Incesticide

Nirvana

DGC Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/07/1997

How do you follow up one of the biggest breakthroughs in rock music?

For Nirvana, the answer was to clean out the closets (and potentially ruin any future box-set plans) from their Sub Pop days to the outtakes from their 1991 smash Nevermind.

The end result, Incesticide, is spotty at times, but it also shows how good this band could be at times.

This album covers almost every single lineup that Nirvana ever had (although there isn't a lot of detail about them on the liner notes, and I forgot to take notes when I was researching this album on the Nirvana fan sites). It's a pretty good balance of their brief history as a band, though it's also pretty easy to tell which songs are the older ones.

Kicking off with an outtake from the Nevermind sessions, one wonders why Kurt Cobain and crew chose to leave "Dive" off of Nevermind. The song rocks just as hard as "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and is a wonderful way to start things off.

In fact, the whole first half of Incesticide is one incredible trip. From the child's-eye view of one's parents going out and leaving them with the grandparents ("Sliver") to the balls-out rockers ("Stain", "Been A Son") to the covers ("Son Of A Gun," "Turnaround," "Molly's Lips"), the energy level is continually pushed to 11 with hardly any time allowed to rest your neck from snapping back and forth. "Been A Son," which was featured as a live b-side on (I think) the "Lithium" single, is even better here in the version from a BBC Radio session.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Even some of the older material is killer. "Downer" is a powerful adrenalin shot with Cobain reciting most of the lyrics, while "Aero Zeppelin" is one hell of a song to experience and bang one's head to. The buildup from opening noted to bridge to the thundering chorus servfed as proof that Nirvana was quickly going to be a household name, and is one of my favorite songs on Incesticide.

A few other moments on Incesticide just don't light any fires for me - and if long-time readers remember my review of Bleach some months ago, they won't be surprised to find out that it was a few of the older songs that let me down. I can barely stand the nail-on-a-chalkboard vocal style that Cobain uses on "Hairspray Queen," and I just can't get into "Beeswax" no matter how many times I listen to the tape. One song that has grown on me over time has been "Big Long Now," which served as proof that Nirvana could be powerful even on the slow songs.

To the diehard fan who would spend every penny they had on anything with the Nirvana name, some of the 15 songs on Incesticide will sound real familiar - especially if they dropped top dollar for the import-only mini-album Hormoaning. (To be fair, I prefer the uncensored version of "Aneurysm" on Hormoaning, but the version here is almost as good.) Trivia question: besides the alternate version of "Aneurysm," what songs on Hormoaning did not make it onto Incesticide? E-mail me with your answer. (C'mon, gang, this one's an easy question.)

Releasing such a compilation album on the heels of Nevermind's success was a risky move, both for Nirvana and DGC Records. One could have argued that Nirvana was creatively dried up if they couldn't release an album of new material instead. (I won't even begin to talk about what I think of In Utero here.) Fortunately for all parties involved, the end product was a great album, and the gamble paid off.

Incesticide is more of a historical portrait than a closet-cleaner release or even a bridge-gap album. It was a collection of snapshots of where Nirvana had been and where they were going.... and is one that is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.