From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah


DGC Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When I started writing for the now-defunct site HitsWorld, the first album I reviewed was Nirvana's final release, From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah. Although I no longer have the original review I wrote, I seem to remember I wasn't particulary kind to it. (I also didn't slam it that badly - obviously I was more moderate than I am now.)

But that was almost two years ago, and it's been almost that long since I dug that disc out of the Pierce Archives (where we're still cheering about the ass-kicking the Bulls delivered Sunday night) and gave it another chance. And while there are still many rough edges to a band that defined the word rough, From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah sounds more like a natural live album than a farewell gasp to suicide chump Kurt Cobain.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album pulls tracks from almost the entire history of the band, even taking one track from an early January show in 1994, just about three months before Cobain's suicide. Surprisingly, the fluctuating lineup changes aren't something you can hear with a cursory listen; though you can tell when time frames jump a bit, it sounds like one working unit.

A lot of the band's early work (from the Bleach era) does not hold up very well - kind of like the album from which the original tracks came from. Cobain seems to want to blow through numbers like "Negative Creep" and "Blew," and one really can't blame him. These works were not the best representations of Nirvana's musical prowess.

But when you strip away some of the deadwood, From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah does a pretty decent job of painting this band's history. Tracks like "Aneurysm," "Been A Son," "Scentless Apprentice" and "Lithium" translate rather well on the concert stage. Even a few older tracks like "School" and "Spank Thru" (a track I honestly don't remember hearing on Bleach) tend to show off the better moments of this band.

And though Cobain claimed he was tortured by the success Nirvana quickly achieved, there are times he (God forbid) sounds happy singing about teenage angst, almost as if the music was finally acting as a catharsis. Too bad those times weren't as often as we're led to believe; I find it hard to comprehend how Cobain saw his life comprising of piss and vinegar.

Many of the songs don't have the polish that their studio counterparts had; whether this is a good or bad thing is left up to the individual listener's discretion. At times, the roughness charms me; other times, I find myself longing for a little more clean sound coming from the speakers. (And no matter what my mood, I could easily live without the balls-on-fire screaming on "Intro".)

From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah is both a fitting conclusion to Nirvana and a sad epitaph to a tragic figure in the alternative world. While there are some moments on this disc that show why they were the kings of grunge for a time, this is most definitely a mood disc, and should be approached with an air of caution.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.