At least the title isn’t misleading. Of the 81 songs in last year’s stellar With the Lights Out
box, the best 18 are rereleased here. The bone of contention is the three "previously unreleased" tracks."Spank Thru" is Kurt Cobain’s first recording foray (from 1985, on a tape titled Fecal Matter
), and while slightly different lyrically and instrumentally from that released on 1988’s Sub Pop 200
compilation, it’s still weak at best. The studio version of Nirvana’s perennial outtake "Sappy" (a song recorded at sessions for all three of their studio albums, though it was only released as an uncredited bonus track on 1993’s No Alternative
comp) has been on bootlegs forever and is utterly forgettable. A boombox demo of "Come as You Are" begs for purpose.
The problem isn’t with the tracks themselves or the sequencing or the artwork; it’s deeper. It’s unnerving that well-intentioned fans will stand by attentively and buy every Nirvana release, while the label Tupacs the shit out of Cobain’s catalog flotsam. Were he alive, would he want these songs up for mass consumption?
What’s sad is there’s no changing this process. The bigwigs will milk their cash cow. Meanwhile, heaps of unreleased Nirvana-Cobain recordings — many of which are superior to the three from Sliver — await their fate. Best of the Box indeed. But still such a long way from the bottom of the barrel.
Ben Blackwell writes about music for Metro Times . Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.