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Thursday, November 17, 2011

"All Apologies"

Nirvana - All Apologies (1994)

I wrote this whole thing before I realized that I was supposed to be reviewing the Unplugged version. So you get a little of both.

It only takes 3:50 to go from the "Peaceful Happy Comfort"(Cobain-Come as You Are p32) opening to the raucous angry ending, with only the depressing/uplifting mantra "All in all is all we are" to take away.

There is a drone during the verses. Kris Novoselic plays that bottom note like his life depends on it. It's like a Didgeridoo or the lowest tone of a bagpipe. He still plays a standard baseline over it, but all through the verse and the "All in all" it never stops ringing. That repetitive guitar line sticks in your head like all the great ones. Listen to the riffs that kick off Day Tripper, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction or 7 Nation Army for that matter and tell me that the riff for All Apologies is less catchy. During the chorus, the guitar really gets feedback heavy and loud. Dave Grohl keeps up, switching from a tom heavy beat during the verse, only using a cymbal every other measure to accenting every beat with one during the majority of the chorus.
There is a fourth performer on this track. One of two on the album, both the same performer. Kera Schaley is a cello player and was still in school when she got a call from producer Steve Albini. She was brought in to perform on Dumb. She wrote her part, then Kurt Cobain told her what to keep and what to cut. She performed, and he liked it enough to ask her to fool around on All Apologies. In an interview (last paragraph), she says that she was just fooling around and expected the part to get cut. the only part that Kurt insisted on was a few bars when everyone was going to play the same part. You can hear her playing along with Kurt's vocals at 1:42.

So this is the version that you still hear on the radio.

Firstly, I think Kurt sounds a little flat in a few places. Secondly, that's not cellist Kera Schaley on stage with the band, it's Lori Goldston, who apparently toured with the band during '93-'94. Third, they all look young, But Dave Grohl is a fricken' baby on that stage! He's 24 but he looks so much younger. Pat Smear on the other hand is looking good for 34.

The band added Pat Smear just a few months prior to the Unplugged performance. He's the one playing the much subdued riff. The whole song is subdued. 30 minutes ago I would have told you that the unplugged version was superior, but having now listened back to back to them both, while Kurt's vocals do seem to go to a completely new emotional level, the song loses something in not being able to get angry. Dave Grohl's harmony right at the end is pretty special though. Their last original song on their last album before Kurt killed himself, Kris became a political activist and Dave became one of the most in demand session drummers in rock. Oh yea, and founding one of the biggest bands in the world right now, Foo Fighters. But right then, in that moment, he was just the drummer, singing a little harmony. It should be noted that they are all playing acoustic/electrics not just straight acoustics with mics. On the other hand, the whole show was done in one take, like a concert,which must have been awesome for the audience.

Final thoughts: I like them both, but I'm going to give the edge to the cut off of In Utero because of that anger.

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