Saturday, 29 January 2011



Gummed onto the front cover of the March 2011 issue of Mojo this is quite possibly the best ever free CD to come with a magazine.  To have a compilation the sees Shonen Knife slip into Big Black is a triumph while also having a record than sits “Bad Penny” next to “The Money Will Roll Right In” is a distinct victory of art over commerce.

This is not the first time a magazine has put together a CD of Kurt Cobain’s tastes and influences.  Previously in 2004 the NME came up with a compilation crassly called Kurt’s Choice which also opened with a Mudhoney track (then “Touch Me I’m Sick” and now “In’n Out Of Grace”) as well as the originals of songs covered in the MTV Unplugged set (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and “Plateau”).  In addition, both compilations contain songs by The Vaselines that Nirvana covered but needless to say, this collection is superior having not been compiled by teenagers.

Subtitled “Distorted Sounds From The Punk Underground” the collection is something of a history lesson in US indie rock, college rock and punk.  Included are acts such as Clown Alley and Big Dipper who only the most informed and anal will be aware.

There are many rock family tree links here: Nirvana covered the aforementioned “The Money Will Roll  Right In”, “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam” and “Plateau”.  Dan Peters of Mudhoney was briefly their drummer.  Steve Albini of Big Black recorded In Utero while Cobain was a one-time roadie for the Melvins as later Krist Novoselic would play bass for Flipper.  In addition, there is the whole Sub Pop thing with in addition to Green River and Mudhoney being mainstays and label mates, the company at various stages would feature releases by Beat Happening, The Vaselines and Shonen Knife.

Overall this is a very pleasingly raw record.  Clown Alley proves a wonderful discovery having seemingly been buried by rock history.  It seems too strange to consider a band that sounds so big and so right never actually.

With this the more seasoned surf scroll of Beat Happening and “Bewitched” has never sounded more perverse and obtuse.  Likewise the clarity attached to the aural attack that is “Bad Penny” by Big Black has never felt more powerful and essential.  These two tracks alone appear to cram more ingenuity into than so many modern acts do entire sets.

Key also is the sense of humour and attitude attached.  As Albini claims “I think I fucked your sister once” this then moves onto the sarcastic desire to sell out and “fuck Brooke Shields” of the pleasingly nonchalant “The Money Will Roll Right In” by Fang.  Covered by both Mudhoney and Nirvana I truly would like to inhabit a world and mindset that shares such slack confidence.

The more melodic side of Cobain’s brain and influence are soon represented by The Vaselines, Young Marble Giants and Meat Puppets each offered a different way of taking care of business.

However still keen to cause a riot and upset the squares the inclusion of David Yow screaming his way through “Cannibal” by Scratch Acid feels a key noise rock insertion before telling nods to scene trailblazers Green River and Melvins offer appreciation and inspiration.  Melvins in particular take the opportunity to explain and display just how powerful a king hook can be.

With maturity things, reach a head via bratty posturing and antagonism delivered from Flipper and almost eight minutes of “Sex Bomb” before it all ends with eternal respect for Iggy Pop and a live version of “Gimme Danger” with The Stooges.

This is music that makes a misfit better.

Once again, all that is missing is Sonic Youth.

Thesaurus moment: substance.

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