Review Summary: I hated Nirvana, but then I heard this.
Nirvana. Granted, I will admit that I am prone to being instantly turned off to something the moment I see the ever illusive "hype-train" pass by; but that aside, the moment just about any Nirvana song would come on I'd cringe in utter disdain. What was it that made this band so alluring to so many people? I couldn't put my finger on it and just dismissed it as a simple case of over-rated delusion brought on by the publicity surrounding Kurt Cobain. Then, one night my good friend played for me "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and it all began to make much more sense. It's because
its simple, archaic, and raw that they are so revered. They're a modern folk band; sticky, ugly, raw, and real. Like so many successful artists, time played a large part in Nirvana's success. It was about time that the public wasn't fed something that was neon-flavored and Ionian solo driven. The people wanted something real, and it's been said before but Nirvana was most certainly that. Now, they released a plethora of heralded albums, but MTV Unplugged in New York
was far and away their most untouchable release. A lot of live albums have a certain cut and dry quality to them. Live performances become watered down to still be a user friendly release, which sort of defeats the purpose of it being a "live" album in the first place. Unplugged
is the antithesis of that. It is a multi-sensory experience; you can see, hear, and practically taste the energy being pulsed through the little room in which Nirvana were performing. Each and every song is heartfelt, important, and downright haunting.
About half of the songs on this album are covers, and while that would be considered questionable to some, Cobain's translation of each and every one assures that there is absolutely no shame in it. He takes"The Man Who Sold The World" and changes it from a grandiose ballad that was released in 1970 by David Bowie to a maudlin woeful tune that invokes imagery and contempt. With a culmination of fuzzy guitar, Dave Grohl's crisp and punctual drumming, and the swelling instrumentation throughout, the song becomes chilling and hard to shake. It's far too often that an artist will decide to cover a song and essentially just replay what the original artist wrote, which makes it almost seem like the musician covering it is simply running out of ideas. However, each cover here has been recycled through Cobain's mind and turned into something entirely different and remarkably kick-ass.
The originals are pretty much the same as the tracks on recording, except with utterly choice orchestration behind them. For instance "Dumb" has an incredibly depressing cello playing behind the ironic "think I'm just happy..." chorus which adds a clever twist of irony. It's these idiosyncrasies that make this album as classic as it is. The set-list was written out with such a wonderful shape in mind, it plays out like the best movie you've ever seen. Starting with the introductory Nirvana classic "About a Girl" with the heavy reliance on A and G that Kurt loved ever so much, carried throughout with the tension building classics "Pennyroyal Tea" and "Plateau", and finishing with the goose-bump invoking "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" This album is undoubtedly a classic, and the listener can tell that the band sort of knew it would be while they were performing it. There is so much heart in this album, that any fan of music at all, whether your fancy be Chicago blues or 80's punk rock, you will find something here that you can take away forever.