Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings review by Kurt Cobain

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Nov 13, 2015
  • Sound: 4
  • Lyrics: 4
  • Overall Impression: 3
  • Reviewer's score: 3.7 Poor
  • Users' score: 3.4 (36 votes)
Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings
1

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.

23 comments sorted by best / new / date

    N-D
    Though I really love Nirvana's music and respect Cobain as a musician and as a man, I think that these recordings are too personal to release them - especially not for free (and considering that fact that some of these recordings have been around before among Nirvana's fans - such as demo of "Sappy" - for me one of the most depressing and touching songs)... Instead of saying something - here's just a quote from the other website: "At best, this release is a cash-grab, hanging onto the name of a deceased rock star. At worst, it's a massive invasion of privacy, and completely disrespectful."
    ArtieFufkin
    Absolutely spot on, it's a disgusting cash-grab
    benthegrunge
    This 'disgusting cash-grab' argument is weak to me. We all support greedy, oftentimes evil tycoons every single day, that's what consumer culture amounts to, so it seems wrong to selectively lament this with your favourite artists. I found the album very empowering; if Cobain's demos were so poor, it should ease the embarrassment and high standards that stifles a lot of would-be songwriters from recording their rough ideas too
    Bollockser
    Dude most of these aren't even "demos", it's like Kurt pushed record and was just dicking around coming up with ideas off the top of his head. This CD is not indicative of the quality of music KC put out because most of it should never have been heard because it was so embryonic. His actual "home demos" are all stellar.
    benthegrunge
    No, that is actually my point. Its a steaming pile of shit, and for that reason, it makes me feel I can press record more easily when coming up with ideas. With The Lights Out doesn't have that effect because its too good, you still feel like he has something you don't
    Leather Sleeves
    I agree. I was actually very hesitant to listen to any of it, just feels wrong. I've got a bunch of musical jottings polluting my hard-drive that I would never want anyone to hear. I'm actually kind of scared to listen to them myself.
    Leather Sleeves
    I agree. I was actually very hesitant to listen to any of it, just feels wrong. I've got a bunch of musical jottings polluting my hard-drive that I would never want anyone to hear. I'm actually kind of scared to listen to them myself.
    captainstan
    Just let the dude rest in peace with the music he created. Stop with the whoring out of any bit of Cobain you can get.
    supernaut81
    Yeah, it's like every 10 years or so,, they decide to pull out another song or batch of unhearded demos from his vault and pile it to another "greatest hits" compilation for release...fucking vultures
    BassFishin
    I've always loved these home recordings, mainly just to see how songs progress. I think as a song writer (hardly calling myself that haha) it's fun to see a crappy home demo become something fully realized, it helps me connect as a fan. That being said, this release is total bullshit. Nothing new here, and coupled with a film that (as usual with Cobain films) completely exaggerated the truth. Honestly, I was so excited for this whole thing back when it was announced...and boy was i let down. Oh well, add it to the list, i guess.
    Sam1234299
    Yeah, I get that these are demos, and I respect that, but a lot of these seem to be just him screwing around. Granted, there are a few that actually made it to become actual Nirvana songs, I believe this never intended to see the light of day. It's pretty hard to listen to, and I feel like I'm reading someone's diary while doing so.
    PiercedBand
    This "album" was pure trash. I doubt this was every anything serious, just sounds like he sat down with his guitar and put his tape recorder in the middle of the room just to be a goof. Was hoping for something new
    Anjohl
    I really like these demo versions. For example, the deluxe versions of albums like The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, In Utero, and all of the Stooges classic albums have a TON of content for real fans. I would buy this album if it was cheap, as I was a fan of Nirvana, and would find the material interesting. So to call it "bottom of the barrel" is a tad disrespectful to the fans who appreciate the access.
    N7Crazy
    You can put it this way: MoH is the equivalent of hearing David Gilmour doodling ideas, but nothing cohesive. A "song" in this case would just be him playing an alteration of the guitar in "Another brick in the wall pt. 2", simply playing Dm over and over again. It's NOT meant to be released, it is simply recorded so he can remember it later and improve upon it. Ask yourself if you want someone to record you practicing, and then release it as an album - It's absolutely ludicrous! Most of MoH is not songs, not even demos, they're raw ideas that have barely had any time to take shape or form. It's like Hendrix estate which shits out another complication of well-known songs and one or two demos where Hendrix is merely noodling, it's a blatant cash-grab with no respect for the artist. I used to believe that there probably was a bit of golden leftovers after the "with the lights out" boxset was released, but this has made me accept that probably all cohesive songs from Nirvana/Kurt have probably surfaced. Montage of Heck, the movie, was great. This "solo record"? It really is scraping the bottom of the barrel, eating the meager scraps left that were never intended to be released as a finished product.
    Bollockser
    The thing is there are a ton of actual finished home demos that aren't on this CD, that are way way better than most of what's on this CD. They blew a chance to put out a proper Cobain Demos CD and instead filled it with embryonic half-baked ideas that were never meant to be heard even by Dave or Krist let alone the general public. I'm glad this montage of heck BS is finally over, that Brett Morgen guy is a mega douchebag.
    Superperfex
    I will admit though that one or two of the tracks that are actually fleshed out demos are pretty great to hear. I can picture how they may have sounded if they'd been brought to Nirvana. But overall this "album" feels very intrusive to me. I almost feel guilty listening to it.
    benthegrunge
    Can you pull anything positive out of the album though? Isn't it comforting to 15 year olds that Cobain waded through a lot of shit ideas too? I'm sorry but you guys make it sound like there's nothing worthwhile to this release- yes, reviewers should emphasise that's its not pleasurable to listen to and certainly not for casuals, in fact this album isn't that impressive on any level, but I still feel its possible to acknowledge what it does have. If I'd heard this CD in my teens after first hearing all his great stuff, I would've thought ''fuck, maybe I can do it too'', this album's great for that feeling
    hinashaheen670
    [deleted]
    hinashaheen670 · Nov 25, 2015 01:39 AM
    thedevil
    I agree. Exploiting his face and suicide not and journals on t shirts and shit, that bothers me. And the way these demos are released in all these formats as cash grabs. However collecting the songs and exactly what benthegrunge said.
    benthegrunge
    I found it profound (no exaggeration) how ''Something In The Way'' started off as such a weak demo, and turned into arguably one of the most masterful Nirvana songs. If you didn't know the song and heard that demo, you would genuinely think ''this person is crazy, he is mentally ill'', yet that's the song he chose to incubate long-term, whereas some of the other songs... I can see why he'd view them as potentially workable riffs (although nothing special), just didn't have the lyrics sorted- and these are the songs he chose not to develop long-term. That in itself is interesting to me