Archive for June, 2013

Merely a late on Sunday aside but Cobain favourite The Pixies (sans Kim Deal who has, once again, left to focus on the revival of The Breeders and the twentieth anniversary tour of their best known album) have just released their first new composition in many a year…

…Any thoughts from this side? I’m always unsure what I’m looking for in the sound of a reformed or long-translucent band; is it good if they sound precisely like they always did or is that a sign of stagnation and an absence of inspiration? Then again, if they sound significantly different, does that rob them of the qualities that made them pleasurable in the first place? Oh well…

In this instance, the song combines recognisable touches in the tone of the guitar, the chopped out chords leading into the buzzing held notes – alongside the refreshed drum sound. The backing chant initially grated during the very new wave intro section before fitting neatly into later sections. There’s something of the hectoring street preacher in Black Francis’ vocals before it returns to more familiar yelps in the long breakdown mid-song. It’s a neat combination of 25 year old motifs with fresher interests…Go see.

If I had a criticism I’d say a lot of sections go on longer than kept my interest; curtail the intro, chop the whole song down a minute, slice the outro off sooner…


A year ago I purchased The Beatles box-set, the complete discography…Admittedly I don’t entirely remember ordering it, I may have had one or two drinks more than was mature and sensible, however, I don’t regret it at all. I’ll admit completely that I find the very early albums unlistenable, there’s something so alien to me about the dominant musical style of the early Sixties (“the Sixties” as clichéd era didn’t commence until into the middle of the decade as a chronological measure) that I find it hard if not impossible to entertain what sounds so cloying to ears that have been solidly wrecked by fifty years of musical evolution since 1963.

A friend of mine, who I really need to get on and lend this to, defines the problem as how to forget all the echoes and extrapolations and duplications that have occurred as a direct result of The Beatles and their ilk — it’s near impossible to hear such a theoretical concept as ‘the original’ as an aural quality with ears used to heightened volume, ever greater emphasis on bass, etc. The original often sounds weak, tame, unimportant compared to the sounds one is more naturally used to. When I listen to the early albums of The Beatles I’m struck by the relatively tinny sound, the skeletal quality, the harmony vocals, chord sequences and musical approaches drawn from formal dances…

Similarly, it’s hard to appreciate the truth of Nirvana’s status in 1992. An intellectual understanding that many other until then unknown bands achieved multi-platinum sales that year, that a large number of alternative bands emerged as rising stars in 1990-1991 and others would follow, that ultimately musical genius is relative, that for older fans Nirvana’s onstage antics and sound were reminiscent of the bands they had considered, in their youth, geniuses — none of it overwhelms that sense that the band was special, exceptional and different. It’s similarly easy to understand that Kurt Cobain’s death — exceptionally taking place at the height of his fame (or at least within very easy touching distance); not a common occurrence — prevented the band having to endure a more prosaic break-up, made them immune to the passing of generations and therefore the switching of taste that tends to come with it.

What’s harder to do is to truly set aside twenty years of hagiography, of positions in the regular top tens and top whatevers of music criticism and/or discussion, anniversary releases, the increasing reduction of interest down to a hardcore of fellow fanatics who are bound to confirm and re-confirm importance, significance and relevance.

That’s where this cartoon pleases me, it’s taken from an old VIZ annual and, beyond poking fun at the transience of teenage/student/young tastes (it started with a reference to The Happy Mondays), it opens two avenues for me. Firstly there’s the matter of the geographic significance of Nirvana. While the band did have a strong following in the U.K. and while Top of the Pops, The Word, various BBC sessions and Reading ’92 have welded Britain into the Nirvana story the local aspect of British taste is visible — while confirming that Nirvana were hot in Britain the comparisons made are to relatively local favourites, The Happy Mondays — a relatively brief flash in the pan who seem bigger and more significant in hindsight than the extent of their reign demands — and Curve — a band I can’t even remember now but who apparently stuck around until the middle of the last decade — are the acts chosen to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Nirvana. It simultaneously deems Nirvana to be no more than the equal of two bands that were barely known elsewhere and also robs Nirvana of the very American universe of comparisons in which they’re traditionally set; Guns n’ Roses, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and so forth.

Secondly, it shrinks Nirvana down significantly from this near untouchable position of power to a condition where they stand alongside a band that charted one album in five in the U.S. (in position 89) and a band that, again, barely charted outside of the U.K. and saw its albums march backwards from 22 in the chart, to 23, 103 and nowhere across its releases. This isn’t to denigrate either band; it’s to point out that Nirvana’s position in 1992 was as a stunning success but with no indication whether there was a longer-term significance. They weren’t exceptional.

On the other hand, it emphasises Nirvana’s international ubiquity by wedging Nirvana in as the international representative in between two local successes with a distinctly British accent. The sound of Nirvana has been picked over and either criticised or praised for drawing on mainstream hard rock, on Beatlesesque qualities, on punk, on underground flavours of the late Eighties and early Nineties as well. The company in which this cartoon places Nirvana suggests that the simplicity of Nirvana’s sound, built on a very strong awareness and knowledge of Anglo-American music trends of the era, allowed Nirvana to slip into the playlists of multiple audiences.

It also wedges Nirvana into the various worldwide alternative currents — for example, British guitar music went through a spell in which it was firmly wedded to the dance music scene that had spiralled out of rave in the late Eighties — and voids the mainstream/alternative argument to some extent. Nirvana slipped right in alongside U.K. ‘baggy’ culture and so forth. It was only in America, where the charts had never been dominated by an alternative to hard rock before (remember even The Sex Pistols didn’t hit platinum in America until 1992), that there was difficulty in judging the sound of Nirvana and emphasis was placed on what they shared with the mainstream tradition rather than what they shared with the underground.

…So, in conclusion, can you tell I sometimes think too much if I extrapolate all of that from a 1992 Student Grant cartoon in Britain’s premier adult-orientated comic? Do go read VIZ, it’s good for the soul.

The other week we looked at the songs Nirvana can be shown, on the existing evidence, to have played the most (, which songs they played most consistently over time ( and which album was most dominant ( Today I want to head in the other direction, to the bottom of the table.


As ever, the status of Big Long Now is a tragic situation — it’s an original and unusual song in the Nirvana catalogue and pure bad luck that we can only suspect it was played more. In fact Blandest falls into the same category; the likelihood is that both songs were played in the early spell of 1989 when the biggest gap in known set-lists for Nirvana exists. This would immediately reverse the situation and make two songs from the tail-end of Nirvana’s career (You Know You’re Right and Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip) the lowest entries — the 1993-1994 tour was a spell when Nirvana’s formerly free-wheeling, varied and regularly advancing set-lists gave way to relatively static and unchanging repetition and this would fit.

What’s also noticeable is how the results reinforce how clear-sighted Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were about the status and condition of their songs. It’s absolutely visible that songs that were essentially discarded or served, at best, as b-side or bonus fodder, dominate the list. 17 of the bottom 20 songs are in that category which, given the relatively brief nature of Nirvana’s catalogue is significant; six of the songs made it out on Incesticide, three were b-sides or bonus songs, eight were never released in Cobain’s life time/Nirvana’s life-span.

The remaining three songs — Swap Meet, Sifting and Tourette’s — again reinforce that sense of clear decision in Nirvana’s music. Tourette’s, though fun, was always a filler on In Utero, a track with debatable lyrics and the listing “cufk, tish, sips” in the inlay — its real function lay in being another snipe at criticisms that Cobain mumbled lyrics or was some kind of idiot savant blurting involuntary sounds rather than a man who carefully considered, wrote and re-wrote his lyrics before committing them to a final recording. Swap Meet ties into the early songs on Incesticide in that they show Cobain’s early Nirvana songs to be relatively wordy (and non-repetitive) and, as a consequence, relatively hard to perform live hence the low number of performances. Sifting, meanwhile, was a late addition to Bleach and potentially the candidate for being the song written from scratch in the descriptions of frenzied writing around the time of Bleach; again, it was there to fill space and, remembering Sub Pop structured Bleach to begin with what they thought was Nirvana’s best songs through to their least favourite, of relatively low status — something reflected in it being equally ignored on stage.

Nirvana’s ‘growth spurt’ between 1987-1989 is equally clear. Kurt Cobain’s writing underwent significant changes in the early years as he tried on and discarded various identities. This, consequently, came with much trying on and throwing away of songs too. Fourteen of the songs on the least performed list are definitely pre-1990 compositions while one, Tourette’s, has been said by Krist Novoselic to have been first attempted at that time. It does indicate the linear nature of Cobain’s work, that he tended to move on from sounds and styles with few songs shifting out of or beyond their original time periods to appear on later recordings. That’s also a consequence of Nirvana’s fast recording style; they were highly efficient in studio (partially as a result of relative poverty until 1991) and songs were recorded and used very rapidly.

I’ve stated before, as recently as yesterday, that Incesticide’s Side B is essentially an unreleased 1987 Nirvana EP. The list of least played songs reinforces the fact that, prior to moving onto Sub Pop and beginning to write to fit the grunge audiences, Nirvana had a full album ready to go in January 1988; Erectum, If You Must, Pen Cap Chew, Annorexorcist, Aero Zeppelin, Hairspray Queen, Mexican Seafood, Beeswax and so forth. Nirvana barely performed in 1987 and didn’t have a taxing performance schedule in 1988 (or a stable drummer until after the middle of the year) and this list makes clear that an entire identity was discarded.

As you’ll have noted at some point, particularly if you’ve been checking the blog for a while, the initial reason I kicked it off was I wanted to make use of some leftovers from a book I wrote on the subject of the Nirvana album Incesticide. Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide took me most of last year, most evenings, notes written around daytime activities, scraps of paper from the gym, thoughts in the swimming pool, even a holiday at my parents spent doing extra hours long into the night. In summary though, why did I bother? Why is a half-forgotten compilation from twenty years ago worth another look?

Well, the book is my argument for it, but here’s the overall summary in ten quick n’ easy points:

(1) While rarities collections are increasingly common, in 1992 it was unusual for a band to showcase its abandoned material except posthumously and note the sheer focus on quality; no live cuts, no sketches or half-hearted demos of songs that weren’t finished pieces of work, the time taken to swap out versions that were disliked

(2) Except for the most fanatical Nirvana fans, the vast majority of the songs were unreleased or appeared in a different version from that already visible. It was an extremely generous release both to fans, given the depth of material present, and to friends given the exposure given to The Vaselines

(3) The release was Nirvana’s first major post-fame statement and was Cobain’s first real reaction to his discomfort; he gave it an un-family friendly title and stuck a well-publicised message inside attacking his enemies (the earlier draft having been refused for simply being a screed of personal abuse against certain individuals)

(4) It’s the best opportunity to glimpse Nirvana pre-Bleach/pre-Sub Pop/pre-Grunge. Side B is an EP length 1987 Nirvana showcasing what they sounded like prior to any substantial live experience, without any guidance from a label, simply playing the kind of music they enjoyed at that point; they wanted to channel Melvins, Scratch Acid and Butthole Surfers

(5) The release was the first time Cobain had received so much personal control over an album and he personalised it massively; he supplied the cover art (rather than making suggestions that an art director carried out), he made his first big written address to his fans and selected or discarded possible songs for it depending on his feelings about the songs, their state of completion or whether they were potentially for the next Nirvana release; songs only went onto Incesticide if they were ‘dead’

(6) I would argue, there are games and intentional moves going on with the structure of the entire album; a number of jokes implanted — for example, note how Nevermind Side A finishes with Polly, Incesticide Side A finishes with Polly and In Utero Side A finishes with Dumb which Cobain stated on MTV Unplugged was cribbed from Polly. This also emphasises the unity of Nirvana’s catalogue

(7) A further vendetta played out on Incesticide, outside of the liner notes, was the desire in 1992 to take control of Nirvana’s finances. The Incesticide release featured Downer that Sub Pop had tried to use in 1992 as an incentive for sales of Bleach and Dive, which Sub Pop had used for the same purpose in late 1991. By including those two songs so soon after Sub Pop’s use the opportunity for Sub Pop to profit from Nirvana’s success was reduced

(8) The release was a very specific part of Nirvana’s flight back to the underground post-Nevermind. It sits solidly within a lineage of uglier, less pop releases thus pointing the way to the future of Nirvana and forming part of the reaction against Nevermind’s polished perfection; it was a declaration of the past and of future intent

(9) It’s a vital testament to the way Nirvana abandoned two alternative paths; firstly the new wave orientation of 1987 and then the power-pop/K Records vibe of 1989-1990. Incesticide makes clear that Bleach’s grunge direction wasn’t inevitable, nor was Nevermind’s mainstream/Pixies-influenced rock take either. Incesticide shows what masters Nirvana were of styles prevalent in the alternative rock and indie underground and how they could make all those sounds their own while always moving on — it’s a great statement of Nirvana’s restlessness and how many styles they attempted

(10) It shows how literary Kurt Cobain was; his earliest songs are in fact among his most lyrically complicated and extensive. At one stage it used to be felt that Spank Thru couldn’t possibly have been on Fecal Matter because there’s no way Cobain could be that sophisticated that early; Incesticide shows him to have been a wordy, varied lyricist — one who learnt later to reduce and simplify and to write in pop modes. In terms of non-repeating lines, these were his longest songs

Did I say ten reasons? I could go on. For example, I’d argue that Incesticide is Nirvana’s tribute to Eighties underground music and as such is the best selling examples of a decade of music — the first top-selling true punk album in America. I’d say that With the Lights Out showed that Incesticide really was the cream of Nirvana’s outtakes — that Cobain et al. had cherry-picked the finest in 1992. I’d also point out that given how many songs Cobain wrote in total this is a substantial collection in simple numerical terms. It’s also a demonstration of the more experimental vibes of Nirvana at the same time as showing the contrast between the kinds of material Cobain brought to Nirvana versus the deeper experiments he played with in the late Eighties such as backwards recording, sound collage, voice effects and so forth.

In other words, I wrote about Incesticide because it’s a compilation with a hell of a lot going on. You should check it again and, if I may be so bold, I think my book might help – as it says at the top, order from me directly via or

An intriguing recommendation this week…I’d never heard of Raglans until Tuesday when in discussion with a gentleman from the much underappreciated Irish band Power of Dreams he revealed that is inaccurate and the PoD didn’t play with Nirvana on August 21, 1991 (quotation from the band’s guitarist Keith Walker “We were on the bill for reading 92 (Nirvana’s infamous headline slot) but never got to play our scheduled mean fiddler tent set as proceedings were postponed due to heavy winds for about 3 hours that day/evening.”) Pete pointed out he was now involved with Raglans and just suggested I should give them a look…

…Well, I did. Much love to the farm vibed video intro, this brought back memories of living in Lincolnshire, and then the quality gym sequence…What to say? A hoot. And it just goes on Monty Python lumberjack vibe, a sinister fishing expedition…It’s a montage of good ideas with the band stoically maintaining their gangsta mean mugs throughout. Music wise, bright, active, I like the skittering guitar reminds me of both U2 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the bass pauses and drops at well-judged moments (I like records where I can hear and appreciate the bass-playing, it’s often such an underrated element of a sound.) Combine that with the likeable vocals, the chant-able chorus and well-used cooing… I like!

Anyways, hope you like it too. There’s a free download of the song at too which is helpful. Nice.

Anyways, apologies, no Saturday post, I’m going to be on a boat. If you’d like to see where then do check my friends’ very worthy blog at A sweet couple each with a writing style that makes me chuckle and feel inspired all at once. And they’re right, Felucca does sound like an Italian football player or a foot infection. They were also right that taking advantage of a moment of freedom and taking off to float merrily around Britain for as long as they wish was a good idea, too many people saying “i’ll do it when I retire” in this world.

Simone Weill stated “one has only the choice between God and idolatry.” Strangely I actually agree with the statement; the absence of religious belief doesn’t lead to a void of central meaning, it replaces it with a different basis for belief within which people choose to venerate and devote their lives to things other than a religious entity. Naturally I feel equally happy to sneer at that quest for meaning within career, home, love, parenthood as I do at religion. The core point though is that it isn’t a choice between God and nothing.

The question has been asked many times whether Kurt Cobain’s teenage dalliances with religion, which went as far as Kurt accepting baptism, extended into a mature faith in God. I’m less concerned with that given, if he did possess such faith, then a significant sum of his actions as an adult won’t exactly get him much sympathy at the Last Judgment. What intrigues me more is that his life does possess a genuine quest to restore a central meaning to his activity — Weill would rephrase that as an idolatry.

The most obvious answer that could be given is that Cobain idolised music, but I would state it was a deeper urge. The component he emphasised was, firstly, his words rather than his instrumental expression — he strongly dismissed his skills as a guitarist, little of his music exists without the intention being to cloak it with lyrics. Likewise, even if his self-criticism was overstated he was no guitar worshipper, no untrammelled explorer of the instrument’s possibilities, nor a player overawed by its history — he was dismissive not just of his skills with it but also of the instrument and its tiredness. His words clearly took significant work with his crucial spells of song-writing all coinciding with significant time alone to draft on paper — more so, he was a committed journal-writer throughout his adulthood with his writing activity extending far beyond music. Added to this is his extensive artistic efforts, a further expressive medium he stretched in various directions out as far as video efforts same as he took his musical efforts beyond the guitar onto drums and across various tape experiments.

My argument would be that the expression of self was Cobain’s primary purpose and the form of idolatry was therefore the internal drives and wishes that demanded self-expression uber-alles. I see no evidence of a genuine religious belief in the actions of Cobain but, to be fair, I’m based in the basically non-religious U.K. where church attendance, formal church allegiance and formal belief have all given way to a more generic pick-n’-choose spirituality and a vague belief in ‘something out there’ unaccompanied by impositions on the physical individual in the here-and-now. There’s no specific evidence of Cobain’s genuine beliefs one way or the other beyond the adolescent ‘trying on’ of identities that might have helped him fit in with where he was at that time.

As a sidebar I saw this beautiful post in which the writer states “his suicide note states at the beginning ‘dear Buddha’”. Wonderful. And whether that’s accurate or not I do believe the world can always do with more laughing with, not at:

So, what’s your chosen idolatry? Mine appears to be information, constant consumption of information at the expense of financial wisdom, time to contemplate, social stuff, etc.

I’d like to assure you that the ‘stunning news’ line was definitely a touch sarcastic. One thing I did take from the Halperin/Wallace Cobain conspiracy books was a reconfirmed sense that often the news is a manipulated object in which hard-working (indeed over-worked) people — with harsh deadlines and a need to pump a certain amount of news product per-day, per-week, per-month — take the easy route and occasionally take some non-news to bulk things out and fill space giving them time to focus on items that deserve and require more time and energy.

…I know this to be true because I think it’s fair to say I’ve occasionally done it myself here on — there have been weeks where the data work or background thinking for a piece has required substantial hours to grind out (and remember I have a proper job too so I leave the house at 7.20am, I return home at 6.30pm, I sometimes work much later, I generally maintain some kinda social life, I do exercise sometimes too all of which compresses and compacts the time available to prepare the blog posts for here; Allahu akbar, praise be to God for giving me a high typing speed.) When those times come around I’ll admit to dashing off quick thoughts, ramming an undigested idea out into the world always with the intention to return to it later. I even try to keep a lightweight piece or two tucked in my belt for emergencies.

In the case of this article regarding Aberdeen, State of Washington we’re greeted with the revelatory news that the town is going to keep the Cobain lyric adorning the town sign. On the positive side, 300 people can make a difference to a local situation — in a world where the might of little people acting locally is often underrated it’s nice to see more evidence of that truth. As an example local to me:

This pub is just down my road. Not the finest looking building but there’s been a pub there since before the founding of the United States of America and it’s a real boon to the area. So far at least the motivation and mobilisation of local residents has kept its new owners from bulldozing it despite several attempts (ongoing) and the kicking out of the people running the pub. My fingers are crossed that the resistance keeps going.

I digress, in the case of the Aberdeen sign, I admit I read this article with a touch of cynicism; Aberdeen is famous for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and…Yup, that’s the only reason most people will have ever heard of Aberdeen as anything more than a brief mention in a bio somewhere. I’m not convinced that the town would ever seriously consider removing the minor league tribute to their most famous resident. But, on the other hand, I am fairly sure that reporting they were considering doing it may have drawn some attention to the town.

I admit I was surprised they only received 300 messages but I’m wondering whether the supposed ‘threat’ was so local that only a tiny number of people were even aware such an idea was being discussed and the whole affair was drawn to a close before it could go further.

I have to thank Tom Grant too at this point for making the tape available of Courtney Love admitting to having planted stories in the media; the tapes he’s put up are worth a listen just to lend some colour to things. And hey, in things that meant something to me this week? I dropped a mention of the last few articles detailing my objections to the murder theories onto the Justice for Kurt page on Facebook, being respectful, and the individual running the site took the time to like the link and acknowledge me — now that really does mean something to me. We may be divided on one issue but we each enjoy and even adore the music of Nirvana and that’s enough. So, if I might be allowed a dedication, I’d like to dedicate today to decent Nirvana fans because, as the gentleman at Justice for Kurt says: “Hey I appreciate you taking interest in the subject and…even if we have different opinions, it’s nice to hear that people still care for Cobain.”

Time to finish off I think. Today I simply want to deep dive into the supposed evidence and leave the whole topic there. If you haven’t done so yet go listen to Tom Grant’s taped evidence at and note that he’s only released tapes that support the more innocuous of the claims he makes in this book — most of those featuring Rosemary Carroll are Grant talking with Rosemary just agreeing that she’s doubtful and still shocked by it all. Barely any of the tapes are more than a matter of seconds, the topics are barely focused and the only interesting one is the minute and a half exchange over the existence of a letter in a bed. Enjoy!

The issue of the use of Kurt Cobain’s credit card after his death is often cited as an ‘ah-ha’ moment for the murder case but there’s no evidence whatsoever that the card was taken from the crime scene. Two reasonable arguments, firstly, technical error, secondly, theft or loss in the days prior to death, are available. A third option is supplied within Love & Death which is that, as the authors state they suspected, a member of what they call “Cobain’s entourage” could use the card number without the card being present — essentially there are three good alternatives rather than the killer being dopey enough to use their victim’s card. Frankly, having executed this murder cunningly concealing it as a suicide, it seems unlikely the killer would take the risk of stealing the credit card given even the merest idiot knows that would create an electronic record. Of course, if the (non)killer was Courtney’s agent she may have mentioned having cancelled the credit cards but that’s supposition so strike it from the record. Far more importantly, in the conspiratorial version of events this greedy killer took the credit card but left $120 sitting on the floor plus a further $63 in Cobain’s pocket — $183 dollars in untraceable hard cash that could never have been connected back to Cobain was abandoned but an easily noticeable credit card, that if used would create an electronic record, was taken.

The authors also dwell on the absence of fingerprints yet, again, there’s a sleight of hand taking place; they state clearly on page 222 “when the police dusted for fingerprints, they actually found four latent prints.” What they are really referring to is the absence of other prints. They disingenuously question why there are no prints from Dylan Carlson or the salesman from March 30 nine days before— I can understand a buyer giving the object a casual wipe on the way home and nine day old prints not being guaranteed. Kurt Cobain’s body lay for around three days in an unheated space with the moisture levels and so forth affected by the joyously wet world of the Pacific North-West. There’s no reason to believe that residual oil from fingertips would be unaffected. The book also describes that different conditions make it more or less likely for fingerprints to be left anyway. Again, it’s a non-evidential point.

The authors at least accept that the gun was wedged tight in Cobain’s hands. But they move into la-la-land again with a bitty and fragmented discussion of where the gun blast would leave the shotgun lying after firing. It’s quite remarkable, someone is genuinely trying to scientifically demonstrate the likely place a gun would fall without definite proof of body position when fired, of force of shot, of position of mouth on gun, of tightness of grip, of gun-butt position — they’ve no valid evidence at all with which to either cast doubt or make claims. It’s pure fantasy.

Next there’s the matter of the claim that Kurt Cobain’s note was in fact a statement that he was quitting Nirvana/music; they make it repeatedly yet this is palpable nonsense. The note rambles widely over comments around the personality of his daughter, of his wife, it doesn’t mention Nirvana by name, it dwells on personal feelings of fear, hatred, disappointment, sadness — one could read, at most, two paragraphs of it as part of a resignation statement but no more. The claim also rests on the bizarre idea that Cobain left the statement lying around so his killer (presumably while escorting Kurt and a shotgun from the house) scooped it up “ah, helpful! A note that just happens to read like a suicide note!” Perhaps the killer stood over Kurt like a school teacher and made him write it? It’s a poor claim and a deeply selective note reading.

The authors move on and claim that Tom Grant has evidence, that he never shows them, that Courtney was practising handwriting. The book deftly evades ever comparing the supposed sample to the Cobain note; that would have helped but it seems that either the samples didn’t match, or there’s no proof they even existed. It also relies on a fascinating set-up in which Courtney Love mailed or hand-delivered the chosen killer after Kurt’s unplanned leave from rehab to supply a note — it’s the only way this piece about handwriting is relevant, she’d have had to write and mail the note on the off-chance Cobain turned up in a killable scenario. Again, there’s only one man’s word for any of it but it posits that Courtney was already planning to somehow lure Cobain into a situation in which a suicide scenario could be set-up and arranged which seems bizarre given she doesn’t know where he is. Meanwhile, as I describe in Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide, the note is entirely in line with Cobain’s use of images found elsewhere in his writing, its loaded with personal references and descriptions that match with his other writings and the tone, right down to the self-depreciation, fits his known work; there’s nothing at all to show the note isn’t the work of Kurt D. Cobain.

Failing to make a case for the note being a forgery the authors have such threadbare material they instead shoehorn in the claim that the final four lines were written by someone else. I can’t tell if they’re saying Courtney practiced two versions of Cobain’s handwriting just for the occasion, or that she somehow got to the scene to write them in before the Police got there, or that the cunning killer wrote them to leave a handwriting sample to be picked up at the scene — either way, Courtney couldn’t write the last four lines without having written the rest of the note (if delivered to the killer) which makes a nonsense of the ‘two forms of handwriting’ claim. Unless they’re arguing Courtney didn’t write it at all and that the killer appended the last four lines in which case their argument about her practising handwriting is shown to be irrelevant. Certainly the authors show Ms Love to be quite a woman, I mean, WOW, she’s permanently on the phone, she’s in prison, in hospital, on drugs, preparing to release an album, running round in a limousine arranging contract killings, mailing off notes, practising her handwriting, oh, and being a mother on top of it. It’s a jumble of nonsense.

Again, the topic shifts — that’s the crucial modus operandi of these books, given the absence of any deep or meaningful evidence for anything that is stated the authors simply have to tag together a wide enough variety of material to hide the gaping holes. The discussion moves to Rome in March; again, there’s claim and counter-claim that there was/wasn’t a note wedged in with doubt whether it was/wasn’t a suicide note — again, no proof. Over and over again what really bothers me is that entire arguments are made on the basis of nothing more than the statements of Tom Grant. He claims Courtney was attempting to mislead him, or told him things he found untrue yet, over and again, the only word available is that of Tom Grant.

The matter of the unlocked balcony door is brought up — the possibility that someone clambered over the balcony and dropped the nine-ten foot to the ground below having killed Cobain. They claim that the Police are being deceptive and that the door was not, in fact, barricaded therefore anyone could have been in the room. Again, it’s a disingenuous statement; there’s still a door with a chair with a pile of gardening supplies on it positioned closely enough to the door as to make it hard for anyone to slip out and to end up being reported as ‘wedged.’ More importantly, to me anyway, it’s simply unnecessary for the killer to have to leap spectacularly over a balcony railing and risk injury. The victim is dead, the scene is posed, the killer can simply stroll out the door the same way they and their victim walked in. If they fear observation or detection then a stunning dive off a balcony and crash-down is definitely not the way to go. Instead, let’s just say that Cobain had no reason to lock doors that didn’t lead to an exit — he wanted privacy so he locked the only true entrance. Superman wasn’t going to fly in.

The rest of the book’s 270 odd pages is basically made up of hearsay, discussion of unrelated matters, quotations of dubious relevance (no, sorry, the fact Leland Cobain things Kurt was murdered isn’t evidence — sorry.) Adding it all together, is it possible to say something odd was going on? I mean, think of it; massive heroin dose, unlocked door, no fingerprints, missing credit card, apparently unclear behaviour from wife and others, unopened drinks can at the scene, Allen Wrench — surely this is all weight for the murder claim?

Again, take it apart again; no proof that the heroin dose was so massive or of Cobain’s tolerance level, unlocked door still partially blocked and not leading to an exit, there were fingerprints, better arguments around the credit card, no proof bar Tom Grant’s word for most of what he claims about wife and others, no proven relevance of the drinks can, no proof whatsoever (and a public denial) from Mr Wrench. Having a load of unexplored avenues doesn’t mean there’s a case to be made. The weight of evidence is still far more on the side of suicide; very much so. Missing so hard to locate, killed by own gun found in own hand, only true entrance/exit locked, note in own handwriting, major drug addiction, estrangement from all except drug connections, marital breakdown, professional breakdown, apparent depressive tendencies and no antipathy to the idea of suicide.

I’ve now read the two books, the PDF link given the other day, the two main websites, chunks of the Harrison book and the end result is I see a batch of people making money and/or publicity off the idea that Kurt Cobain was murdered. I see no reason to accept that Tom Grant has been unfairly treated, or that the Seattle Police were negligent, or that any of the claims made for the murder theory stand up to any examination at all. But what the hey, it’s all kinda fun isn’t it? Maybe that’s all this is now, a twenty year old death only lives on as infotainment.

Note that this post is one of four linked articles on the topic:

As I stated the other day, I’m glad Wallace and Halperin took time to rehash their investigation in a second volume; if you want to read a distillation of the murder theory and the crucial evidence then Love and Death is ‘the one to read’. While Who Killed Kurt Cobain is barely coherent and poorly written, this volume is a far more readable summarisation, however, being a straight rewrite (and a fairly egregious bit of profiteering, two books with barely 10% difference) the book is still guilty of all the flaws of the first volume. At least it placed a few more clear cards on the table and finally spent more time on the evidence than on name-calling.

…But, to repeat, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. One of my issues with the entire murder subject is the way opinions are substituted for fact of any sort. For example, while Kurt Cobain’s hatred of the media is well-documented, this book is happy to credit that he had revealed to one writer, David Fricke , that in late 1993 Cobain was as happy as happy could be. There’s a raft of similar quotations in here to support the idea that Cobain wasn’t sad or depressed and/or that he feared for his life, yet it all adds up to the kinds of statements that surround the average murder event, the kinds of things people say about the neighbour with imprisoned children in the backyard or the child who shoots their classmates; “oh, he was such a quiet boy, I would never have thought they could do it…” It’s life run by external spectators believing they have an absolute insight into the inner world of an individual and that their brief personal experiences sum up the whole of what someone is or isn’t.

The schizophrenia in the Halperin/Wallace books is undimmed with them trying to simultaneously acknowledge Cobain was troubled, while saying he was untroubled, saying he was happy while admitting he was a major drug addict, saying he was positive about life while saying he was terrified for his life and of/for his wife — it all depends which page you’re on. The authors ignore clear statements from Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and others in the year since Cobain’s death that they knew he was genuinely troubled at the time and focus on those saying he wasn’t. On one page they even quote Mark Lanegan saying “I never knew Kurt to be suicidal, I just knew that he was going through a really tough time” as if that doesn’t clearly refute their statements about how happy he supposedly was. The way they do it is to try and argue that it’s possible to see, in advance, that someone is suicidal; that there’s some dividing line between depressed, miserable, enduring a hard time versus about to kill oneself.

The authors compound previous literary tricks in this volume. A primary one all the way through is deviating from a subject where they’re on weak ground to a concrete quotation or statement about an unrelated topic — it provides the initial topic with an unwarranted gloss of credibility. Trying to be positive about what they’ve done here though, their volume does make a much more substantial case for the unsavoury and untrustworthy nature of Courtney Love — but no more than fair observance of her shape-shifting and odd behaviour over the years has yielded for most observers. There’s still no case for murder in the behaviour or evidence they provide. It’s a tale in which the only people given credence are those the authors feel are supporting their case; some individuals are only permitted credibility for that brief time. Mr. Grant, on the other hand, gets away with comments that at this distance look feeble such as “I can’t go into too many details about what I learned when I arrived that morning…Some of the details will be very important for the prosecutor who eventually tries this case and I don’t want to tip my hand too early.” Twenty years…Twenty years…Permit me to dub thee “liar.”

Remember also that this isn’t just the tale of one murder; by the end of the book the implication is that Love is involved in the deaths of El Duce, of a police officer and of Kristen Pfaff on top of her husband. Her accomplices are the medical examiner, to the investigating officers (the entire murder squad and chain of command are, its implied, also incompetent or corrupt and only one guy who stopped being a police officer at age 29 after he ‘burned out’ over twenty years before these events has the truth), to the Cobain’s nanny, to Eric Erlandson, to Dylan Carlson — it’s a full blown conspiracy hooking in all and sundry. Everyone is lying or hiding the truth including the Cobain’s attorney who is apparently hiding the mystical ‘truth’ whereas is seems more likely she might have worked out Mr. Grant was nuts and was the kind of untrustworthy and paranoid character who was taping every conversation with anyone he spoke to.

The selectiveness continues; only the evidence that supports their case is allowed to stand whether that regards the crime scene, the autopsy, the events surrounding the discovery of Cobain’s body — it’s a serve-yourself buffet in which they pick-and-choose which bits of what anyone says are fact and whether people are talking rubbish. For example, while claiming that the autopsy reports have been unavailable and crucially prevent Mr. Grant making his case, they simultaneously state that the autopsy reports were leaked. This is important because they credit this leak with revealing, definitively, Cobain’s blood morphine level then make an unfounded assumption that these results would have meant nothing to the medical examiner and a further assumption that not one of the professionals conducting the toxicology tests would say anything about what their tests meant. They hang their strongest evidence on several assumptions and a contradiction. That’s where the blood heroin piece falls; no matter how many opinions one gathers around a potentially fictitious number, the number is still unproven.

Let’s take it at face value though. This piece did give me pause; heroin, if injected direct into the blood stream should, in most cases, act almost immediately and in the quantity claimed is lethal. The difficulty is, however, that, beyond the absence of evidence that they had the correct amount, there’s also a lack of scientific evidence related to tolerance levels among heroin addicts — it’s pretty hard to measure dosages in a sufficient number of people and see if it kills them. A study is cited featuring only 189 fatal self-poisonings with opiates and yet the authors don’t recognise the oddity they create; they argue that one of those people had a level as high as Cobain’s which, contrary to their argument, is proof that someone could have a level that high and that levels do fluctuate between individuals. The book has already pointed out that quite a number of addicts have developed high tolerance and can continue functioning for quite a while after injecting — again, there’s no evidence revealing the tolerance levels of Kurt Cobain so the argument is only made by statements related to non-millionaire addicts.

The authors deviate from their central thread in a bamboozling array of pseudo-science that may/may not be relevant. They claim one study shows no one committed suicide with opiates in north-west London for twenty years which, again, doesn’t hinder the argument that Cobain did self-anaesthetise before shooting himself, the cited study in fact puts Kurt into the 20% who died of physical injury. They cite another study regarding likelihood of suicide among missing persons; again, the stat that only 1 in 2000 missing persons’ cases end in suicide isn’t particularly useful because it proves that a number do. Furthermore, showing that an event (suicide) that only happens to a tiny minority of people only happens to a tiny minority of people is irrelevant to this case. I can’t tell if this is a deliberate attempt to throw numbers at the audience because of a belief that the audience isn’t statistically literate or if it’s because the authors aren’t able to decipher the numbers themselves. The authors rapidly abandon the attempt to add science to disproving the suicide verdict and retreat back to unrelated comparisons and personal anecdote where they’re more comfy.

Pages 98 to 104 briefly describe the intriguing phenomenon of staged suicides; great stuff and genuinely the discussion fascinated me. In terms of the Kurt Cobain case though it simply proves to be further smoke and mirrors; the authors mash six separate sources together, citing not particularly relevant or connected information from two books, then, in contrast to the Cobain case, they dwell on cases where there was very clear evidence at crime scene to show that homicide was a strong possibility. They often slip entirely into being misleading, for example, the statement on page 100 “the typical homicide victim — a man between 25 and 34 killed at home with a gun — fits a profile eerily similar to Cobain’s” is utterly devoid of meaning; firstly, finding that he’s the right age to be killed doesn’t prove he was but also males in that age range are also more likely to commit suicide too. There’s no reward for soundly identifying Cobain as a 27 year old male. There’d be more reward if it supported or refuted that he killed himself but it doesn’t.

Note that this post is one of four linked articles on the topic:

Cuthbert was Bored

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” perennial cheerful soul Tennessee Williams had a way with good lines. At the commencement of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Slivers of Incesticide it was just me, alone, working away to put together the notes to convince myself I had enough of value to make myself want to write more. From very early on, however, it relied not just on a touch of courage and desire, but on the willingness of a number of people to take a look at a few questions, to help me consider title, to do ALL the design work, to assist with publishing contacts, to offer feedback, to help promote, to consider or review.

Naturally it left me in a mood to show similar support of others, whether local musicians, distant musicians, those making their own writing efforts. One item spotted via a friend was a gentleman called Uli Meyer who was using KickStarter to get his first children’s book into print:

If you take a moment to trace back through the updates you’ll see a remarkable amount of solo energy and effort going into this endeavour — take a look at update 15 from February, at the evolution of the owl from one set of initial drawings to a more recent version requiring a look back and update of past drafts. The constant reiteration, review, amendment, replacement is a core part of any such endeavour, in my case, reviewing and re-reviewing 72,000 words, in the case of Mr. Meyer, endless versions of the pictures in addition to the whittling down of the words to a core spine — the difficulty of reduction is oft-underestimated.

There’s a mass propaganda campaign around the ‘do it yourself’ value of modern technology; a way of selling more stuff via exploitation of individuals’ desire to create. It doesn’t ever dwell on the hard work involved in a do it yourself effort whether promoting a band, or in the case of Cuthbert was Bored, mailing out a couple hundred copies of a book by hand, extensive work even after the pleasurable part (drawing, painting, playing, writing, whatever…) is done. The costs too are underrated, the very pleasant letter from Uli that accompanies my copy of the book (plus calendar and postcards!) adds up Scanning Artwork (£1,250), printing costs (£6,400), KickStarter fee plus Amazon fees (£1,215), shipping to backers (£1,200), book designer (£1,000) on top of several other smaller sums resulting in a total of £12,165. Incredible.

There’s a significant degree of worship paid to ‘the ones who make it’; far less to the purer energy of those who maybe won’t sell a million or have a name in lights but who strive for something because they can (and there really is no reason anyone can’t.) On that level, I’d like to salute and simultaneously toast Mr. Uli Meyer for his work on Cuthbert was Bored and, if I may, I’d like to urge you to consider contributing to him via KickStarter or by buying a copy of the book on Amazon — I have my copy here on my desk, I think it’s beautifully prepared and I can see the work that has gone into this and it’ll keep me company for a while on a grey day in London, something whimsical and skilful to while away time.

Here’s my copy of the book — and strewth, it really is beautifully produced and the artwork is stunningly detailed, just been flicking through, love the cover inside with the pencil (ink?) outlines of Cuthbert — plus my calendar and cards all on my desk this evening. Thanks Uli, we’ve never met but I think you know my friend Inga, and you’ve just made my weekend better.

Doesn’t matter what it is, put some blood into each day. Do something.