Archive for July, 2013

Parasite

A first thank you, Mr. Marcus Gray was the individual who first shared the Mojo article over at LiveNirvana. Much appreciated! Next, further beautiful entries in Mr. Gray’s Parasite art project:

PARASITE laundry

I’ve commented on it before (https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/03/02/art-on-the-end-a-fresh-cobain-artwork/) and still find so much to enjoy in these knowing glimpses of meaningfulness that rest on the bedrock of two decades of Nirvana/Cobain knowledge to gain their deeper associations. The brain flickers back through other images and photos when faced with Marcus’ work – a chain between past works and this present shot. The bridge with KURT etched into the paintwork stands out for me also. Digest and enjoy, there’s a fine mind at work here playing visual games with over-informed viewers.

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On the In Utero subject, for the best synthesis of information and options get over to LiveNirvana and enjoy the 69 pages (!) of the ‘Speculation Thread’ – I’m just summarising and giving my take here. Thank you to http://nirvananews.tumblr.com/image/56900709444, for the picture and, alas, unfortunately for rather knocking the wind out of everyone’s sails. In summary, the Live n’ Loud Audio/DVD components are confirmed, the debate remains around the precise contents of Disc 1 and Disc 2 which seems to be listing:

Remastered Original Album
B-Sides & Bonus Tracks

Original Album 2013 Mix
Demos

I’ve gone bug-eyed trying to zoom, refocus and discern the slightly obscured text on the picture of Disc One but it reads right to me. In summary, it looks like the Mojo article didn’t hide or veil any of the rarities on the release – I guess they somehow scooped the exclusive.

With the full album remastered plus the remix from Steve Albini the track count changes to:
Disc 1: 13 track original album, plus Marigold, MV, I Hate Myself & I Want to Die, Verse Chorus Verse (Sappy) = 17 definite
Disc 2: 13 track original album, plus SA from Rio, 1990 Marigold, Word of Mouth instrumentals x 4 = 19
Live n’ Loud: 17 tracks times two = 34, plus a clutch of bonus video footage
Total: 70 plus the bonus video material

I’m open to seeing this change a bit but not by much – if the bonus video footage and any unmentioned songs added up to ten, or even just to five further tracks I’d expect the release to say 75 or 80 tracks. So don’t hold your breath for more than the stated content is all I’m saying. I don’t foresee Universal withholding mention of other significant unheard material if it was to feature. Disappointed? A touch. It seems to suggest that Universal is run by audiophiles who appreciate a slight tweak to a song, or by dance/pop fans who haven’t quite realised that rock fans are far less impressed by remixes, something Cobain and co. never saw fit to indulge in during their lifespan as a band. Again, I’m open to reinterpretations and reconstructions but ultimately I’m happier with lower sound quality but more intriguing vestigial practice material showing songs coming together. But there’s no happy answer, I remember With the Lights Out getting flak for including Cobain’s acoustic home demos because of the low fidelity and whacked out style they displayed – what the hey, I loved them.

Oh, incidentally…This wins my ‘most misleading title’ award.
http://consequenceofsound.net/2013/07/nirvana-to-reissue-in-utero-with-70-bonus-tracks/

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http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130730005311/en/Nirvana-Utero-20th-Anniversary-Multi-Format-Reissue-September

http://www.mojo4music.com/3679/nirvana-exclusive-in-utero-at-20/

And for the record, give up on checking http://www.nirvana.com, it’s the most underused website online – just go to the Facebook page and/or join LiveNirvana because the guys there are stunningly well informed.

The crucial lines for me are, of course, “70 remastered, remixed, rare, unreleased and live recordings” plus “3-CD/1-DVD” and the nice teaser of “never-before-released bonus performances” – all due out on September 24, 2013. Nice…Nice…

What to expect? Well, getting the easy bit out of the way, MTV Live n’ Loud in DVD and audio…So that’s the following songs:

Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants, Rape Me, Sliver, Pennyroyal Tea, Scentless Apprentice, All Apologies, Heart-Shaped Box, Blew, The Man Who Sold The World, School, Come As You Are, Lithium, About A Girl, then my favourite bit, the sprawling Endless, Nameless jam section.

That’s 17 songs…Double counted? I suspect so. 34 songs out of 70.

First disc is pretty obvious, the whole of In Utero’s 13 tracks, plus Marigold, MV, I Hate Myself & I Want to Die, Verse Chorus Verse (Sappy) – 51 songs…That leaves 19 to debate. Let’s add on the Albini originals of Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies, plus the Scott Litt mix of Pennyroyal Tea – 16 to go.

The Mojo article fills in a few more gaps; Scentless Apprentice from Rio de Janeiro, the original Dave Grohl demo of Marigold from 1990, four instrumentals (Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Frances Farmer will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, Dumb and Tourettes) all from the October 1992 Word of Mouth sessions (seems that the Rape Me instrumental is either not there or was skipped off the list)…Ten songs left. Oh, I’ll leave aside what the bonus tracks are on the DVD…Not a clue.

I’ll leave it there – I’m actually pretty pleased by the sounds of this. I love the Endless Nameless section of Live n’ Loud and the inclusion of that set was a given. I’d be delighted to have Albini’s remix plus top quality editions of some of the stuff I’ve had on a bootleg a long time. The instrumentals makes me very happy and frankly I don’t think one can ever have enough of the early messier versions of Scentless Apprentice (I think the live feedback version from Brazil ’93 is wicked, likewise the take on With the Lights Out)…

I think we’ll see the instrumental of Rape Me from October 1992 plus the jam from that session which was previously seen in part on the WTLO DVD (great!) If the eight remaining songs contained the audio of Onwards into Countless Battles and Seasons in the Sun from Rio, plus that shred from February known as lullaby, maybe the earlier Laundry Room instrumental of Frances Farmer – neat. For completeness I’d ask for the January 1991 takes of All Apologies and Radio Friendly Unit Shifter – everyone knows by now that Sound City Sappy is never emerging but I’ll cross my fingers again here. More?

Heck, if I wanted to lose my mind then sure I’d say the ‘Song in D’ Sound City take. I’d lump on the July 1993 attempts to do an acoustic rendition of Heart Shaped Box too!

Ultimately, I won’t be greedy. It’s hard to resist, as a collector, the desire to pile in every take of everything – heck, I’m still listening to that massive Stooges boxset of every word and note from the Funhouse sessions…But ultimately I don’t want to end up sounding like that clip from The Mighty Boosh about the rare vinyl…So! Thank you Nirvana, sounds like a fun September ahead! THANK YOU!

And please just breathe and enjoy the glory of the Boosh…

From the self-mocking double entendre in the title, its very clear that the finest of Nirvana’s video/DVD releases had the hands of Kurt Cobain all over it.

It’s never been clear precisely how much work was still required in the hands of Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic but they certainly acted as fair stewards of their erstwhile comrade’s vision. So many of the elements of the video tie back to previous desires of his work. Cobain’s Journals contain brown sample pages from a ring-bound journal; there are several pages of description for each In Utero song including a future tense in the description of Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, “boy, this will really get the A&R man’s blood boiling” that seems to date these pages to somewhere between Pachyderm and In Utero’s release, mid 1993 efforts – there’s no proof this is accurate, however there’s no footage used from after January 1993 and barely any time in 1994 for this to have been a major focus. A page onward and there’s a letter to Kevin Kerslake describing a treatment of “the long form” listing footage he wants using. The mention of Kerslake also appears to mesh with his early role in preparing treatments for Heart Shaped Box in mid-1993 prior to leaving that project and subsequently suing the band.

Certainly the treatment described in the Journals differs from the final result; why would be a matter of speculation but it certainly avoids some royalty problems by not dipping back beyond the Grohl years (i.e., not using the Rhino Records in-store footage with Jason Everman and Chad Channing) and not featuring other musicians and their songs (the desire to have Molly’s Lips performed with Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines from Reading).

Certain ideas are already clearly in place, however. Firstly, the use of jumbled non-song footage is in place with his notes describing having Dave talking about bands, Kurt asking the director to “start my rant just as I say Black Flag, Flipper…” Likewise a demand for visual distractions is added at the foot of the page consisting of “the scene where I hand the guitar to the audience” and continuing by asking for the scene where he harassed the cameramen in Rio by spitting on cameras and waving his penis in front of the lens. He asks for the word ‘Bronchitis’ to be flashing on screen throughout Aneurysm but instead has to settle on the final rendering for a substantial quantity of foreign subtitling throughout the video that ultimately serves no function bar defacement.

The interest in slicing one performance into another is also in place and not a new Cobain technique. The Montage of Heck was built around such cuts between related and unrelated material and looking back at the Nirvana In Bloom video the visual drama is created by the break-away from the clean-cut image into the dress-wearing, stage-wrecking conclusion. Cobain links explicitly to the latter by asking for it to be included in this video and replaying the precise same cut by asking for the juxtaposition of the Top of the Pops (“equivalent of US’s American Bandstand”) performance with the In Bloom video which parodied American Bandstand. It went further in the precision of his vision; he asked for the Top of the Pops performance, the parodic ‘straight’ miming the band did that evening with Cobain virtually swallowing the mic, to replace the ‘straight’ half of the In Bloom video with only the back-half, the dresses and destruction piece, to feature. The curtailed and restricted real-life performance would replace the curtailed and restricted homage component.

The cutting between statements and musical realities seen on Montage of Heck is best exemplified by Come as You Are. In the Journals Cobain already notes “Rock Star Lesson: when your guitar is out of tune, sing out of tune along with it” – in the video his last statement in interview before they cut into the song reiterates “play whatever you want, as sloppy as you want, so long as its good and has passion.” The subsequent song rendition is snarled, roared, ruined…Beautifully so. One of Nirvana’s known ‘soft’ songs is turned into a feedback n’ scream fest.

The song cuts are apparently already planned if the “keep Amsterdam audio when first change happens” statement in Journals clearly refers to the movement between the intro of Reading ’92, then the performance in Amsterdam – with the statement ‘first change’ implying he’s already clear that there’ll be a further cut which fits the move to the Rio performance.

The undermining of Nirvana’s media image is a given throughout the video; the constant presence of the subtitles emphasises that all the interviews used are media productions and trustworthy/untrustworthy on that basis, they’re product, not necessarily honest conversation. Having emphasised the artificiality of the interview portions, Cobain and the band insist on using the most overt confrontation between camera and band with the spitting and flashing from Rio. The ‘blinding’ of the all-seeing cameras, the chasing of cameramen who are normally chasing him, the deliberate unveiling of that which the cameras will not show even though the media considers every other element of his life fair game…It’s a series of serious games each of which has a point. The band even wraps its other most flagrant media confrontation – the opening of Reading ’92 when the rumours about the band and Cobain’s health were at their worst and Nirvana responded with one of their longest and most impressive shows. The visual joke of Cobain shrouded in a wheelchair is the most obvious but alongside that he chose to sing a sliver of The Rose from the Bette Middler film of the same name which is about the self-destruction of a media star under the pressures of fame.

The video, therefore, continues Cobain’s fixation on the media, his long-held liking for wedging different elements together and the desire to evade and damage the rock star macho image by ensuring the footage of Nirvana in lingerie appears within five minutes of the start and reoccurs later. I have great difficulty believing that the insertion of the version of Love Buzz from Dallas, Texas that ends in a fight with a bouncer isn’t another case of Cobain pulling surprises and adding another uncomfortable moment to a brilliant video collage.

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Definitely Nirvana-related. I mean, heck, its a gimme indie rock master-class given the presence of Lou Barlow, Murph and Dale Crover. Mr. Adam Harding, I salute thee, thrilled the first album from Dumb Numbers is etched and ready to go…Listen to a track from the album, Redrum, here:

http://www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com/dumb-numbers-st.html

Slow build, fine lilting blue-toned intro before the band crashes in, deftly turned breaks as the song steers into the next section, breathes, then the voice enters only just in time to drown in the music, another instrumental colour weaved through, thicker liquid sewn through a cresting wave.

You’ll have seen me rave on Dumb Numbers before, Adam came to my attention with a fine cover of Nirvana’ Do-Re-Mi (check it!!!) and then shocked me by sharing three songs all impeccable, each a totally different sound and vibe, clear talent, made me think this was an outfit I needed to start following; its been a while since I felt the alt-rock thrill… These guys did it. There’s a trailer online too – Mr. Harding is quite a prolific video artist too so I’m making the assumption that the dancing dessert/jellyfish was his concept…Hypnotic:

So, I’ll admit I bought one of the limited edition pink n’ purple vinyl…This is a label I’ve been happy to support all year, they’ve got quite a few jewels for lovers of leftfield rock music plus its based out of Indiana which makes it feel tres exotique to a Brit like me who couldn’t find it on a map. The cover art of this release is by David Lynch if i was going to namedrop once more – reminiscent for me of Swans The Burning World album from 1989…But the colourings…I hate to say it…More sexy. Sexy alt-rock? I’ll go contemplate that thinking for the rest of the day. Please enjoy and support your indie rock bands – for they may be the Cobain’s of the next generation…

http://saladdaysdc.com/

For the record, Ian MacKaye is on my list alongside Johnny Rotten, Kurt Cobain, Michael Gira and Thurston Moore as one of the most epoch-making figures in punk rock over the past thirty years. I make the judgment not on record sales or temporary tabloid worthiness but on being a catalyst for numerous bands and resulting strands of musical endeavour. A sincere salute.

The gentlemen behind this film have entered the production phase but, as they’re essentially self-funding this, I can only encourage and support their request for donations toward the conclusion of this work.

http://saladdaysdc.com/donate/

The film seems to provide the cinematic counterpoint to the excellent Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital. The surprising quality of the footage, the slivers of revealing interview…And yes, Dave Grohl lines up to discuss his time in DC stars Scream.

By synthesising two guys tied to the North-West grunge scene, with their new drummer from the East Coast hardcore scene, Nirvana essentially placed a full-stop on the underground scene of the Eighties. While various bands and outfits dragged the overall genre in new directions at various points of the decade, the defining geographic entities were Washington DC and Seattle, the defining labels became Dischord and Sub Pop.

There’s a fair argument that the latter learned from the former. Their impact came from tying themselves so firmly to a specific location, they were not just labels based in a particular location, putting out bands who happened to be from a certain place; they made their identity synonymous with the city from which they were from and during their defining days they bound the bands on each label to that same specific identity.

The more open geography of labels such as SST or Alternative Tentacles gathered up many of the best bands playing but never unified those bands. The DC/Seattle identities gave the illusion of a gang, a home turf, people known to each other and gathered round the label flag. That sense of intimacy made each label stand out and makes it impossible to separate the label from the city and the bands from either. It’s comparable to the way bands are regularly portrayed as ‘bands of brothers’. That united front can equally apply to a label or a place and seems equally attractive; a community of people choosing to believe in and support a sound, an approach, a philosophy. It’s, to some extent, illusionary, a projection of external desire for something to belong to onto the bands/labels/people at its centre, but it retains huge power as an idea.

So! Salad Days! Take a look, support, encourage…And sometime soon I hope we’ll see the finished product. Here’s the Facebook group for further updates and beyond that…Scott Crawford and Jim Saah? I salute thee.

https://www.facebook.com/saladdaysdoc

Songs die, as is the way of all things. Playing a song year-in and year-out becomes stale, bands may have favourites and crowds may have favourites but performers tend to desire freshness until, that is, they reach the ‘greatest hits’ phase of their career where the artist’s music isn’t moving forward sufficiently and/or the audience becomes happy with a dose of nostalgia.

In the case of Nirvana, they never reached that era of their career — it ended barely six months after their latest album, barely two-and-a-half years after they’d be catapulted to fame. While the band were barely playing together outside of fulfilling their live obligations — making it very easy to see the near defunct level of creativity present behind the scenes — they had enough that audiences were still only just gaining familiarity with that it would have been quite a while before anyone not studying details of recording sessions, set-lists and practices would have noticed.

This means Nirvana, while certainly feeling an obligation to play chunks of Nevermind, didn’t have to prise songs from the pre-Geffen era into the set-list unless they felt like it. Yet certain songs kept showing up, specifically: School, Blew, About a Girl, Love Buzz, Floyd the Barber, Negative Creep and Spank Thru — even Sliver endured.

Just for amusement I simply want to look at their longevity today, when did they arrive in the set-list, when did these songs hit their peak, and when, finally, did they drop out. For starters, tragically for those of us who like poetic coincidences, there’s no song that is present from start-to-finish of Nirvana’s career; the nearest candidate is Blew with its first known appearance in March 1988 and its final appearance on March 1, 1994 some six years later — the song certainly deserves greater credit in the record of Nirvana’s songs. It also makes me think that the tale that Sub Pop told Nirvana to arrange the songs on Bleach by simple order of preference from favourite to least favourite may have some truth to it — Nirvana clearly love Blew.

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Spank Thru is also a great survivor. Already notable as the most significant composition to be ripped from the Easter 1986 Fecal Matter demo, Nirvana loved the song so much they made it their second original song to be released, they played it on radio both in 1987 and late 1989 and reissued a live version of it on the Sliver/Dive single in 1990 (U.S.) and 1991 (U.K.) In virtually every month in which Nirvana played (and for which we have evidence) the song is played only finally being relegated to the reserve at the end of 1990 with periodic returns. Love Buzz has an even more imperious (and deserved) run with appearances in the live catalogue all the way into 1993 — I’m more surprised that the band didn’t feature it often in the In Utero tour than that it lasts so long given its popularity, catchiness and fun vibe. This leaves Floyd the Barber as the last of the 1987 Nirvana songs to live out an extensive live life. Again, taking note of the Bleach running order and the apparently rigid thinking behind it, it’s an early track that, despite its wordy nature and story-telling style (something that died out relatively early in Cobain’s career) doesn’t vanish until the end of the Asia-Pacific tour. What’s sadder is that it stops flat with no known reprises at any time in the final two years of live performance — done. Listening to it at first I used to notice the lurching discomfort of the song and its relatively low pace…Since then, however, I’ve come to appreciate its bright guitar tone, the catchy guitar-drums interplay and the climbing bridge — it’s a truly great track and I can understand its survival.

For the In Utero tour Nirvana’s set-list became relatively stable compared to earlier years — songs tended to appear in the same positions, next to the same companions, the majority of shows featured the same songs in the same order from the start right through until somewhere close to the final songs (I believe that in posts examining the ’93-’94 live record I identified anything up to 14 songs in a row matching show-by-show). There’s a sense that on paper the band felt they needed to whip in a few Bleach songs to balance the set-list, not that they didn’t like the songs they chose, but there’s a feeling they needed something to leaven the Nevermind/In Utero heavy sets, that they didn’t have much new stuff to add in, or rare material that they liked enough to play (IHM&IWTD, MV, Gallons…) so had to reach back to songs that had been in the set-list forever. That isn’t dismissive of those songs quality; About a Girl, School and Blew are all top class.

Since Saturday morning the YouTube quality has improved significantly when it comes to the McCartney/Grohl/Novoselic/Smear material…All the songs are now up there…

I’ve always been of the opinion that Nirvana’s career as a live band reached its peak in 1991. 1989 had seen them play 82 shows, turning what had been a relatively stilted live band into a powerhouse — it was their education. The pace dropped slightly in 1990, to 62, then rocketed to 92 performances in 1991 with the majority being in the final spell of the year. This quantity of work as a unit bonded them to the point that they could pull any song out of the bag.

Having plotted the overall numbers for the songs Nirvana performed live I was curious whether one could see that peak in terms of the sheer range of songs Nirvana played. There were provisos; firstly, the increase in set lengths toward the end of their career potentially would influence the results — Nirvana needed only 10 to 12 songs a night in 1987-1988 rising to a norm of 23 to 25 by 1994. Also, as Nirvana wrote more songs it would perhaps be natural that they would (or at least ‘could’) play more — again, potentially this would blot out any indication of their variety as a live act. Finally, for some months, there simply isn’t much data on their shows meaning strange results appear. But what the hey, I thought I’d simply give it a try and see what emerged…

I had one spreadsheet showing every song Nirvana ever played live, which I’d converted to try to show the span of time rather than the overall totals per month (by converting each month in which a song was performed from a total number of performances to simply a ‘1’ meaning I could add a formula that added up how many months the song appeared in.) This made it pretty easy to calculate how many different songs were performed that month.

Nirvana_Most Songs Played in a Month

The influence of individual shows could immediately be seen, for example, the early peak in November 1990 is down to the show at The Off Ramp Café where Nirvana triumphantly pulled out numerous rarities and new songs; the growling response to the weight of negative press coverage in late 1992 was the triumphant stomp of Reading which nearly hit 30 songs; the January 1993 peak is a result of the desultory show at Sao Paolo where the only way to make it to the allotted stage time (and not get sued by the promoters) was for the band to switch instruments and whack through a few sarcastic covers. The tail-end of 1991 does stand as the most sustained period of rapid set-list revision though I’d underrated the sporadic weight and variety of the In Utero tour.

What I was curious about next was to see the impact of removing cover songs from consideration…

Nirvana_Most Songs in a Month Minus Covers

The result shows clearly that Nirvana’s set-lists only truly ‘blow up’ once the band are free to unleash Nevermind in its full glory upon the public. Similarly, the increase in set-list length really does contribute to the 1993-1994 In Utero tour being far more varied than I’d expected. While the band were whipping mystery songs or covers out of the hat each night, they were playing a solid core of Nirvana’s songs. Late 1991, however, when In Utero was still two years away as a coherent album (if half written) was still the finest period in terms of the flexibility of Nirvana.

I did one last scan of the results due a suspicion that the November peak in 1993 was clearly the consequence of MTV Unplugged — another example of a special event in Nirvana’s history leading to unusual and unique choices when it came to sets (Nirvana really knew how to throw a party on stage…) I simply identified the drop in songs if covers were removed:

Nirvana-Fall in Songs when Covers are Removed

The results make Sao Paolo in January 1993 and MTV Unplugged in November 1993 very starkly indeed. It also shows that, beyond the total figures it was that spell in late 1991 where Nirvana were performing long shows and simultaneously varying the set-lists significantly. The best month to follow Nirvana was November 1991 as the storm was breaking and the band could throw anything at a performance.