Highlights From the SPIN Nirvana Tribute Album

Kurt Cobain performs for MTV's Live and Loud, April 1993. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Film Magic

Purists won’t be happy with the Midnight Juggernauts‘ futuristic chipmunk dance take on Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” one of the odder covers on SPIN’s recent free download compilation SPIN Presents: Newermind, A Tribute Album. Echoey vocals and studio tricks turn Cobain’s famed growl into something kids would enjoy listening to while coming off ecstasy at some posh nightclub. It’s an antithesis, really, to what Nirvana (and grunge) stood for, but at the same time, it proves that this Seattle trio’s work not only extended its influence to electronic artists, but that the songs off Nevermind lend themselves to multiple genres, for better or worse. But the point of this compilation is not a faithful recreation. That’s coming, as we all prepare for the inevitable onslaught of “Nevermind at 20” this fall and the Deluxe reissue of the set due September 24.

So if you’re not a purist, this reinterpretation of grunge’s classic, breakthrough album is worth your time because you can hear how Nirvana’s original work can be mutated and twisted around, even when the set is kicked off by a bland version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana pals the Meat Puppets.

But there are a few iPod worthy tracks here: Amanda Palmer surprises with a toy piano/banjo combo on “Polly,” complete with record player hiss and smokey vocals. It’s an aesthetic choice that suits her theatricality, but it also brings Cobain’s lyrics up front and center. Charles Bradley turns “Stay” into some serious James Brown ’66-era funkitude, and EMA closes the set with a heavy, howling version of “Endless Nameless,” a track most half-serious Nirvana fans forgot about around 1994. As far as punk rock goes, her cover thrashes. While Kurt would probably do some territorial pissing on a few of these versions — with the Juggernauts first in line — the diversity offers something for every Nirvana fan, even the fans who stopped playing the original Nevermind years ago. [Download Newermind via SPIN’s Facebook.]

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