue that the question is wrong; that Kurt’s actions were motivated not by the avoidance or acquisition of a solid career but by a deep desire for control and freedom from the demands of employment and management starting right back in his teenhood. Coda forms the dive into darkness at the end of the book — I let it stretch and meander a bit focusing first on analysing and demonstrating how completely Kurt’s commitment to music collapsed from 1992 then taking an original look at the three occasions on which he wrote to his fans directly, the final one being his suicide note.

Over the weekend I’m going to release a sample chapter — Dry as a Bone — tackling the March-April 2012 rumours of extensive 1994 home demos. Its a standalone chapter so can be read in isolation from the rest of the book. It’ll give you a sense of my style and approach while hopefully providing an interesting and entertaining, though downbeat, take on an up-to-the-minute piece of the Nirvana story.

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