Sunday, September 18, 2011
NIRVANA - Nevermind. Corporate Rock Whores.
Can it really be twenty years already? It seems so recent. Surely it is not already time for the recontextualising, the fetishising, and the merchandising of memory. Faded, beaten memory, which was experienced even in our youth, is now reframed. As glory years, which they never were. We were young, and stupid, with no real direction, living out of backpacks and fumbling through life. And so, does this album deserve a mammoth, 4 CD, 1 DVD, “Super Deluxe” Box Set?
Would not this super deluxe set be the very antithesis of everything Kurt Cobain wanted? Maybe 20 years ago. Still. Dead Rock Stars can't say no, and leave it to their estates to embezzle the memory and exploit the remaining fragments of property. Of course, there is no possibility of this product existing were Cobain alive. Not only would he have blocked its coffee-table memorobilia stench. But also, Nevermind – whilst remaining a seminal album of its genre – would've faded into a vague millstone, as Nirvana ploughed on in the endless cycle of Verse/Chorus/Verse/Album/Tour/Album, to a dull irrelevancy, a rolling, touring nostalgia museum appearing every few years at Festivals and the O2, releasing occasional records of ever decreasing quality, before becoming the Grunge Black Sabbath.
As it stands, and remains, “Nevermind” is undiminished by time. It sounds as fresh as the day I picked up the 12” vinyl from Rock-A-Boom in Leicester. The raw, inarticulate, melodic rage – specifically targeted at a clearly unjust world run by corporations, inarticulately aimed at everyone in some form of Primal Scream – is as potent as ever. I imagine in forty years time, people will still be drawn to this benchmark.
But at the time? This was just stuff. £6 tickets for cancelled shows. TV appearances viewed through poor reception on the Jonathan Ross show, Friday Nights at the student bar where the whole album was played between 9pm and 2am. And it came to this? The same set of slowly betrayed ideals that our parents had, turned into just another bloke on a bus going to work listening to “Never Mind The Bollocks”. This stuff doesn't need to be merchandised. All that is left, all that matters is the music. Not the fold out reproduction Smash Hits poster from a tatty British pop mag. I wasn't interested in that empherea then, and I'm not now. It was perpiheral rubbish then, and now. Nor a glossy book. It's a quality printed and classily presented reproduction and presentation of archive material, but it's too soon, and it was never that good at the time anyway.
Stripped of the cultural zeitgeist, that thankfully made Warrant redundant and Bang Tango an endangered species – and how callously bands like Def Leppard tried to reinvent themselves into tatty, torn jean, authentic rock bands with a humiliating swiftness - “Nevermind” is a strong, pwoerful, no – brilliant – record that betrays a hard pop heart wrapped inside fuzz and glisten.
And to think Geffen thought this would only sell 50,000 copies.
But what happened next? Beyond the album, the rest of the set contains all the B sides from the album singles. Live tracks, and all. The second disc contains oft bootlegged and rough demos, alternate mixes, and early takes of songs that were scattered around the bands discography. An interesting curio and appendix, but not essential. If it was, it would've come out at the time.
On the Super Deluxe Version, CD 3 is a set of rough Butch Vig mixes. They add little to the experience.
Final draw is a CD and DVD of the bands performance in Seattle on 31st October 1991. The footage is well known, several songs being on the 2004DVD that is part of the “Lights Out” box set. Its some of the finest Nirvana footage out there, and the performance is powerful. But perhaps, not worth paying £75 to experience.
Overall, this Super Deluxe Box Set is a tragedy and a travesty of Cobains ideals. It's exploitation of memory and 1991 music at 2091 prices. For the cash conscious, and the principled, there are alternatives and – barring the Butch Vig mixes only in this set – you can get all the music elsewhere for much less than half the cost.