That Kurt Cobain is an icon is not in doubt. Riding the crest of a wave at the start of the ’90s, as grunge surfed on in to well and truly punch up the ’80s, he infamously took his own life, ensuring a place in the consciousness of music fans from London to Los Angeles. But does the music stand the test of time and afford him such a status?
Of course it does. Nirvana changed the music industry overnight. And while Cobain, on vocals and guitar duties, was the undisputed leader of the gang, it was very much a threesome, a screaming, frenetic powerhouse of a group that managed to make songs which, once heard, wouldn’t leave the innermost souls of millions.
There’s only one new track on this album, recorded shortly before Cobain shot himself, called You Know You’re Right. It’s a furious, loud-quiet affair that sits comfortably with the rest of the material, culled from the albums Nevermind, Bleach, In Utero and one of the best live albums ever made, Unplugged In New York.
Pennyroyal Tea, which Cobain always thought should’ve been a hit, gets a remix treatment here and is every bit as powerful as the live version on Unplugged, while the mood-defining drumroll entry of Smells Like Teen Spirit still wipes the floor with any of the current crop of Nirvana wannabes.
It’s true that, like most greatest hits collections, there’s little point buying it if you’ve already got the other albums, and you’ll likely quibble with some of the tracks left off, but this record seems to serve more as a reminder of the band’s canon of work rather than work as an attempt to sum it up.