Yesterday marked the release of the 20th Anniversary Editions of Nevermind. It should have been a joyous occasion for aging grunge rockers like myself, but leave it to corporate greed, shitty marketing, and bad audio engineering to fuck it all up.
First of all, instead of just releasing one great edition they opted to release three different ones, creating needless confusion. Here are the differences between them:
One disc, no thrills. You can get this everywhere.
Available in both 2CD and 4LP flavors. Includes the original album, B-sides, BBC recordings, rehearsal tapes and the alternate “Devonshire” mix of the album. You can…kind of get this everywhere (more on that in a bit). You can also get a 4 LP picture disc edition at Nirvana’s website, which is limited to 500 copies in America and 1991 copies worldwide.
Super Deluxe Edition
Everything in the Deluxe Edition, plus a CD and DVD of the Live At Paramount show. No Blu-ray though, that’s separate (and also a Best Buy exclusive).
Okay, got all that? Good. The Super Deluxe Edition has the most content, so that was the version I was intent on buying. But I had my doubts. I had read this morning that the new remaster was a victim of “The Loudness War.” I borrowed a copy from a friend online *cough* *cough* and had a look for myself.
Here’s a before and after comparison of “Stay Away.” The top is from the original CD release, the bottom from the new remaster:
Yup, it’s too fucking loud. The defining album of my generation has been shat upon by lazy audio engineers and brain-dead studio execes. No thank you.
I wasn’t going to pay $100+ for that. So instead I opted for the vinyl release.
It is physically impossible for vinyl to be loud enough to create clipping. The grooves can’t be cut that deep. Although this doesn’t mean that the vinyl version sounds better. Labels will often just use the shit digital master for their vinyl release; it still has the same problems, even if it looks quieter. But sometimes we get lucky and the vinyl version gets its own master, so with my fingers crossed for a miracle I headed to Best Buy to pick it up. I figured since they were the exclusive retailer for the Super Deluxe and Blu-ray releases, then they might have the vinyl version as well.
Nope. As it turns out it’s not in stock at any Best Buy. That’s because it doesn’t come out until next week, even though Best Buy’s website lists the release date for the vinyl version as 9/26. In fact, they’re even using the vinyl edition artwork to advertise the Super Deluxe package:
Good job guys!
The record industry loves to blame illegal downloading for their plummeting sales. And while I’m sure that’s a part of it, let’s just take a look at this situation here.
I was prepared to spend $110 bucks on an album, but I didn’t because they mastered it wrong and it sounds like shit. Then I was prepared to spend $79.98 on the LP version just on the chance that it might sound good, but I can’t even do that until next week. And when I do, I’ll buy it from Amazon (the 4LP version is NOT a Best Buy exclusive, despite what that lying graphic says) for ten bucks less. DGC screwed themselves out of an additional $40, and Best Buy screwed themselves out of all my money.
Fuck Best Buy. Most specifically, fuck their “exclusive” lies. It’s bullshit in more ways than one.
First of all, any exclusive release is a crock. They screw over independent retailers and help drive up prices by eliminating competition. Secondly, making Nevermind a store exclusive pretty much goes against everything that band stood for.
Thirdly, it’s not even a real exclusive. It’s just a “timed” exclusive. After a certain number of weeks the Super Deluxe version and the Paramount Blu-ray will be available at all retail outlets, big and small. Of course, no one at Best Buy is going to tell you that.
I’ll let you know how the 4LP version sounds when I buy it, and until we all find out how that one sounds I would highly recommend NOT buying the Super Deluxe edition if you value audio quality and artistic integrity. If the 4LP version does sound just as shitty as the CD version, then I can only recommend you steal the album online. Because if DGC is willing to fuck up a classic that bad, then we should fuck them right back.
You know who showed real respect to Nirvana and their legacy? The bootleggers. In the mid-90s, a girth of rare Nirvana recordings made their way onto a bootleg series called Outcesticide (a play on the Nirvana compilation Incesticide). The five Outcesticide releases feature a stellar collection of rare tracks and live recordings. They’re so comprehensive that many suspect that members of Nirvana or Kurt’s friends must have somehow been involved in their creation.
Here are some highlights from the Outcesticide albums that have yet to see an official release.
Sappy (1988 Home Recording)
There are countless versions of “Sappy.” Different recordings appear on With the Lights Out; the Bleach 20th Anniversary Edition; Sliver: Best Of The Box; and on the new Nevermind re-issue. It was a song that Kurt tinkered with for years, going back before even the release of Bleach. Here’s one of the earliest known recordings of the tune, with just Kurt and a guitar. It’s rough around the ed
ges and it sounds like shit, but it has an intensity and power that he never re-created on any of the other versions. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter/My Sharona
My Best Friend’s Girl
Kurt may be remembered for his addiction and depression, but he had a wicked sense of humor, something that occasionally manifested itself on stage. These two bootleg recordings show that Kurt was willing to have fun sometimes, even when he probably felt that his world was collapsing around him (the “Best Friend’s Girl” cover is taken from the last Nirvana concert – he would be dead two months later).
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Live with Flea on Trumpet)
Flea on trumpet! I think tha
t description says it all! Scentless Apprentice (Live)
A lot of people like to hypothesize about what would have happened if Kurt hadn’t killed himself, and what direction Nirvana would have gone in. I like to think that they would have gotten really weird. The group had already thrown away most of the shackles of grunge rock by the time they got around to recording Nevermind, and with In Utero Kurt seemed intent on taking things even further. Who knows how crazy things would have g
otten. Maybe this extended, feedback-heavy live version of Scentless Apprentice gives us a taste what might have been. Excerpts Of Band / Audience Bulls*!##ing & Rantings Available
Let’s end on a happy note. This collection of random concert banter by the band is from the vinyl edition of The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah. Listen to it and learn what Krist thinks of white boy funk.
To those who have emailed me and asked, I will be getting both the 4LP version and the picture disc versions of the Deluxe Edition (because I’m an idiot). I will report on their sound quality when I get them. The 4LP version is due on the 4th, and I should be getting the picture disc version near the end of the month.
Think I’m full of shit? Read this first.