Friday, 28 January 2011



Kurt Cobain always expressed impeccable taste in music when referencing influences and heroes.  For a cover mount CD from a magazine this is a significantly/substantially better compilation than is usually offered.

Appearing in 2004 to mark the tenth anniversary of Cobain’s death, the NME accompanied a cover piece with this thirteen-song collection of the good and the great.  The considered with care selection ranges from the obvious grunge co-conspirators Mudhoney then digs out the blues inspiration of Leadbelly through to the proto-punk of Iggy Pop to the actual punk of Bad Brains and the hardcore of MDC to the emo mutation of Dischord hardcore in Rites Of Springs (and a future Fugazi) into the birth of the alternative nation and grunge precurse of Butthole Surfers and Melvins with a side step to acknowledge strong female acts in The Slits and PJ Harvey and kitsch oddball in The Vaselines.  In other words the disc displays a wide field of quality in independent acts.

It was always such references and gestures that made Nirvana more than a mere Kerrang! band.  In many ways it was what kept them indie as they became the biggest act on the planet.  I genuinely believe in the term The House That Kurt Built because were it not for his reference I would only have heard of two or three of these acts at best/most.

Any record that opens with “Touch Me I’m Sick” is likely to be a good one.  Then it feels quite perverse to hear such mucky sentiments placed next to the optimistic emo straight edge motions of Rites Of Spring and “For Want Of” which quite frankly has aged very well.  Key to the construct is the urgency that retains.

Remaining on Dischord, Faith follows with their more straight ahead hardcore coming from the point things were becoming more melodic on the label.

Ensuring Iggy Pop is included, a live version of “Louie Louie/Hang On Sloppy” from 1980.  Obviously this isn’t prime Osterberg and while the audio cuts in and out subtly there is still clear fire and fury in the performance.

Opening up modern wounds the Melvins next launch a fifty second assault on proceedings as sometimes that is just as much is required from King Buzzo and co.  Then in more measured and jarring manner “Sweat Loaf” by the Butthole Surfers arrives screaming “Satan! Satan!” while revolving like carousel round one of Black Sabbath’s best riffs.  The drugs do work.

MDC pops up next with the pointed “John Wayne Was A Nazi”, a song title clearly appreciated by Cobain and his objectionable, anti-establishment attitude.  John Wayne really didn’t do very well out of punk rock all considered as it was in Repo Man that Tracey Walter suggested he was a “fag”.

An appreciation for post-punk and angular invention is represented by the inclusion of Gang Of Four then The Slits.  Both provide tracks that pulse and jiggle, decide on directions against anything expected.  Continuing a “Typical Girls” theme, The Slits move onto “Dress” by PJ Harvey and he original acts of jarring effigy.

As the collection colludes towards conclusion it offers two tracks Nirvana covered but could not have been more different.  The original bubblegum version of “Molly’s Lips” by The Vaselines fiercely displays and expresses the manner in which Cobain would construct his songs and frequently insert repetitive lines both in chorus and verse.  The real wonder however is whether Cobain knew that the song was about actress Molly Weir who played Hazel The McWitch in the kids TV show Rentaghost.

With this we arrive at the original of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” by Leadbelly.  Even though Cobain tried to make it his on the Unplugged performance, the overriding angst exhibited by Huddie Ledbetter is something than can not be bettered or broken.

Following in a flurry the hardcore classic “Banned In DC” by Bad Brains closes the compilation with a time change and sense of reckless abandon all coupled with a guitar solo that sounds like a police siren.   Anyone with ears likes Bad Brains.

Whether this actually what Cobain would listen to in one sitting is open to debate but there definite elements in each track that you can see filtered into his own material and being.  And it’s a better set of influences than most acts scale.

All that’s missing is Sonic Youth.

Thesaurus moment: presume.

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