Kurt Cobain – On record


As we approach twenty years since Kurt Cobain’s untimely demise, Ralph Mexico takes stock of his recorded output.

It’s twenty years ago this month since Kurt Cobain pulled the freaky trigger. It’s as good a time as any to re-listen to Nirvana’s fabled albums. Twenty years on: “Here we are now, Entertain us?”

To prepare, I wore a lumberjack shirt for a month, lived under the bridge in Glandore and phoned my mother twice a day to berate her for ruining my life. Then I started listening…

Bleach (1989)

A big, goofy rock record with the controls unashamedly set for the heart(s) of the mosh-pit. The riffs are hard and heavy. The guitars chug like sandpaper trains on a Velcro track. It’s a corker. Nirvana never wrote a better song than “About A Girl”. They never sounded more alive than on “Bleach”.

Nevermind (1991)

Pop nous added, along with the supreme drumming of Dave Grohl, exemplified on the riveting ‘Drain You’ and ‘On A Plain’. There’s also the small matter of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – as much an anthem for the grunge generation as ‘What Does The Fox Say’ is for the youth of today. Apart from the killer, there’s a lot of filler and despite the gazillions sold, this is not the best album of 1991 (Everclear, Laughing Stock, Peggy Suicide, Baby, For Keeps, Watershed, The White Room, Shift-Work, Girlfriend and Spiderland are better for starters); this is not even the best album of Nirvana’s career.

Incesticide (1992)
A rag-and-bone buffet of fuzzy warbles. Fossil fuel mixed with chips from the chocolate fireball. An upsy-daisy assortment.

In Utero (1993)

This is the sound of a depressed man being forced into a recording studio when he’d rather be watching cartoons and shooting speedballs into his knee-caps. The album’s much-quoted opening line is as good as it gets. Cocteau wrote “There’s a fame worse than failure”. Cobain felt his tragedy was being greatly admired while being greatly misunderstood. His actual tragedy was putting the Ian Curtis line “A loaded gun won’t set you free” to the test.

MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)
The highpoint of their career. The sound of potential unfulfilled. If Cobain had gotten off the Horse and traded his Black Sabbath records for some Townes Van Zandt he could have been re-born. Stripped back, acoustic, fond – a beautiful record.

From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah (1996)
A live album. Any live album not called Stand In The Fire is cobblers. From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah is no exception.

Conclusion: Jesus lived six years longer than Kurt Cobain. Neither left pretty corpses or flawless legacies. Not so sure that they’ll both be worshipped one hundred years from now.

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Cork music since 2010
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Conor O'Toole
Graham Lynch