Liner Notes

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nirvana // Unplugged In New York

Recorded on November 18, 1993
Pressed at the Pallas Plant in Germany


Mastered for vinyl from the original analog master tapes at Bernie Grundman Studios

2013 Reissue 

Favorite track "Dumb"

I can identify this record from the crowd's applause before a single note is played. I must confess I only recently acquired this album, though I've owned the CD since the mid 90s. Kinda. I acquired  this album as part of my Dad's Columbia House CD subscription service. Why I can remember that is beyond me. I loved the little stamps that represented each record. I used to make my dream lists of records and then systematically eliminate the ones that I didn't want. Even at twelve, I was insane.


My Dad was great at fostering a love of music. He let me choose one CD from his subscription service each month. My hair was absolutely blown away by Nevermind, so I expected this record to be equally as magical. But young Nick didn't give a shit. Gone was the raw fury of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the vicious drumroll which kicks off "Breed." At this point in my life, these were the hardest, gnarliest songs I'd ever heard. I was young and angry and wanted shit to be loud. Nirvana was everything. I would mosh around my room trying not to knock over my drip candles and lava lamp.

But this fucking record was nothing like it. It was sit-down, acoustic bullshit. At least that's what I thought at the time. I gave the CD back to my Dad who loved it. I was getting the pick scratches down for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the guitar my Dad bought me. I wasn't having any of this quiet shit. I wanted bangers. I wanted to shake my fists at the sky. I would soon turn my back on Nirvana for many years because it wasn't punk rock. It was "corporate mainstream poser garbage."

Look, I was wrong about a lot of things, okay?

It wasn't until college I discovered how wonderful this record was. And after many years of careful contemplation, I submit it is a nearly perfect album. It is a flawless listen from start to finish. Few records calm me in the way this one does. Maybe I was tamed by old age or maybe I stopped thinking of Nirvana as a one-dimensional rock jukebox, but this record might be my personal favorite in their discography. I stole back the CD from my Dad who promptly insisted it be returned, and so I repurchased it.

But the part of this record that hits me in the chest is "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." It absolutely destroyed me. I was a massively insecure boyfriend through all of high school, most of college, and a fair portion of the early 2000s. This song is the anthem of my dread. I don't hear it from the same place anymore. I'm more interested in the emotion Kurt puts in it. Dave Growl called it Kurt "boiling nails in this throat." They asked Nirvana to play another song after this, but Kurt said "you and I both know I can't top that."

I love this record because it is raw and riddled with mistakes, and feels infinitely vulnerable. They let down their shields of distortion and showed you they could make something beautiful. And it once again reiterated that my Dad is usually right about things.  

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