CD Review of Kurt Cobain About a Son by Various Artists
Recommended if you like
Really Fucked Up Mixed Tapes
Label
Barsuk Records
Various Artists:
Kurt Cobain About a Son

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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T
he novelty of the soundtrack is that it features music Kurt Cobain admired and championed, but none that he, nor his band, recorded. As an artistic statement, from what I read, the film can be an incredibly moving experience because it features Cobain telling his story with this music in the background and footage of the three Washington cities he spent his time in. This audio was culled from over 25 hours of interviews conducted with the reluctant rock star by journalist Michael Azzerad for his book, “Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana.” Five little snippets of those conversations are included on the soundtrack album. The director of the film, A.J. Schnack, has stated that it was his decision not to use any Nirvana songs in the film. Instead, he chose to weave the songs of artists that the subject of the film held dear to his heart. It sounds powerful and effective, but as a soundtrack on its own merit, it strays through way too many fields to be considered a great listening experience.

The Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, and the Melvins share the same space with Lead Belly, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Arlo Guthrie. The difference in sound quality from the more established artists (like David Bowie and Iggy Pop) and the indie punk performers (such as Bad Brains and Mudhoney) is glaringly obvious. These differences in quality are distracting. Like many music fans, Cobain’s taste was eclectic, and he liked different types of music for different reasons -- it didn’t matter if you were a big star like Bowie, established like R.E.M., or a lesser-known band like the Vaselines or Half Japanese; it was the song and songwriting that mattered, and in each of these artists he found an influence.

This is an interesting collection of music. However, the net is cast too widely in sound quality and genre to be a real enjoyable experience. I did like the exposure to the bands I really wasn’t aware of and I enjoyed the Joy Division-esque sound of the Melvin’s “Eye Flys” and “Owner’s Lament” by Scratch Acid. The Mudhoney song is very cool, very punk, but it doesn’t mix well with Arlo Guthrie and CCR’s “Around the Bend.”

Making a collection tape to communicate to a friend who you are and what you are about isn’t the easiest of tasks. This album provides insight into the musical influences of this iconic and often misunderstood figure. It just isn’t something you would listen to a lot, unless you were investigating that very subject.

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