First off, I apologize for getting this out a day late. Having spent yesterday several hours away from home, I'd hoped to get to this when I returned, but alas exhaustion won out, despite having set everything up the day before. Regardless, better late than never.
This week's round up is slightly different. Ever since reading the Kurt Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven a few months ago, I've been listening to Nirvana pretty regularly. Having always been one of my favorite bands, their music never fails to inspire me creatively. Kurt is one of the greatest lyricists in rock music history, using simple rhymes to express unrelenting emotion, not to mention striking imagery. Like Syd Barrett, Kurt's lyrics combined with the music, create a unique world for the listener to visit.
Heavier Than Heaven - Charles R. Cross:
Not only was this book wonderfully researched, it was also powerfully written. In my opinion it's rare for a biography to be such a riveting example of storytelling, especially when so much is publicly known about the subject, but this book proved otherwise. A very moving portrait of someone who in many ways got what he always wanted, only to discover he was so ill fitted for the fame he sought.
The author exhausted nearly every possible reference for this book, talking to everyone close to Kurt, as well as scouring through countless interviews and the journals to present a complete picture of an iconic figure. What comes through so strikingly is the story of a child who felt lost after the divorce of his parents and was never really able to reconcile those feelings, which show up in so many of his songs. It shows a person so driven to be accepted and adored, while possessing none of the traits one needs to cope with that adoration once it's given.
Before reading the book, someone had warned me that the ending was really sad. I told them I knew how it ended, so I thought it would be okay. But the truth was, the ending was indeed very sad and moving. It really showed the struggle one faces when they decide they simply can't go on anymore and knowing they are going to devastate those closest to them.
As any reader of this blog is aware by now, I'm a huge fan of bootlegs and Nirvana is one of the first bands whose bootleg catalog attracted my attention. For a band so popular, it's amazing how much unreleased material still remains. They are also one of the rare bands whose demos are often times better and more insightful than their studio albums. Without all the production that goes into making the 'big rock record,' Kurt is essentially a blues player, releasing his torments in raw expression. This is also why many of their live recordings are essential.
If all you know is this hits, than I strongly suggest digging deeper. The With the Lights Out box set is an amazing place to begin, or even the Sliver: Best of the Box one disc set will give you a good look into the 'unheard' Nirvana. If you still can't get enough, than I highly recommend seeking out the bootleg box set The Chosen Rejects to fill many important omissions. Despite all the copycat bands the flooded the market, there is really no other band that sounds like Nirvana. They were consistently inventive and consistently brilliant.