Nirvana had so many things going fo them. They were a big rock band, with godlike status, they had the most compelling frontman of the early nineties, and they ruled alt rock. So what did they do? They made an MTV Unplugged. Regarded by many as Nirvana's finest album, Unplugged takes the notion that Nirvana can only play fast hard rock and destroys it with an iron fist. Unplugged is all about the enigma that is Kurt Cobain. It gets rid of all the noise and leaves it with pure unadulterated emotion thta propelled Kurt Cobain into a god like status. This status was heightened even further with Cobain's death only a few months later. All these factors combined made Nirvana's MTV Unplugged the best Unplugged ever, and the Nirvana album that would come to define there careers.
1. About a Girl
Kurt prefaces this song by saying that most people don't know this song. However, this statement is proved quite false by the fans who explode into applause as soon as they recognize that up and down guitar riff. Soft drumming by Dave leaves Kurt's classic voice all alone in this Beatles-esque tune. The emotion that only a live performance can give gives this song some power that is lost in the Bleach version. The solo however is scratchy and uninspired without the distortion. The vocals from Kurt are raw, and that makes this song better than it would have been. Not a highlight of the album, but a solid song.
2. Come As You Are
By far the most known song on Unplugged, Come As You Are begins with that famous bass line and some thunderous applause. However Kurt sings his words completely off key, which is a deterrant from the song. However when he goes after those high notes, you feel much more tolerant of the song. The solo has no umph behind it, and is painfully acoustic. I never liked either version of this song, and this is not going to be a highlight. The quality of the songs begins to go up after this one, as you become immensed in the concert atmosphere and feel the awe and respect rise.
3. Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam
This is originally a Vasolines' tune, Kurt explains at the beginning. This is one of the many covers that are littered throughout the album. Krist gets on the accordian here and Kurt laments on love and religion. The chorus here is dark and pure. Like Kurt apologizing for not being the rock god the fans made him. The second verse begins with some more off key singing, but it recovers nicely. Nothing musically special, but a solid song throughout.
4. The Man Who Sold The World
The first classic to be found on Unplugged, The Man Who Sold The World is a David Bowie song with a hissing guitar and some excellent basswork. The lyrics that follow are dark and filled with the wisdom of a life well lived by Kurt. The chorus is the chorus has some staple emotion found throughout the album. The solo at the end surrounds you and takes you through an emotional trip that gives you goosebumps every time. Fantastic song, a classic for sure. Excellent work done by everyone.
5. Pennroyal Tea
This song is not as good as the previous 4. Kurt's verses are great, and his chorus's have great emotion, but he just drags out the E's on Pennroyal Tea and the other rhymes, and that is something quite painful. On the original version, he had more of an 'a' sound and that gave the song some power. But this here just gives you raw emotion. Kurt leaves out the solo and mumbles the famous "I'm on warm milk and laxatives" line. It's solid, but nowhere near a highlight.
I've never been a fan of this song. Every song has been twisted to be depressing so far, so when they take the only depressing song in the set, it's a recipe for sadness. The bridge is the highlight with the "see the sun/fall asleep" line. The cello gives the song a much needed edge. The song ends with too many "I think I'm Dumb" lines. Another depressing song. But never fear, the good ones are on the way.
God how many times can Nirvana remake this song? There's the actual Polly, the New Wave Polly, the Muddy Banks Polly, and finally this one. It's not fantastic, pretty uninspired, and fairly boring. Some good harmonies in Dave punctuate it though, and that give the song some gentle power. Krist shows his prowess as a bassist here, and it's much needed to make the song good. Still nothing to love though...
8. On a Plain
The quality of the album begins to rise starting here. This is one of the most underrated songs on Unplugged. It's uptempo, and the "Love myself better than you" line shows off the emotion I raved about in the introduction. The verses are numbingly repeating, but it's easily ignored with the bridge. The bridge is harmonized beautifully by Dave, thus making the song one of the better ones. But the best is yet to come.
9. Something In The Way
Kurt's dark guitar begins this song, followed by some sad lonely verses. The chorus incorporates some deep cello that puts you in a dream state, feeling the darkness that Kurt's words only punctuate. His melancholy hums after his "Something In The Way" line are edgy, with some pain behind them. The best part of the song though is undoubtedly the ending, in which the cello jumps an octive and gives you a deadly shiver. The second classic to be found on Unplugged in my opinion.
Now we enter my personal favorite section of the album, the Meat Puppets section. The first song is Plateau, a song with some easy guitar and a top notch bass riff done. This song has a folk feel to it, and when Nirvana does folk sounding song, the result is a dark classic. The chorus is painfully emotional, with Kurt reaching into the range of his voice that doesnt exist. The solo is powerful and is only accented with Kurt humming gently over it. Hooray for the Meet Puppets. One might think they tailor made these songs for Nirvana's Unplugged.
11. Oh, Me
Probably the weakest Meat Puppets song, Oh, Me is a sad gentle song incorporating some great harmonies by Dave and a guitar solo. The solo is quite inspiring though, even if it is too short. It has a spanish feel to it, which is sad and forlorn. In the verses Kurt asks us "Would you like to hear my voice sprinkled with emotion?" We already have Kurt. We like what we hear.
12. Lake Of Fire
This is my favorite Meat Puppets song. It has some funky guitar to it. I quite enjoy that. And In my own sick way, I like to hear Kurt destroy his voice in the verses. The choruses are much better with Kurt ballading about a woman bitten by a rabid dog and other sad people. But the emotional strain in the verses are really what make the song. Judging by the applause following the song, this was the last song before Nirvana came back out to do an encore, and the encore holds the strongest songs.
13. All Apologies
I'm more a fan of the In Utero version, but this one is the one that became more famous. The wisdom displayed by Kurt's voice throughout the song give this song an edge that is not found on the In Utero version. The Cello in the second verse is a dark addition that is greatly appreciated. The chorus of Kurt wailing his "Married/Buried" lines strikes a chord with any Nirvana fan. The "All In All Is All We Are" line is dragged out for far too long, but it's worth the wait when you get to the end and Kurt and Dave are alone to harmonize it. That's the beauty of the song right there, those precious few seconds.
14. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
The best Nirvana song of all time. And It's not even a Nirvana song. Written by Ledbelly, Where Did You Sleep Last Night is a song incorporating the darkness and pain that characterized Kurt Cobain's life. His voice in the verse is ironically clear as a bell and beautiful. The song slowly builds with a gradual fury that brings in cello, drums, and bass. The words are dark, telling the tale of a murder of a man. The solo uses the cello to give shivers. Then all is quiet for Kurt to hum a reprise of the verse. Then the best minute of Nirvana's history comes. Kurt belts the verse with the pain and emotion that characterized his life. All is quiet so Kurt can give that one look, then it finishes to set a conclusion to a classic Nirvana song and album.
Overall: MTV Unplugged is a fitting end to Nirvana's career. All the pain that Kurt had in his last few years were released on the world with such a fury, that when he committed suicide a few months later, the world shook with pain. This is my favorite Nirvana album of all time, better than the darkness of In Utero, the Pop Rock of Nevermind, and the "recorded in a tin can" quality of Bleach. This god rid of all the bull*** and made people see what Nirvana really could be without the noise.
Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
The Man Who Sold The World
Something In The Way
Plateau and Lake Of Fire
Some excellent basswork done by Krist
No noise, just the pain and emotion that made Nirvana what it was.
Kurt's singing on Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
The entire second half of the album.
Hooray for the Meat Puppets!
Kurt's singing on Lake Of Fire
Most of the first half of the album is weaker than the second.
Most of the album is a little bit too depressing.
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