Home Recordings’ give fans an intimate glimpse at Kurt Cobain’s creative process

Nothing’s sacred: Would Cobain have taken these works in progress out of the vault?
Robert Sorbo, AP

Three stars

Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck: Home Recordings

The Kurt Cobain faithful will take whatever his estate and Universal Music can wring out. With Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings, the late Nirvana frontman/songwriter’s lone solo album of alternate takes and unreleased demos, thirsty fans get a two-fer: the chance to eavesdrop on his creative process and hear him at his most musically raw and stripped-down. It’s just him and his guitar, recorded lo-fi with a boombox.

The audio doodles and rough drafts—culled from more than 200 hours and 100 tapes discovered by filmmaker Brett Morgen while he made the HBO doc of the same name—are often interesting, if only occasionally compelling and too infrequently resonant. His experimental bursts hint at textures later heard on Nirvana’s In Utero but will only excite patient audiophiles or Cobain students. And some of the goofy skits and throat-clearings are grimacing.

There is, however, some gold mined. An early demo for “Clean Up Before She Comes”—a loaded title in retrospect—features a lurking guitar melody worth chewing on. The previously unreleased “She Only Lies,” performed with bass guitar, counterbalances its damning lyrics (“I really hate her”) with tuneful allure. Conversely, “And I Love Her” is a rare romantic moment from Cobain toward both the object of his affection and The Beatles. And the Daniel Johnston-like, 11-minute medley “Do Re Mi” captures a fragile Cobain just before he died.

It all nonetheless begs an obvious question: Would Cobain really have taken any of these works in progress and creative belches out of the vaults? The 2003 publication of his Journals established that nothing he eked out is sacred, and Home Recordings suggests the same. Its contents don’t just sound intimate, they sound private. That said, the point has been rendered moot. Montage of Heck: Home Recordings is for enthusiasts eager to sample Cobain’s artistry in its pre-baked form. Let them eat batter.

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