Scraping the ground where the barrel used to be
As the old bastard is prone to reminding us, if Grandad hadn’t gone off to do battle with the Hun then we’d all be speaking German now. More worryingly, if Nirvana hadn’t gone to war with soft rock at the dawn of the ’90s, then it’s likely we’d all be sat around sporting poodle perms and Poison T-shirts and listening to noodling guitar solos all day long. Shudder.
But ‘Sliver’, the cobbled-together ‘highlights’ from last year’s ‘With the Lights Out’ box set, a collection of demos and early recordings that ran over four discs, is a record that does nothing but sully the Seattle band’s trailblazing legacy. Fans will buy it for the sleeves proclamation of ‘three unreleased songs’, but the sketchy, hissy, uninspiring skeletons of tunes Kurt didn’t want to release in his lifetime are scant reward for your buck. Furthermore, what’s terrifying is that there will be those for who ‘Sliver’ is their first Nirvana record – their initiation to a beyond brilliant band. If this is your first Nirvana record, the barely-listenable versions of ‘Lithium’, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘All Apologies’ et al on show here will make you wonder what all the fuss is about. Do yourself a favour and seek out 2002’s ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation instead (and all of the official albums, too).
The debt we owe Nirvana is immeasurable. Not just for the great music they left behind in the wake of their troubled, tempestuous, but ultimately thrilling career, but for the simple art of making music good again at a time when it was cack. ‘Sliver’ is no fit way to honour that debt.