Pygmy Lush / photo by Alex Christopher Williams
Everyone loves a good Nirvana cover, but no one loves them as much as Robotic Empire does. Today marks the release of the label's second full album of the damn things, as performed by an impressive list of heavy luminaries. On Whatever, Nevermind, Boris, Cave In, Circa Survive, Kylesa, La Dispute, Nothing, Pygmy Lush, Thou, Torche, Touche Amore, White Reaper, Wrong and Young Widows all take on one (or more!) Nirvana tracks, adding their own spins on the classic songs.
Young Widows give themselves a tough row to hoe with the immortal "Smells Like Teen Spirit" but will surprise listeners with a totally out-there interpretation. Torche stays faithful to the original distorted heft of "In Bloom," while Kylesa's take on "Come As You Are" is simply stunning, with Laura Pleasants' sweet, ghostly voice rising above a bass-heavy dirge and melding with Philip Cope's soft croon-turned-shout. Cave In speeds things up with a punk sneer on "Breed," and Boris turns "Lithium" into a hypnotic, apocalyptic dirge as black as Cobain's diseased stomach lining. La Dispute punch up "Polly" with a little rock'n'roll swing, White Reaper's "Territorial Pissings" snaps and howls, and Circa Survive get moody on "Drain You."
Touche Amore keeps it understated on "Lounge Act," while Wrong's bass-booming "Stay Away" gets real frantic, real quick. Pygmy Lush goes low, slow, and fragile with "On A Plain," and Nothing keeps the bad vibes flowing on "Something in the Way." The collection closes with a pair of tracks from Thou, who have their own history of Nirvana worship—they've done more covers than any band I can think of, and their renditions of "Endless Nameless" and "Even in His Youth" bear the same feral intensity, rabid vocals, and tense, uncomfortable feel of the originals.
The record is now available from Robotic Empire Records, as well as a number of fine independent retailers—it is Record Store Day, after all. It comes as 12-inch record with a digital download and bonus seven-inch (that's where you'll find the Thou tracks). Record Store Day 2015 will see an exclusive color-vinyl edition accompanied by a large poster, too. If you're feeling less than ambitious, you can always order it on iTunes.
Nirvana is legitimately Kim Kelly's favorite band. She's on Twitter: @grimkim