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Various Artists
Kurt Cobain - About A Son Motion Picture Soundtrack
Barsuk Records
www.barsuk.com


Sixteen years have passed since the release of the "grunge" genre defining, hair metal killing, groundbreaking album, Nevermind. It has been thirteen years since Nirvana's leader and principal songwriter, Kurt Cobain, died by his own hand at the ripe old age of twenty-seven. Why is there still such a grand fascination with Cobain, his life, his death and the music he helped create? He was, according to some, his generation's John Lennon or Johnny Rotten, he gave voice to the quiet, angry disenfranchised youth; the people who weren't considered cool and grew up in a not so ideal environment. In short, people like me. Did Cobain's suicide make him a martyr for the ages or was he just another idiot dying a needless death in the name of the rock 'n' roll fire? The answer depending upon whom you ask is: both.

Michael Azerrad, respected rock journalist and scribe of the finest (although a bit skewed in its look at the band and the downplaying of Cobain's drug addiction) of the many Nirvana bios, Come As You Are, is co-producer of a new documentary on Cobain by filmmaker A. J. Schnack named Kurt Cobain - About A Son. Being a fan of Nirvana since the Bleach days, I will most likely pay my hard-earned money to see About A Son even though I know how the story ends. But today my job is to discuss the film's soundtrack so I soldier on.

Due to the present legal issues when it comes to Nirvana related material (thanks Courtney!), there is no Nirvana or Kurt Cobain music to be found on the disc. Instead of hurting the soundtrack, this development actually helps it. Not being able to rely on the typical Nirvana "classics" forced the album's producers, Schnack and Linda Cohen, to dig for music that may have influenced Cobain's musical evolution. This wise move has made About A Son one of the best, if not the best, movie soundtrack I have heard in a very long time. Between snippets of Cobain himself discussing hardcore punk, the limelight, hearing his songs on the radio, etc…, are songs by some of Kurt's favorite bands as well as his friends.

The disc is book ended with songs contributed by Seattlellite Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service, the first being an instrumental piece entitled "Overture" and the last is an excellent cover of the Beat Happening tune, "Indian Summer." From there on, it is one jewel after another: Arlo Guthrie's story song, "The Motorcycle Song", The Melvins, "Banned in D.C." by the greatest of all hardcore bands Bad Brains and Iggy Pop's "The Passenger." There are original versions of songs that Nirvana covered during their short career; David Bowie's inferior "Man Who Sold The World" and the unique "Son Of A Gun" by Cobain favorites, The Vaselines, a sped up version of which can be found on the Nirvana b-sides album, Incesticide. There are also songs by former tour mates and people Kurt thought of as compatriots. "Graveyard" by The Butthole Surfers, and the song that is second only to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in the Seattle Sound songbook, Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick." All of the musicians found here are giants in their field; R.E.M., Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Scratch Acid, Half Japanese, and to round out the semi-strangeness of the disc is "Bourgeois Blues" by 1920's folkie Leadbelly.

The most moving moment on About A Son is the offering by Lanegan called "Museum"; though the stark, acoustic song was recorded in 1990 for Seattle record label Sub Pop, it seems to foretell Kurt's fate as it begs the subject to live long and "not to let them make your life a museum." That is exactly the destiny that Kurt gave himself on that April afternoon in 1994. He will forever be twenty-seven; he will always be a hero, a junkie and a genius. Every song on About A Son fits perfectly alongside one another. The tunes picked are exactly what should be in a film about Cobain.

I hope that he can hear them wherever he is.

-Danny R. Phillips


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