"Best of the Box": reality truly is the best

Dec. 2, 2005, midnight | By Payal Patnaik | 18 years, 4 months ago

Nirvana compilation offers distinctive perspective

Nirvana's new release "Sliver: Best of the Box" showcases some of the band's most well-known songs in a small package of 22 tracks. To those who own "With the Lights Out," a four-disc tribute to Nirvana released last year, this new album may seem like overkill since it selects the best of the previous release and adds only three unreleased tracks to the list. But to the more enthusiastic Nirvana and rock fans that do not own "With the Lights Out," this CD is a definite addition to have. "Sliver: Best of the Box" follows the band from its bare beginnings in 1985 and gives the listener samples of the house demos made in lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain's Aberdeen, WA home, as well as in radio shows and live recordings.

"Sliver: Best of the Box" begins with an 1985 recording at Cobain's house when Nirvana was a two-man band, with Dale Crover at drums/bass. This previously unreleased track, "Spank Thru," has promising drums and guitars for a rising band, but Cobain's voice sounds like out-of-tune wailing and groaning. In later tracks though, the singing isn't so painful. "Sappy," recorded in 1990, sounds like Nirvana's later professional recordings, with Cobain singing on tune and with a full band. The melody is catchy and Cobain's voice sounds like the tortured muse that captivated the public in Nirvana's prime. "Come As You Are," the third unreleased track that is new on this CD, is a rehearsal demo, so it is nowhere close to the quality of the actual single. Although the quality of the track is rough, it is captivating nevertheless and has more to offer, since the life of a band is not necessarily the face that it shows to the public. These tracks of practices and demos are like uncut diamonds that give the listener an idea of the real band. Nirvana was a popular sub-pop band, but maintained its darkly genuine themes present in many underground bands.

The album cover is a photo of a box containing tapes of Nirvana's demos and riffs. Cobain's ex-wife, Courtney Love, released the box to the public, knowing that she was giving away a gold mine to rockers. The tracks are handpicked from the box as a tribute to Cobain's greatness, lending to the album's title "Sliver: The Best of the Box."

The first page of the CD's liner notes quotes Nirvana's bass guitarist Krist Novoselic, who describes Cobain: "He was an amazing artist…completely original. The best art draws you into its own world, so Kurt build his own world." This quote is the essence of Nirvana's "Sliver: The Best of the Box." The compilation draws the listener into Cobains's world of dark thoughts and sarcasm, hinting at the puzzle of life that led to his suicide. This new release opens up a perspective on Cobain's world with its blend of tapes from band practice and house parties.

Nobody gave as much to the band as Cobain did. The original founder of Nirvana, he wrote most of the lyrics, played guitar and sang lead, and ensured his band would fulfill his dreams of rock stardom. Cobain struggled to define Nirvana's genre, viewing the underground rock scene as stagnant. Writing lyrics that hinted at his riveting world and playing with musical abilities equal to the bands he worshipped, he sought to capture the public with a sub-pop breakthrough that sold millions.

The new tracks featured on the CD have already been released into the public, but the CD showcases new versions. The songs in the CD demonstrate Nirvana's origin and development – some showing off Cobain's guitar skills, some accentuating his sardonic tones and musically tying the entire album together. "Sliver: Best of the Box" will not offer much of a new experience for an owner of "With the Lights Out." But the album is still worth a buy to someone who does not yet have a Nirvana compilation, for it offers a new perspective on the band and on Cobain's world.

Last updated: May 4, 2021, 1:02 p.m.

Payal Patnaik. Payal's bad habits include compulsive apologizing, and....sorry. More »

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