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As everyone now knows, Nirvana started out merely great and wound up, well, godlike. Not that With the Lights Out is meant as some kind of Bible, unless you're talking about the particularly gruesome parts of the Old Testament. Every manner of misfire and fuckup is immortalized on this boxed set: crude demos, demolished instruments and a DVD replete with a basement rehearsal from 1988 that captures the band vomiting black noise while their hesher buddies drink beer and blink dumbly into a strobe light -- little knowing that the glare was about to become magnified a thousand-fold. Appropriate for a group that always saw itself as just a clusterfuck of its influences, Lights is bracketed by cover songs. Disc one begins with a gloriously mongoloid mangling of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" taken from the trio's first live show at a house party in '87; disc four ends with a so-funny-it's-depressing version of Terry Jacks's Day-Glo pop anthem "Seasons in the Sun," recorded during a tour stop in Brazil. And somewhere between the two, conveniently enough, lies everything that Nirvana ever was.
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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller

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