Nirvana
Singles


3.0
good

Review

by AliW1993 USER (134 Reviews)
December 18th, 2008 | 16 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The music is excellent, but this collection won’t please the hardcore fans that it is aimed at.

In November 1994, with the world still in shock after the suicide of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, Geffen released their classic MTV Unplugged performance as an album. Predictably, it became a smash, hitting number one in many countries including Australia, the US and the UK. The commercial success of MTV Unplugged In New York was surely the main motive for the early 1995 release of Singles in Europe, only a year and a half since Cobain’s suicide.

The Singles box set contains all of the European commercial singles released from Nirvana’s two albums for Geffen records, Nevermind and In Utero. Nevermind, released in 1991, was the bands breakthrough album, and has shipped more than ten million copies worldwide to date. Though it was not expected to become such a smash, the production is very radio friendly, far more polished than that of Bleach, the bands debut album. The songwriting too was much more poppy, something else that no doubt contributed to its popularity. 1993's In Utero on the other hand can be seen as the bands negative reaction to the success of Nevermind. The production was much rawer, making the album less accessible. Both of these albums were highly acclaimed by critics and fans at the time, and remain so today.

Of the six singles included here, four are taken from Nevermind and the other two from In Utero, with a total of nineteen tracks between them. Whether or not you see Singles as a strong release depends on how you judge it. Some will see it as an excellent insight into the music of a great band, whilst others will see it as a disappointing collection that serves few purposes other than to make money for the record label. I personally am on middle ground, as Singles has both great positives and great negatives.

I’ll go through the collection’s strengths first, which basically are the music itself. All nineteen songs range from great to outstanding, and clearly show why Nirvana are regarded as one of the most important bands of the past twenty years.

The radio singles themselves are all fantastic songs and are, unsurprisingly some of Nirvana’s most famous moments. It is extremely unlikely that anyone has not heard at least half of these on their radio at some point. Anyone who hasn’t heard Smells Like Teen Spirit, the bands most famous song must have been living in a sound-proof prison cell for the past seventeen years, such is its popularity. ’Teen Spirit was Nirvana’s first hit, and is still regarded as a classic song today. Such acclaim is not without reason. The songs five minute duration contains one of the most easily recognizable and infectious guitar riffs ever written, an earth-shattering chorus, and probably the definitive Kurt Cobain howl. Whilst the music is phenomenal, the lyrics are also noteworthy, as they connected with frustrated people everywhere, particularly teenagers, who had become tired of the world of excess, with hair metal acts such as Motley Crue dominating radio and TV, and saw Nirvana’s less serious attitude and un-kept look as a more appealing alternative. Whilst Smells Like Teen Spirit is a brilliant song, it has never, and will never be one of my Nirvana favourites, simply because of the extent to which it has played. It is a classic example of a song that has lost its appeal to many fans through being overplayed.

Because of this, many Nirvana fans including myself tend to prefer the other singles on offer here. Come As You Are contains a riff equally infectious as that of ’Teen Spirit, but is a darker more subdued masterpiece. The same cannot be said for the two remaining Nevermind singles, Lithium and In Bloom, which are perfect examples of the quiet-loud songwriting style Cobain came to master. Both begin with slow, simple verses, before unleashing magnificent, upbeat choruses that are easy to sing along to. Heart-Shaped Box is a far less poppy number, but remains excellent largely due to impressive vocal and drum performances from Cobain and Dave Grohl respectively. Of all the single releases however, my favourite is All Apologies, a wonderful slower song, that displays Cobain’s songwriting at its emotional and melodic best. This was released as a split single with the far less sensitive Rape Me, which is another good example of Nirvana’s quiet-loud dynamics paying off.

As well as the singles themselves, this collection also includes five non-LP tracks, and five live recordings of better known songs. The non-LP tracks are all excellent, strong enough to appear on any Nirvana album. Of those present, Aneurysm is probably the most well known, as a different version appeared on the Incesticide album. Many Nirvana fans, me included see this as one of the bands best songs, although the version here is slower than that on Incesticide, and is for me inferior. The strongest of these non-album tracks however comes in the unexpected form of the Grohl penned Marigold. Marigold was one of the first songs Grohl ever wrote, and clearly shows early signs of songwriting talent. He also reveals himself to be a relatively good vocalist on the only Nirvana song without a sole contribution from Kurt Cobain. More recently, Grohl’s current band Foo Fighters have performed the song live, with it surfacing on 2006’s acoustic album Skin And Bones.

Of the five live songs, three (School, Drain You and Been A Son) were recorded at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, whilst the other two (Sliver and Polly) were recorded at Del Mont, California. Though non of these performances are perfect, they are successful in capturing Nirvana’s spirit and energy as a live act, and most are superior to the versions that later appeared on live album From The Muddy Banks Of The Whishkah. The pick of these is probably Polly, which perfectly suits the more loose way in which it is performed.

Now for the negatives, which unfortunately are far more extensive. Although the music is excellent, this box set offers nothing new to fans. Many box sets, including 2004’s Nirvana release With The Lights Out contain booklets, with the likes of unseen photos or rare interviews inside. Singles has nothing of the sort, simply being packaged in a card box with nothing but the track listing on the back – no extras. This lack of any new material will no doubt anger hardcore fans, whom collections like this are surely aimed at.

Another negative is that the singles included are all from the two most popular albums, those released on a major label, and are therefore the most common. The hardcore Nirvana fans who are expected to buy this will most likely own all of the singles already, and will be disappointed. Singles would be far more satisfying had it contained some of the bands rarer releases, such as Blew, Sliver, or even Pennyroyal Tea, the planned third release from In Utero that was withdrawn following Cobain’s death. At the time of writing this review, there is a copy of this item on eBay, with a buy it now offer of $1,500. Is it really too much to ask to reissue copies of this rather than see real fans ripped off for huge amounts of money that aren’t even going to the record label"

Whilst on the subject of money, Singles costs around £40 to buy new in the UK (In the US it costs around $150 as it has to be imported). If we presume that each of these singles originally cost around £3 that leaves £22 left over, to pay for the thin card box they come in. Surely that crappy piece of card couldn’t have been that expensive to make"

As mentioned earlier, whether or not you consider Singles a strong release depends on how you judge it. Whilst the music itself is fantastic, this collection has nothing to offer other than that, and leaves a lot to be desired. Personally, I believe the time in which Singles was released is all the proof needed to show that it was simply a money-making exercise for the record label, who were still looking to cash-in after Cobain’s suicide. The strength of the music is, however enough for me to give this a three rating (just!). Some positive things can come from death in music. MTV Unplugged In New York is one of these, and is rightfully considered to be one of the greatest ever live albums. I would recommend that to almost anyone, but Singles on the other hand is only for big Nirvana fans and collectors. Anyone else purchasing this will most likely be left feeling disappointed.



Recent reviews by this author
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat Everything's Getting OlderBelle and Sebastian Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Lapsley UnderstudyThe Twilight Sad Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
King Creosote From Scotland With LoveRM Hubbert First and Last
user ratings (74)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
December 18th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This came out a bit longer than I wanted, but I couldn't really shorten it and still get my points accross. Please comment if you can be bothered to read it.

Ironpriest
December 18th 2008


403 Comments


I have never seen this album. is it new?

AliW1993
December 18th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It came out in 1995 in Europe only.

AP07373
December 18th 2008


493 Comments


"The music is excellent, but this collection won’t please the hardcore fans that it is aimed at."

Since when are "Singles" compilations aimed at the "hardcore" fan? For all those hardcore fans that want to get their hands on a copy of "Heart Shaped Box" and rarities like "Come as You Are"?
Seriously?

AliW1993
December 18th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

You don't seem to understand, its a collection of actual cd singles themselves with b-sides and live tracks, not a greatest hits compilation. Who else other than big fans would be willing to pay £40? Even if you couldn't be bothered to read the review you could still have looked at the track listing.This Message Edited On 12.19.08

timbo8
December 18th 2008


627 Comments


Good review, you did some good research for this. I'm a big Nirvana fan but I see this as pretty pointless.

Phantom
December 18th 2008


8985 Comments


Yeah review is pretty decent.
I only own the Nirvana greatest hits. I've heard most of the albums, just need to buy them.

AliW1993
December 18th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

timbo: thanks, I don't see it as totally pointless, I just think it could have been much better.



PhantomLimb: thanks, and I definitely reccomend you get the albums. MTV Unplugged is well worth a look too.

Phantom
December 18th 2008


8985 Comments


Yeah I am planning to, just never got round to it or found other albums to buy. I will eventually though. Plus I've seen MTV unplugged on tv enough times to know it rules.

MrKite
December 18th 2008


5020 Comments


nirvana completely grew off of me and now it's just a select few of their songs i listen to. but man they really did change where my musical taste was going.


rasputin
December 19th 2008


14968 Comments


I have the exact same stance as MrKite.

timbo8
December 19th 2008


627 Comments


I agree with Mr. Kite also. I still listen to Nirvana, but not nearly as much as I used to when I first started getting into them. They opened me up to tons of new music for the first time.

AliW1993
December 19th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, Nirvana totally changed the way my tastes were going when I first found them. The music I listened to before wasn't particually bad, it was just all really mainstream and modern.



Nirvana were the first "old" band I ever got into, and encouraged me to listen to more music made before my time and also less radio-friendly stuff. They still are, and probobly always will be one of my favourite bands for that.

ConorMichaelJoseph
December 19th 2008


1870 Comments


They didn't release some of their better songs as singles in my opinion, by the way MTV Unplugged beats all their studio albums, its one of the only thing with the MTV logo on it that I likeThis Message Edited On 12.19.08

AliW1993
December 19th 2008


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think the singles are amongst their better songs, the problem is they have been overplayed to the extent that I don't find them as enjoyable as many album tracks. Of their singles, I would only consider In Bloom and All Apologies to be amongst my favourites.



Good call on Unplugged as well. I also prefer it to any of the studio albums, it is without doubt the best live album I've heard (the DVD version is even better).This Message Edited On 12.19.08

ConorMichaelJoseph
December 19th 2008


1870 Comments


MTV Unplugged is one of two live albums that keeps my faith in the concept alive, the other being Live Sh[i]t by Metallica



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy