Archive for the ‘In Utero 1992-1993’ Category

All credit and a heap of praise for the video above goes to Brett R, he invested $100 plus postage for what he – indeed many Nirvana fans, including myself – hoped would be a serious volume gathering together and curating the art works of Kurt Cobain. The card accompanying the collection states that the intention behind the book is to “celebrate his legacy” which seems strange given the book is the most gross and egregiously exploitative item of Cobain/Nirvana merchandise so far released.

Watching through the six minute clip it’s immediately obvious that the book is not in any way a serious study of Cobain’s art. There’s no attempt to contextualise the material in relation to Cobain’s life or experience, or to share any information about how/when/where any of it was created. There’s an occasion mention of materials and blandly literal ‘titles’ given to each piece. Oh, plus occasionally there’s a wildly unnecessary description, for example, “winged puppet with ghostly figure, small puppet, pixie, cat” – yes, we can see the picture too. It’s part of an apparently determined belief that anyone buying the book must be an idiot therefore they should be spoken to as such.

What the book is very clearly serious about is acting as overpriced sales collateral pitching a similarly overpriced Cobain t-shirt line. The book looks substantial on the outside but for every page of art, there’s a corresponding page showing the same image, just printed onto a t-shirt – a 50% reduction in content, purpose and interest. Better still, to keep the purposeless duplication as high as possible, if a t-shirt has been created in slightly different colouring then that version is printed too. I’m being unfair saying that this is purposeless, it has a purpose…If you’re trying to market t-shirts to the kinds of vapid fashion-victims who, in 1993, would have shelled out on Marc Jacob’s grunge collection for Perry Ellis because buying thrift store clothing was beneath them and they wouldn’t wear something that didn’t have a brag-worthy brand label.

The quantity of dead white space is extraordinary: every single image, regardless of whether it contains any intriguing detail, is blown up to fill a page. The 10-15 words needed to give the title/materials/description is printed in a corner of an otherwise blank page. Each t-shirt, duplicating the artwork seen on another page, takes up an entire page. Velum page inserts exist just to give random whimsical section titles. And because we haven’t had enough white space other pages are simply blank. In an art volume, one might give a sketch or painting room to breathe; space so the details stand out; a paper equivalent of a gallery wall so the image can be contemplated. Nothing here seems to warrant the space – it’s massive padding of a slender quantity of actual material.

Having billed the book as a volume of Cobain’s artwork, an entire section would fail any investigation under false trade description regulation. The book abandons visual art and simply reproduces random word scribbles and exercise book graffiti: ‘Sad And Ugly’ ‘Cold And Wet’ Bliss’ ‘Fun With Clay’ ‘Pen Cap Chew’. The absence of context to the words rob them of any meaning (i.e., the above seems to be one of Cobain’s various attempts to pick potential band names for what became Nirvana): there’s nothing visually intriguing or entertaining at all about them.

Leaving that section to one side, Brett notes significant issues with the other content selected. Various felt tip doodles were apparently drawn as part of psychological evaluation rather than as any attempt at art – clustered together across a two page spread they might have some interest but as standalone pieces they’re just tedious. The most elaborate and fully realised art pieces, meanwhile, have been seen before in other books (Come As You Are, Cobain Unseen, Journals, etc.) or in the Montage Of Heck film. That wouldn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t be reprinted but this particular volume doesn’t position them with other pieces that bring fresh enlightenment, or with information that would flesh out the ‘it is what it is’ air.

It has to be said, Cobain’s collection of mutilated dolls does form a curious segment. Doll faces are discoloured, figures are laid out like corpses, a skeleton has it’s face blanked, baby dolls are scored and marked. It’s irksome that it has to be in a section called ‘Kurt Makes Contact’: the titles regularly tip over from casual into the realm of infantilisation, the kind of cooing one might associate with a baby sensory class rather than with an attempt to position someone as an outsider folk artist.

Overall, this is truly a “wow” moment – I’m stunned it proved possible to put so little effort, homework, attentiveness or simple pride into the making of this book and to care so little who knows it that it’s obvious from start-to-finish. One doesn’t have to be a fanatical fan to take issue with a book that is as exploitative as this – and, of course, the only people even vaguely likely to pay $100 for such a book are going to be fans. No expense has been spared in terms of spitting in the faces of those fans – you’re paying for nice paper, stuff you’ve seen before, two-three copies of the same picture but one or two happen to be on a t-shirt.

There was a paranoid theory at the time of Montage Of Heck (which I personally enjoyed very deeply as film and as record release) that there was a concerted campaign, by people associated with the deceased rock star, to denigrate his work, destroy his reputation, undermine his posthumous status and trample respect for him into the dirt. I filed it away in the mental trash can alongside the (still) preposterous and incoherent murder rants. This book is the first time I’ve seen something come out with the Cobain or Nirvana name on it, that is so bad, that I seriously wondered if it was a prank by Frances Bean Cobain aimed at showing fans how stupid they are to give a hoot about Cobain/Nirvana so long after his death in 1994. I’m still undecided.

What I am decided on is that this book is irredeemably rubbish.

Someone has painstakingly pieced together, from extant audio/video of the ’93-’94 In Utero tour performances, every time Cobain screams while performing Drain You.

It’s a ten minute scream-athon – fantastic! The cuts in sound quality, prominence of the different instruments, the visual shifts, it’s all enthralling. The way the sound might soften or punch differently dependent on where the person recording happened to be located made it impossible to not pay rapt attention throughout.

That led me to watch the Canal+ footage from ’94 too with the Beatles-esque bows to the audience at the end of each song – hilarious. Plus it’s funny watching Cobain, at the end of Drain You, tied to the microphone without the guitar:

Final thing I did this past week was whip out a quick review of an album I’ve been loving these past few months…

https://www.popmatters.com/nodding-god-play-wooden-child-2639519454.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

 

https://www.gofundme.com/w6ste-genesis-breyer-porridge

Genesis P-Orridge, to me, is a rare example of an individual who has been brave enough to make their entire life a site of experimentation and change. With true artists there’s sometimes an air of ‘they go there so we pedestrian civilian types don’t have to’ – that’s definitely true with Genesis but what I admire most is that, throughout all these transgressions over the decades, there’s a person who values humanity and kindness at the centre of it all.

Reading the various works looking at his music history, his art work, even some of the volumes related to his esoteric magick interests, there’s a breadth of thinking and energy there that awes me. Across Coum Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and beyond there’s always an attempt to explore an idea, then move on and seek something new. I admire that kind of questing behaviour because it can be so easy to settle into a single groove and dig it deeper to no great end.

Currently, Genesis is extremely ill, I’m hoping people have a little spare change and so forth that they’d be willing to drop into the Go Fund Me to keep him comfortable at this time.

https://www.popmatters.com/green-river-2019-re-issues-2628275330.html

I reviewed the two new Green River reissues for Pop Matters last week: so darn good! A definite recommendation on my part.

 

 

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Everyone gets stress dreams. They’re the visual imagery representing mental pressure – the most common motif is being chased by someone or something, falling dreams have a similar impetus behind them (things being out of control, no longer having one’s grip and so forth.) I’m aware that ‘telling people your dreams’ is high on the How To Bore list…But what the hey, feel free to stop reading here.

My stress dream has been pretty consistent since I was in my late teens. What happens is I’m in a record store or at a market stall. I note that they have a load of Nirvana bootlegs, I mean, a TON of Nirvana bootlegs – more than I’ve ever seen in one place. My excitement becomes sheer awe when I realise there are song names I’ve never heard, or song names that have only been rumoured, song names that I’m sure no one knows. I’m seeing ‘Suicide Samurai’, I’m seeing ‘Lullaby’, I’m seeing ‘Song in D’. I’m seeing an array of covers, I’m seeing bracketed notes telling me ‘alt lyrics’, ‘instrumental’, ‘early version’, ‘demo’, ‘acoustic’, ‘electric’.

The detail is amazing. I can feel the pressure building – I only have enough money on me to buy one CD. You can tell I’m a child of the nineties given that particular physical media is at the centre of my dream. I’m flipping CD cases and reading the brief descriptions on the back – which gig was this song supposedly from? When was this song recorded? It’s an indication of how powerful the Outcesticide series was for me as a teenager that the backs of these discs are formatted like Outcesticide II and III and give summary details for each song.

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The guy running the stall, the guy running the shop, he won’t allow me to put the discs on his stereo and flick through before I buy. The dream seems to be pre-modern because I don’t whip my phone out and start browsing YouTube or checking for information online about these mysterious songs. I have no way of figuring out which one to buy. I’m just going to have to choose. Tension builds.

I realise I’m looking at songs that no one realised Kurt Cobain created. There’s a showcase gig listed that no one knew took place where, in 1994, Nirvana present three-four brand new songs with names that only exist in my dream. I’m in holy grail territory: the final Cobain demos, the last songs Nirvana had finished – and not a single soul ever let on they existed, never in 25 years…How do I choose? What do I have to leave behind?

And that’s it. I’m trapped. I’m stuck there reading details and trying to use that data to make an impossible choice. I wake up inside a moment where I’m sweating and stressed, reading and re-reading, juggling dates and names and descriptions trying to add up what might theoretically be more valuable than what, all the time aware of the proliferation of fake songs and incorrect song titles and minor rather than substantive differences that haunted bootlegs…

Yup. Geek dream – that’s for sure. That’s what my visits to certain record stores used to be like though, so it’s partially a memory, not just a dream. I remember finding a disc – relatively late in my bootleg-collecting spell – that listed ‘Meat’ as a song title. It was the only thing on the disc that particularly interested me, the rest was a hodge-podge of live cuts siphoned from elsewhere. Luckily the store allowed me to listen and, of course, it was Dave Grohl’s cover of the Unleashed song ‘Onward Into Countless Battles’ – nice to hear but hardly worth the marked up price point:

I’m not too sentimental about some aspects of the bootleg days: bootleg discs with the name Nirvana on tended to be way overpriced – £15 a pop. You’d get home to find the disc sounded like it was recorded through the echoing pipes of a toilet cistern. Tempting song titles would turn out to be mislabels or gig/session details were wrong and you’d find it was something you’d already heard. It was a real quagmire at times.

On the other hand, how often in life does something feel like buried treasure? It’s hard to describe how excellent it used to feel walking into a store and seeing something special. The anticipation, the spirit of discovery. Circa 1998-1999 there was a pretty common perception that the the words on the back of Outcesticide II about ‘record company vaults’ were literally true: that there was the kind of big metal cell you’d see in a heist movie, full from floor to ceiling with perfectly preserved Cobain/Nirvana demos – that there might be hundreds of entirely unreleased songs…It’s that spirit, the sense of unlimited potential, that is at the root of the dream – that moment in time.

Of course reality intervenes. I was reminded of it though when I walked into X Records in Bolton (https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g187053-d13110119-Reviews-X_Records-Bolton_Greater_Manchester_England.html). There came a point where I had to turn to my mother and inquire whether she could go and complete the Christmas Eve family shopping and I would walk home…What I couldn’t tell her was that I quite literally could not leave – there was no way I could walk out of that store. None. I searched through barely a fraction of the shop’s selection before Christmas early closing – it’s a real Aladdin’s cave! Rarities, bootlegs, old CD and vinyl singles…I was in seventh heaven. And the staff were great! I felt sheepish that I was still swapping stuff back while at the counter…

The photo at the top is the Nirvana shelf. Sure, it’s 2018, I know now that there’s only a hundred unique originals written by Kurt Cobain that have been released publicly. I know that the record company isn’t sitting on a treasure trove of polished perfection. I browsed the back of the bootlegs and recognised gigs and songs that I knew pretty well because it’s all out there now pretty well…But it was nice to remember that moment of ‘anything possible!’ And to still believe there are surprises.

Welcome to 2019, 25 years since Cobain’s death, 31 years since Nirvana’s first studio session…Feel old yet? That’s OK. Onwards to new discoveries and good dreams!

 

 

Outside Left_Nick Soulsby Week_Nov 5, 2018

https://www.outsideleft.com/main.php?updateID=1592

Just posted at Outside Left today – a brief account of some of the incident and amusement of the 1986 Swans tour. So much of what Swans was at it’s peak and was to become was becoming clear at this point – sound palette expanding, interest in dynamics overcoming the pure interest in brutality, the ongoing experiments in the potential of volume as a sonic experience, Jarboe’s arrival as a key component of what Swans ‘was’…

Speaking at the Louder Than Words Festival in Manchester at 10am tomorrow morning so good night and all the best.

https://soundblab.com/reviews/books/21112-swans-sacrifice-and-transcendence-the-oral-history-nick-soulsby

This review was loaded with phrases that made me smile – I’m pondering  “Gira is the catalyst and cataclysm” because I think I really love it. Likewise, the spot where Kevin Orton states “…the overall picture painted is as epic and heroic as a Delacroix.” The latter has sent me off to view Delacroix’s work and to get a grip on the depth of meaning there.

What really makes it for me, however, is that – when I’m doing oral history – I want people to ‘feel’ what it’s like to live this kind of life. The fact that Orton can see his own musical experiences in what Swans go through, that really delights me. I don’t write to remove or delete the magic, to ‘lift the veil’ or anything so unromantic, but I do want to make sure the humanity comes across in all it’s glorious, or brutal, or grim, or comical, or majestic, or dull day-to-day hues – all of it. Because, to me, that’s what real life is like.