Various Artists

Cocktail Tribute to Nirvana

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There's a long history of "tributes" that are actually meant to cash in on the notoriety of their chosen subject. Mitch Miller, the 1960s Columbia Records impresario famous for his Sing Along With Mitch series, had no qualms about releasing singles in whatever format was necessary to sell records. If it was a hit as a pop ditty, then why not as a country barnburner? By that thinking, a lounge music version of "Rape Me" by Nirvana would be a good idea. In fact, an entire album of Nirvana songs contorted into cocktail arrangements would be wonderful. Of course, this is a terrible idea. Nevertheless, Cocktail Tribute to Nirvana exists. Disregarding even the vitriolic despair hardwired into most of Nirvana's catalog, the band's discordant, often angrily simplistic songs just don't lend themselves to lilting instrumentals written for piano, flute, and accordion. Even the dirge-like "Dumb," with its mournful cello, doesn't fare well under the cocktail knife -- the arrangement here seems written for the organist at a baseball game. "In Bloom" is rendered as bossa nova, while "Breed" and "Pennyroyal Tea" are performed entirely on one piano, answering the musical question, "What would Yanni have done here?" The aforementioned "Rape Me" appears twice on the collection. The version opening the album again suggests a between-inning ditty by a baseball organist. The album closes with another version that can only be compared to the manic cartoon music of Carl Stalling. It fails both times, for the same reason Cocktail Tribute to Nirvana's takes on "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Polly," "Heart-Shaped Box," and the rest fail: the lyrical despair, public controversy, and unfortunate end of Nirvana can't be removed from memory by the grist of novelty schmaltz.

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