By most accounts, the recent Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck has been a success. It’s a real 90s time capsule, and the implementation of home footage presents a sensitive, tender portrait of the Nirvana frontman. On one hand, the documentary’s use of archival footage has been impressive; for the first time in twenty-one years we’ve seen Kurt from the feminine perspective. On the other, it feels like an invasion of privacy. Can we condone watching intimate footage that, presumably, was intended to be private, especially when the person involved can’t protest against what they want to show the public?
Months after the film’s release, that question remains on our lips. And now the team behind Montage of Heck intends to release a “solo Kurt Cobain” album this November, featuring home recordings, rare tracks, and previously unheard material. The film’s director Brett Morgen states that it “will feel like you’re kind of hanging out with Kurt Cobain on a hot summer day in Olympia, Washington as he fiddles about,” and that “it’s not a Nirvana album, it’s just Kurt and you’re going to hear him do things you never expected to come out of him.”
That last sentence really grabs me. You’re going to hear him do things you never expected to come out of him. Is that a good thing? We know Kurt Cobain’s a genius. His legacy has been hammered into history. It’s hard to imagine how more low quality, home-recordings, could enhance our opinion further. Brett Morgen isn’t holding the premium grade, immaculate key to Kurt Cobain’s Kid A, To Pimp a Butterfly or Sgt Peppers. He just has some tracks Kurt never finished. But, for some completists, maybe more unheard Kurt Cobain demos are a necessary thing to understand their idol.
Since his death, there’s now been official releases of three compilation albums, three live albums, and three box sets. But as this new ‘solo album’ approaches, linked with the release of a DVD and book commemorating his life, maybe we’re one step closer to the end of what has been a long period of excessive Kurt Cobain culture recycling. These releases won’t tarnish his legacy, but it does feel like they do show a lack of respect for it.
Ask yourself this: if Kurt were alive, would he follow-up In Utero with an album of unfinished home recordings? Or would he politely tell the record label to “fuck off”.
You can find Ryan Bassil on Twitter: @RyanBassil