Nirvana: Bleach: 20th Anniversary Edition/Live at Reading

By: Ron Hart

It's too easy to become jaded with Nirvana, especially if you went to high school or college during the short period they ruled the world in the early 1990s. The rampant manufacturing of Kurt Cobain's image and legacy by mainstream America has been nauseatingly on par with that of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison (all of whom also died at the age of 27…yes, yes we all know). And when combined with that tabloid documentary from a few years back, the controversial public spats over the band's catalog and vault material between the widow Courtney Love and surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, and what seems like the ultimate nail in the coffin, that dreadful Kurt-like avatar singing songs by third-rate Nirvana clones Bush and, God help us, Bon Jovi, in Guitar Hero 5, listening to the band is harder to stomach than ever.

Thankfully, there are two new reissues on the market that will remind the skeptics just how awesome Nirvana was before everything went to shit. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Sub Pop delivers a stunning Deluxe Edition (released November 3) of the Aberdeen, Washington trio's enigmatic debut, Bleach. Remastered from the original master tapes by the album's producer, the great Seattle soundsmith Jack Endino, the album sounds louder, crisper, and cleaner than it ever has. And longer, too, as a previously unreleased live soundboard-quality recording of a complete February 9th, 1990 show at the Pine Street Theatre in Portland, Oregon is added onto the disc, featuring downright slaying renditions of such Bleach highlights as "Blew," "About a Girl," "Floyd the Barber," and "Negative Creep," as well as covers of such band faves as Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz" and The Vaselines' "Molly's Lips." Not to mention, it looks a whole lot better as well, repackaged in a heavy cardboard digipak containing a 16-page booklet that features a slew of never-before-seen photos of the group with original drummer Chad Channing behind the kit.

Also in stores is the official release of Nirvana's legendary appearance at the 1992 Reading Festival (released November 3 on Geffen), available as a twin DVD/CD package. Once a highly sought-after bootleg long and considered by some to be the quintessential snapshot of the band at the peak of their powers and popularity, this blistering set does not disappoint in the least. Ripping through 25 songs in a hair under 80 minutes (the CD strangely omits "Love Buzz" for unknown reasons), including most of Nevermind, a giant chunk of Bleach, early rips through In Utero staples "All Apologies" and "Dumb," rare gems like "Aneurysm" and "Been A Son," and covers of The Wipers' "D-7" and Mudhoney's "The Money Will Roll Right In," this is the only live Nirvana outside of the MTV Unplugged album you will ever need. Hearing Kurt sound so alive and joyful, basking in the glow of the birth of his daughter Frances Bean just 12 days prior this set (evident in his introductory giggles before kicking into "Sliver" and the awe he vocally projects upon hearing the English crowd sing the lyrics to "Lithium" back to him) is both heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. For the full effect of the concert, however, you need to watch the DVD, complete with Cobain's hilarious stage entrance that completely mocked the rumors in the British tabloids announcing that Nirvana was canceling their headlining set at Reading on account of the singer going on a weekend-long drug binge. Seeing Kurt being wheeled out by journalist Everett True and attempting to cover Bette Midler's "The Rose" before parting the waves of the sold-out festival crowd with a ferocious rendition of "Breed" will remind even the most cynical ex-fan why Nevermind was in heavy rotation on most stereos back in the day.

JamBase | Bleached
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[Published on: 11/25/09]

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