20 Years Post-Kurt Cobain

A lot of sites are posting about Kurt Cobain today, 20 years after his death. Of those I’ve read, I find Time’s the most interesting since it has quotes from members of Soundgarden, Weezer and The Roots about Nirvana. I hadn’t planned to write anything myself for the same reason I didn’t review the 20th anniversary edition of In Utero…that icky feeling of capitalizing on a tragedy. But the significance of today and the memories it evokes are much stronger than any misgivings I felt before, so here we go…

I was a high school freshman 20 years ago and I, along with most of my classmates, was in love with everything connected to Grunge. I dyed my hair black, raided my brother’s and grandfather’s closets for old flannel shirts and traded mixtapes with friends made up of songs by Temple of the Dog, Tool, Pearl Jam and, of course, Nirvana. We all watched their videos on MTV with an almost religious fervor and had excited debates about their music in between (and sometimes during) classes.

Previous generations remembered where they were when Kennedy was shot and we all know where we were on 9/11. But, in between, I always remembered the moment when MTV News announced Kurt Cobain was dead. I was home sick from school that week watching our huge, ancient living room television and that’s where I stayed for days, glued to the news coverage in a way that was unusual in those pre-24-hour-news days. I cried as Courtney Love read her husband’s suicide note to a crowd of his fans.

Across the sea in Ireland the same day, Brendan heard the news on Irish radio. Which in itself is kind of amazing considering it was such a different time in music, in life, then. Long before the internet connected everything and everyone and gave local bands a worldwide audience. It was somewhat of a miracle at that time for the Seattle music scene and subsequently Cobain’s death to make such an international impact. Or maybe it wasn’t. There certainly hasn’t been anything since that sounds like this….

Free Mp3s by Nirvana, GNR, Weezer, Queen & More!

You can download free, legal mp3s of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” and Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” (all of which you need to hear if you haven’t before!) as well as songs by Queen, Bon Jovi, No Doubt, The Velvet Underground, Kiss and Public Enemy at Google Play’s Rock Classics (mp3 download page). Go now go!

2Cellos (Sulic & Hauser): 2Cellos

2Cellos are twenty-four year old, Croatian classically trained cellists, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. The duo quickly rose to fame after a YouTube video of their dueling cello cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” was viewed by millions. 2Cellos soon signed to Sony Masterworks, were invited by Elton John to join his European tour and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres show. That infamous “Smooth Criminal” performance is just one of the many pop and rock covers featured on 2Cello’s new self-titled debut album, which also finds the two musicians transforming hits by U2, Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Nirvana into cello instrumentals.

2Cellos is bookended with U2 covers – opening with an atmospheric, somewhat foreboding “Where The Streets Have No Name” and closing with a gentle “With or Without You.” Say what you will about U2 as a band, their songs are undeniably distinctive and instantly recognizable. The two covers are among the highlights of this album.

Sulic and Hauser then explode from a soft, understated intro to Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (best known as the theme of Pulp Fiction) into a frenzy of strings.

2Cello’s aforementioned blistering rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” reveals previously hidden intricacies in the song’s melody.

Granted, you could probably play the title track from Muse’s brilliant The Resistance (one of my Best of the Decade) on spoons and the song would still be magnificent. This classical rendering is so lovely, though, replacing the defiant excitement of the original with a feeling of wistful determination.

The covers of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” Sting’s “Fragile” and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” are lackluster without vocals, but the fault lies in the arrangements, not the instrumentation.

Judging from the liner note credits, 2Cello covered Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” here rather than the Nine Inch Nails original. Regardless, they do an excellent job of capturing the song’s melancholic beauty.

Their version of of the Guns ‘N’ Roses hit “Welcome To The Jungle” is probably very impressive live, but the recording is a bit shrill and grating for my taste.

Their take on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is much more successful and by far the stand out track on the album. 2Cello’s exotic, moody interpretation stays true to the original’s rock edge, but adds a classical depth and shows off the complexity and innovation of Nirvana’s songwriting.

Sony + all covers means I’m not permitted to share an mp3 or even a stream from the album, but you can hear samples at the links below…

Buy @ Amazon

2Cellos - 2CELLOS (Sulic & Hauser)

2Cellos Official Site

Muruch Classic Albums Appreciation Club: Week 17

I was surprised I didn’t enjoy listening to last week’s pick, Nirvana’s In Utero, more than I did. It’s an undeniably great album and I think some of its songs – particularly “Heart Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea” and “All Apologies” – remain among Nirvana’s strongest work. Yet despite having been one of my favorite albums in high school, these days I must admit that at least part of my affection for In Utero was fueled by the iconic perception of Nirvana’s music and my teenage adversity to Nevermind‘s mainstream popularity. Over the years, I’ve come to agree with the masses that Nevermind is overall superior. But I truly love the band’s bluesy acoustic set on MTV Unplugged in New York much more than their studio albums. In hindsight, In Utero may not be the best introduction to Nirvana, but its certainly better than what passes for rock in this decade.

This week’s classic album is…Fleetwood Mac: Rumours

To recap the procedure here: At the beginning of each week, I’ll post brief thoughts on the previous week’s listening experience along with the coming week’s classic album selection. Then sometime in the week that follows, we’ll all take the time to listen to the album from beginning to end with no distractions. It can be as simple as just getting away from the computer to listen alone or you can make an event of it with candles, beverages and friends. Whatever format you play the album in or the manner in which you listen, just give the music your full and undivided attention.

Feel free to comment or email your opinions of our selections and recommendations for classic albums (from any decade, including this one).

Muruch Classic Albums Appreciation Club: Week 16

I’ll be honest, I haven’t yet listeneed to last week’s selection, The Velvet Underground & Nico. I intend to do so tonight, but wanted to get this week’s choice posted early enough in the week for you to participate. I can say my memories of listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico were all positive, mellow experiences and “Sunday Morning” is my personal favorite song on the album.

This week’s classic album is…Nirvana: In Utero

To recap the procedure here: At the beginning of each week, I’ll post brief thoughts on the previous week’s listening experience along with the coming week’s classic album selection. Then sometime in the week that follows, we’ll all take the time to listen to the album from beginning to end with no distractions. It can be as simple as just getting away from the computer to listen alone or you can make an event of it with candles, beverages and friends. Whatever format you play the album in or the manner in which you listen, just give the music your full and undivided attention.

Feel free to comment or email your opinions of our selections and recommendations for classic albums (from any decade, including this one).