Sound — 4
As beautifully dedicated as the undying fandom for the revelatory and tragic life of grunge's poster boy Kurt Cobain may be, the continued efforts to keep him alive via releasing never-been-heard-before content has been a devolving endeavor. "With the Lights Out" may have been the treasure trove of unheard material substantial enough for its release to be justified, but with this collection going through a legal battle between Courtney Love and the other two Nirvana members (Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic) based on the supposed merits of what would best represent Cobain's legacy, it revealed the sad truth about posthumous releases - the "truest" representation of a deceased musician's legacy is entirely out of their own control, left to be fought over and prone to manipulation and/or exploitation.
The recent Cobain documentary, "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," is the next big testament of putting a spectacle on Cobain that hadn't been seen before - a task that took director Brett Morgen seven years to do, with Cobain's family granting him access to all of Cobain's personal archives. While the movie's collage of Cobain footage served its purpose of culling material from a bountiful well of candor, the accompanying soundtrack, "Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings," is a collection of raw demo recordings from Cobain's personal cassettes that, literally, is the bottom of the barrel of rare Nirvana recordings.
With about half of the demos being songs that became bona fide Nirvana tracks (like "Been a Son," "Sappy" and "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle," and the bite-sized "Scoff"), Cobain's embryonic versions of those songs of him working out chord progressions and murmuring vocal ideas offer no essential, prototypical insight - they've already been grown into what they were supposed to be. As for the recordings that never grew beyond Cobain's cassettes, they span from simple ideas surreptitiously recorded (like the vocal-less acoustic melodies of "The Happy Guitar" and "Letters to Frances," and the elementary sonic noodling of "Reverb Experiment"), to uninhibited inanity (like his mimicking of Axl Rose in the hardly-baked song ideas "You Can't Change Me / Burn My Britches," or his driven-by-boredom yodeling project "The Yodel Song" that ends with him addressing an out-of-tune guitar) - it's a self-entertaining goofiness that indicates how seriously Cobain was taking these recordings: not one bit.
If there's anything to read into with the recordings found, it's the tangent between Cobain's acoustic cover of The Beatles' "And I Love Her," and the final track, a dead-end demo called "She Only Lies." Cobain's cover of "And I Love Her" are the two minutes in which he sounds the most composed throughout the soundtrack - easily the best new rarity brought forth here - and it's a safe bet that his performance was inspired by his relationship with Love. Of course, the even safer bet is that the more anguished "She Only Lies" was inspired by his relationship with Love when it became turbulent, and to compare his messier groveling of this song with the earnest performance of "And I Love Her," it makes for an intriguing display of how Cobain's polar emotions bent his musical expression.
Lyrics — 4
With only the few new demos being the songs on "Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings" bringing forth brand new lyrics, most of those new lyrics are just as much of scratchpad ideas as the rough music they're sung on top of. Cobain goes from angsty repetition of "You can't change me" in "You Can't Change Me," contrasting his goofy "Burn my britches" line with a more seriously-sung "Deliver the wicked" in "Burn My Britches," and his murmuring vocals in "Desire" are near indistinguishable on the recording. "She Only Lies" is the recording that's the most lyrically put-together, and though very blunt in its expression ("I know what's right / 'cause I want her to die"), at least it offers a complete(ish) dose of new lyrics.
Overall Impression — 3
The point of unearthing and releasing personal material from a deceased artist is not just to offer the fans something new, but to provide a candid insight into that artist's creative process. While certainly personal, "Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings" doesn't provide any substantial insight into Cobain's life as a songwriter, nor does it offer any new material that's worthwhile or necessary. It's easy to assume that Cobain had no intention of showing anyone what was on that cassette, and if he were still alive, that cassette tape would be in a box collecting dust, never needing to be explored. Ultimately, the release of Cobain's cassette recordings here seem so deprived of any genuine merit for celebrating Cobain's legacy, and instead, just seems like milking it.