4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A rather disappointing greatest hits collection, May 10, 2004,
This review is from: Nirvana (Audio CD)
Eight years after Cobain's death, Kris Noveselic, David Grohl, and Courtney Love finally mange come to some sort of agreement and release NIRVANA, which is a greatest hits compilation. The biggest news about NIRVANA is its inclusion of "You Know You're Right," which is the last studio song Nirvana recorded. This is an excellent song, though why they open the record with it is beyond me. It should have been at the end, because the rest of NIRVANA is sequenced chronologically.
The problem with NIRVANA is, with only having three albums and a large number of b-sides to draw from, it still misses the boat. Courtney Love made it pretty obvious she wanted a hit album like The Beatles' ONE record. The Beatles had a very large number of hit singles. Recording for seven years, they scored twenty-seven number one hits. There was a very clear criteria to determine what made it onto One and what didn't. Whatever didn't top the charts didn't make it. For the consumer, this was a good criteria to assemble a best-of. ONE ran just under 80 minutes.
Nirvana, on the other hand, didn't have the same criteria to go by. Some of Nirvana's best material never made it big on the charts, though they're acknowledged classics. Each of their three albums, plus the B-side collection and MTV UNPLUGGED, have their own sonic textures and vibes. Nirvana's body of work works much better in the context of albums, because each of their three albums have very distinct personalities.
So what does all this mean to NIRVANA? It has a difficult job before it, and unfortunately, it fails. NIRVANA does not capture the essence of Nirvana. The material that does make it onto the album can't be faulted as obvious candidates for a best-of compilation.
What can be faulted is the tracks selected don't give us a clear picture of Nirvana's three studio albums. Moving from when they were unknown, Nirvana had a much more grungy, punk-informed sound on BLEACH which does not come through on NIRVANA. NEVERMIND, 1990s rock's most important record, has a glossy sheen and a very produced feel. Listening to BLEACH and then to NEVERMIND, this juxtaposition is very obvious.
IN UTERO, Nirvana's last album before Cobain's suicide, is volatile, abrasive, dark, and tortured. It's a very willfully difficult record, and stands as Nirvana's most cohesive artistic statement. Sifting through for radio hits on IN UTERO completely negates what Kurt was trying to say on that record. He was trying to cope with fame and bad personal relationships, and IN UTERO stands as his tortured cry. NIRVANA ignores this completely.
The biggest problem with NIRVANA is its running length. At only fifty minutes, it leaves out some obvious choices that are essential to the Nirvana canon. Where's "Aneurysm"? Where's "Verse, Chorus, Verse"? Where's "Something in the Way"? Where's "Polly"? Where's "Drain You"? Where's "Breed"? Where's "D7" (which is an awesome b-side)?
In the end, NIRVANA feels like a botched opportunity to represent one of rock's most influential and important bands. Stick with the original albums.
Originally issued on Amazon.com May 11, 2004