Anyone who followed Nirvana for the few turbulent years they were an active band is probably thinking to themselves, "Why should I pay good money for an album with one new song?"
In truth, Nirvana - the first compilation of a series promised by the surviving members and Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain's widow - really has three songs which may not be familiar to many people. But even the material with which a generation has grown up to will find this disc to be more hit than miss in terms of what's included.
The centerpiece is "You Know You're Right," a song which turned out to be the final Nirvana recording session ever. Had songs like this been included on In Utero, there's no doubt in my mind that album would have been improved a hundredfold. The angst of Cobain is captured in his howled vocals, followed by the drawn-out calls of "pain" in the chorus. In retrospect, someone should have recognized this song as a call for help, but you know the old saying about hindsight. Captured in total simplicity (with only a few overdubs), this could well be the best song Nirvana ever recorded.
The gears immediately switch from the band's final song to their first album Bleach, represented by the lone track "About A Girl." I never really liked Bleach, though it does sound like something different has been done with this track. It seems to have a bit more of a jangly edge to it. Or, maybe I just need to dust off my copy more often.
The version of "Been A Son" is the original take, not the one included on Incesticide - and while I still like the "newer" version better, I have yet to hear a take of this track I didn't like. Hearing "Sliver" again is also a treat - though I wonder why "Aero Zeppelin" didn't make the cut for this compilation.
Both Nevermind and In Utero get the main focus of attention, with four tracks culled from each disc. Granted, for a Nirvana "best-of", you can't not include tracks like "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lithium," "Come As You Are," "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Dumb." Perhaps it's because the typical radio listener has been inundated with these songs for the past 10 or so years that it almost feels anti-climatic to hear them in such a setting. On the other hand, you finally are able to separate the good from the chaff on In Utero.
It's interesting to note that of Nirvana's two live albums, From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah is ignored, while MTV Unplugged In New York gets two tracks (and I can't argue with the inclusion of "The Man Who Sold The World").
So how does Nirvana hold up to the entire body of work? The truth is: pretty well. Worth the admission price alone for "You Know You're Right," and amazing to hear what In Utero could have been like with more production (courtesy of Scott Litt's remix of "Pennyroyal Tea"), this disc recaps a lot of what many of us already know. If anything, hearing these 14 tracks makes me a little sad, and left to wonder what might have become of Nirvana had Cobain not taken his life in 1994.