NIRVANA — MTV Unplugged In New York (review)

NIRVANA — MTV Unplugged In New York album cover Live album · 1994 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
0.5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Don’t buy this album, now or ever.

If you do buy it, all you are hearing is Kurt Cobain slipping deeper into a depressed state, while record label sycophants and music industry lackeys cheer on, hearing the ring of cash registers more than any sort of music. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic do their best on this album to lift Kurt out of his dejected state, but everyone else in the room is basically invisible, engulfed by Cobain’s aura.

Unplugged albums are soulless, disgusting music industry creations, developed to rip any trace of edginess, creativity and spirit from artists, and to water down their music to the lowest common denominator, while at the same time maximising corporate profits. Unplugged albums are an exercise in extracting as much money as possible from the guileless music buying populace for minimal effort. Unplugged albums exploit artists and fans alike, stealing credibility from the former, and sucking money from the latter. No one should ever buy unplugged albums. If a band already plays acoustically, what’s the point? If they don’t play acoustically, the album is trying to attract new fans who are scared of a bit of amplification and noise- fairweather fans, likely to be attracted to a band for this one-off, unlikely to want to explore further. After all, if they really wanted to they would already be fans of the band.

This album is the sound of a man on the edge, being prodded ever closer to his demise by those who would profit from his creative, if slightly tormented spirit. As a live band, Nirvana were a live wire, sparking with energy and a little danger, often playing with a looseness on the verge of falling apart. Feedback, distortion and amplification were vital elements of Nirvana’s sound. Without it, Cobain sounds lost and somewhat bored.

Grohl and Novoselic knew their friend was having problems coping with life, so helped Cobain stick it to the corporate bastards in a passive aggressive way. The whole band refused to play unless Cobain’s acoustic guitar ran through an amp, which the set designers had to hide, to keep his effects. The set itself was decorated like a funeral, which now seems chillingly appropriate. Unplugged albums are generally greatest hits compilations, rather than traditional live sets, so Cobain left out most of the hits. Nirvana’s biggest hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” makes no appearance here, nor “Heart Shaped Box”, “Lithium”, “In Bloom”, or early singles “Love Buzz” and “Sliver”. With three albums, and numerous singles and E.P.s under their belt Nirvana should have been able to fill an album quite easily with their own material. However, there are six covers here, almost half of the album. Two members of the Meat Puppets played the show, which included three of their songs, much to the chagrin of MTV executives, who thought the Puppets weren’t a big enough “name” for the show.

And what is the music actually like? In a word, bland. But then it’s supposed to be bland, because it’s unplugged. Nirvana’s own songs are generally their lighter material, some semi-acoustic in their original form. “About A Girl” fares well, with Kurt nervously mumbling an introduction. “Come As You Are” sounds hollow, stripped of its vitality. Third track “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” is both a downer and prophetic, dull and dead sounding. The cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” has a bit more energy, gently extending a middle finger to a clueless music industry which didn’t realise it was being mocked. The next five tracks, all Nirvana originals, are somewhat lacklustre, not as good as the studio versions. The three Meat Puppets’ tracks are simple enough alternative folk/punk, and seem to give Cobain some pleasure performing them. “All Apologies” sounds like Cobain asking forgiveness for his inability to cope with the pressures of becoming the unintentional voice of a generation. Closer “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” is a traditional murder ballad, with Nirvana referencing bluesman Leadbelly’s version, and is the most convincing song on the album, where Cobain’s voice finally lifts above a mumble.

Recorded a few months before Kurt Cobain killed himself, this was released a few months after his death. This dull, lifeless cash-in version of Nirvana is a fitting requiem for the band and the man alike, reflecting what was happening in life. The vitality was squeezed from Cobain and his songs by the music industrial complex, while bleeding his soul for every last cent.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Although i started out hating Nirvana, i have to say that i have come around. I find this album to be very stimulating these days although not a frequent listen
Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review, we definitely have the same opinions when it comes to Unplugged albums. Not only are they just an excuse for making more money, but they are also bland and boring as hell.

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