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Boxset: Nirvana – With the Lights Out 
By Zane Ewton

With the Lights Out is the long-awaited and highly contested box set from Nirvana.  Since Kurt Cobain’s death and the legal battles between the remaining involved parties, too much talk has been wasted on the dramatic events surrounding the band.  This box set brings the focus back to the music, where it should have been all along.

The tracks are arranged in chronological order, a method that serves to illustrate the evolution of the band very well.  Casual fans may find it difficult to wade through so many poorly recorded demos and live recordings while hardcore fans will love to see the beginnings of some of Nirvana’s best songs.

Most of the tracks are solo acoustic performances.  Songs like “Lithium”, “Polly” and “Serve the Servants” are stripped down to just Cobain and his guitar.  These performances show a different element to the songs, but the band is at its most powerful during the loud and cathartic tracks like the b-side “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.”

Disc one starts with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” from the first Nirvana show.  Followed by a few early radio performances including “Anorexorcist” and “Help Me I’m Hungry.”  A rough demo of “Pen Cap Chew” is one of the highlights of disc one.  The live tracks “Floyd the Barber” and “Raunchola/Moby Dick” are followed by the completely bizarre “Beans”.  

Acoustic versions of “Polly” and “About a Girl” are poor recordings but remain interesting for anyone curios about the evolution of Cobain’s lyrics.  Cobain rarely changed the whole song, just one or two lines and sometimes to something completely different from the original phrase.  “Grey Goose” stands out near the end of disc one as completely instrumental with a stoner-rock vibe.

Disc two will appeal to the casual fan more as it contains solo acoustic performances and demos of some of the band’s best known music.  These are also some of the best songs Cobain had ever written.  This includes acoustic versions of “Lithium”, “Been a Son” and “Sliver”.  Several other tracks stand out, “Here She Comes Now”, and the b-sides “Aneurysm”, “Oh the Guilt” and “Curmudgeon”.

Disc two also boasts the rehearsal demo of “Smells like Teen Spirit” and an alternative mix by Butch Vig.  Despite the legendary status of that song it doesn’t stand above much of Nirvana’s other songs.

Disc three contains mostly demos to songs that appeared on In Utero but a few b-sides break up the disc including “Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow through the Strip” and “Marigold”.

Nirvana was a very rare band that has been able to grow in stature since Cobain’s death.  His face still graces the covers of magazines and the hijinks of Courtney Love have kept Nirvana in the news, even in a roundabout way.

The common slogan for Nirvana is that with the death of Kurt Cobain he became the voice of a generation and the poster child for teen angst.  We still dwell on his role in music because nothing else has come along to eclipse what Nirvana did.  They were the spearhead of the last musical revolution and unless something new comes along, Nirvana will sit atop that pedestal.

With the Lights Out is an interesting, and sad, look back at the strengths and weaknesses of a band.  Unfortunately, this boxed set might have the problem of not being accessible to fans that weren’t there the first time but everybody should be required to give Nirvana a listen.  As with all of the legendary rock and roll bands they will be required listening for years to come.

CD Info 

Nirvana – With the Lights Out
Label: Geffen

DISC 1: 
  1. Heartbreaker - (previously unreleased, from 1987) 
  2. Anorexorcist - (previously unreleased, from 1987) 
  3. White Lace And Strange - (previously unreleased, from 1987) 
  4. Help Me I'm Hungry - (previously unreleased, from 1987) 
  5. Mrs. Butterworth - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  6. If You Must - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  7. Pen Cap Chew - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  8. Downer - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  9. Floyd The Barber - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  10. Rauncholda / Moby Dick - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  11. Beans - (previously unreleased) 
  12. Don't Want It All - (previously unreleased) 
  13. Clean Up Before She Comes - (previously unreleased) 
  14. Polly - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  15. About A Girl - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  16. Blandest - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  17. Dive - (previously unreleased, from 1988) 
  18. They Hung Him On A Cross - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  19. Grey Goose - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  20. Ain't It A Shame - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  21. Token Eastern Song - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  22. Even In His Youth - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  23. Polly - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
DISC 2: 
  1. Opinion - (previously unreleased, from 1990) 
  2. Lithium - (previously unreleased, from 1990) 
  3. Been A Son - (previously unreleased, from 1990) 
  4. Sliver - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  5. Where Did You Sleep Last Night - (previously unreleased, from 1989) 
  6. Pay To Play - (from 1990) 
  7. Here She Comes Now - (from 1990) 
  8. Drain You - (previously unreleased, from 1990) 
  9. Aneurysm - (from 1990) 
  10. Smells Like Teel Spirit - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  11. Breed - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  12. Verse Chorus Verse - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  13. Old Age - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  14. Endless, Nameless - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  15. Dumb - (previously unreleased, from 1991) 
  16. D-7 - (previously unreleased, from 1990) 
  17. Oh The Guilt - (from 1992) 
  18. Curmudgeon - (from 1992) 
  19. Return Of The Rat - (from 1992) 
  20. Smells Like Teen Spirit - (from 1991) 
DISC 3: 
  1. Rape Me - (previously unreleased, acoustic version from 1992) 
  2. Rape Me - (previously unreleased, electric version from 1992) 
  3. Scentless Apprentice - (previously unreleased, from 1992) 
  4. Heart Shaped Box - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  5. I Hate Myself And I Want To Die - (from 1993) 
  6. Milk It - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  7. Moist Vagina - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  8. Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip - (from 1993) 
  9. Other Improv, The - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  10. Serve The Servants - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  11. Very Ape - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  12. Pennyroyal Tea - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  13. Marigold - (from 1993) 
  14. Sappy - (previously unreleased, from 1993) 
  15. Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam - (previously unreleased, from 1994) 
  16. Do Re Mi - (previously unreleased, from 1994) 
  17. You Know You're Right - (previously unreleased, from 1994) 
  18. All Apologies - (previously unreleased) 

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