Greatest Hits leaves fans far from Nirvana

Kyle Goehner

Nirvana is the band that defined the grunge movement. The remaining members of the band, including Courtney Love, hope that the recently-released greatest hits album, “Nirvana,” will live up to a reputation the band has earned for years. More often than not, greatest hits collections are an incomplete introduction to a band.

Few bands have established their value through hit collections as Cream has with “The Very Best of Cream” or Creedence Clearwater Revival with “Chronicle.” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” is its essential recording, its greatest hits is not; Van Morrison’s “Moondance” is his primary recording, “The Best of Van Morrison” is not.

There are two key factors that differentiate the first group from the second: song selection and flow. “The Very Best of Cream” and “Chronicle” contain all the tracks needed to fully understand and appreciate the band; not many fans have favorite tracks left off. Fleetwood Mac’s and Van Morrison’s greatest hits albums, however, are incomplete; songs that should be there, are not, and songs that should not be there, are.

Greatest hits albums might be a collection of songs off different albums, but they are still an album and they should flow like one. Nobody expects Nirvana’s greatest hits to flow like a Pink Floyd album, but some elements of smooth and rational transition should be there. Greatest hits albums, at their worst, have little or no flow (see Bruce Springsteen’s greatest hits, following “Atlantic City” with “Hungry Heart”). Bruce Springsteen’s and Nirvana’s albums are similarly organized – chronologically. And while that type of organization can show the evolution of a band, it does not work in this case. Nirvana certainly grew over the five years the band made music. But, with a band consisting of a guitar, a set of drums and a bass, not much instrumental growth is possible. The main reason why Nirvana is an essential band of the early ’90s is because of the feel, passion and spirit of the music. And this collection doesn’t change that at all.

While the album’s movement could have been better, songs like “Sliver” and “Rape Me” are still powerful. Songs at their best make you feel what the singer is feeling, and Nirvana, especially Kurt Cobain, had the skill to do this with every song. Some of its most powerful songs are left off of this album. “Love Buzz” and “On a Plain” should be on any Nirvana greatest hits albums. “About a Girl” and “The Man Who Stole the World” should not be.

This album is not the summation of a career, like “Chronicle” or “The Very Best of Cream.” Instead, it is a poorly compiled, incomplete album, not worth buying if you own the other Nirvana albums. It isn’t the album that the surviving band members wanted – the live songs, the demos and the unreleased tracks are missing. It is instead an album that goes against the very spirit Nirvana created and thrived upon. The greatest hits album seems like meer profit gain for Courtney Love, released right before the Christmas shopping season begins. Nirvana remains an important part of American culture, but this album isn’t an important part of Nirvana’s catalogue. Kurt Cobain sums up my feelings towards this album best: “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.”