Published November 25, 2004.NirvanaWith the Lights Out(Geffen) The legal battles between Kurt Cobain’s estate (read: Courtney Love) and the other band members threatened to send this box-set into a bottom drawer, never to see the light of day. Thank god that never happened—this disc is truly wonderful to hold, to open and to explore. With its triple gatefold design and its heat-sensitive surface adorned by a brushed aluminum lithograph of Kurt, Krist and Dave, the package is gorgeous and almost too beautiful to expose to the elements. The liner notes and artwork of the accompanying booklet are equally enthralling to savour, with many reproductions of concert posters and media headlines. There are several essays, most notably one from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, probably Nirvana’s most devout supporter. The three discs of (mostly) unreleased demos, bedroom recording and live tracks feature a gallon of inspired material—a version of Led Zep’s “Heartbreaker” at the band’s first-ever show, a rough but screaming demo of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” an aching solo acoustic “All Apologies.” But it is the DVD this makes this indispensable—there is an early rehearsal recorded in Krist Novoselic’s basement where Kurt is seen singing, face turned a mere six inches from a wall—and many early concert dates that leave you with an “oh my god” lump in your throat. The band’s early drummers, especially Chad Channing, are all given plenty of attention but that only serves to re-enforce how Dave Grohl’s drum attack (as evidenced on “Love Buzz” captured during his first concert appearance on October 11, 1990 in Seattle) really catapulted the band’s percussive fury into another dimension. It is nice to see that this is not just a repackaging of previously released songs and videos, but a well thought out, loving and respectful look at a band’s evolution. Maybe the casual fan won’t listen to it much, but die-hards will carry this away with a swollen heart and uncontainable excitement. —Dave Hayden

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