The four discs in With The Lights Out
encompass the career of one of those rare bands who genuinely changed things. When Nirvana
climbed to number one in 91 with their album Nevermind
, they destroyed forever the very concept of 'alternative', ending the rule that edgy and raw music was doomed to mere cultdom.
With The Lights Outlooks at Nirvana's meteoric rise and abrupt implosion with the suicide of frontman Kurt Cobain through a glass darkly: the trajectory of underwhelming debut, glossy produced second album which merged punk fury with pretty melodies and third album where they dirtied everything up to prove they hadn't sold out is accurately presented but via demos, radio performances, live versions, B-sides and outtakes, the vast majority previously unreleased. It's part treasure trove (e.g., unreleased worthy "Verse Chorus Verse") and half trainspotter fare (the band jokingly running through Terry Jacks' '70s corn-fest "Seasons In the Sun" on the fourth, DVD, disc).
This is not the place for the uninitiated to start but this set will, for Nirvana fans, be the perfect closure to their glorious, sad career. --Sean Egan
The With the Lights Out
box set spans Nirvana's entire career, from an early recording of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" at the band's first show in 1987 to solo acoustic performances from singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain in 1994. With The Lights Out
features a 60-page colour booklet with rare photos and sleeve notes by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and writer Neil Strauss. The three CDs, arranged largely chronologically, contain home and rehearsal demos, including for the one for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (whose lyric "With the lights out" provides the set's title), "Rape Me," "Heart Shaped Box" and a trio penned by legendary bluesman Leadbelly.
Heard in the 12 previously unreleased solo acoustic tracks are such gems as "All Apologies," "Lithium" and "Sliver." Six previously unreleased radio performances range from "Anorexorcist" in 1987 to "Dumb" in 1991 (two years before it was on 1993's In Utero). Along with the remaining debuts are a handful of earlier issued, though rare, B-sides and demos as well as the original Butch Vig mix of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Highlighted on the With the Lights Out DVD is a previously unreleased video of nine songs performed in 1988 at bassist Krist Novoselic's mother's house in Aberdeen, Washington; the rare "In Bloom" Sub Pop music video, and 10 never-before-seen live performances. Noteworthy among them are debut renditions of "Pennyroyal Tea", "Smells Like Teen Spirit" both from early 1991. Also premiering is an unlikely performance of Jacques Brel and Rod Mckuen's "Seasons in the Sun" shot at a Rio de Janeiro studio.