Appearing a year after the long-awaited three-disc With the Lights Out, which was supposed to be a clearinghouse for all existing Nirvana demos and rarities, Sliver: The Best of the Box is a single-disc compilation of highlights from that set. Of course, a comp like this needs to have collector bait in order to guarantee interest from the die-hard fans, so in addition to 19 previously released cuts, this has three previously unreleased tracks, most noteworthy being the 1985 demo of "Spank Thru," recorded when Kurt Cobain's band was called Fecal Matter. The other two songs are a 1990 studio demo of "Sappy," the song first released under the title "Verse Chorus Verse" on the No Alternative various-artists album, and a "Boom Box Version" of "Come as You Are," which is a taped rehearsal take of the song recorded before Nevermind. All three of these would have fit nicely on the box (and arguably should have been there, especially "Spank Thru," which is the best of the earliest Nirvana-related recordings), and for obsessives, they're enough to warrant a grudging, hesitant purchase. The real question is, whether Sliver is worthwhile for serious fans who nevertheless for whatever reason don't want three discs of demos and outtakes. The answer is: kinda. Most of the major songs from With the Lights Out are here, but not all of them. What's missing are outtakes like "Verse Chorus Verse" (a different song than "Sappy"), B-sides like "Curmudgeon," and non-LP cuts like "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die." While it's understandable that a weird novelty like "Beans" wouldn't make the cut, the absence of these three cuts mean this comp does fall short of its billing as being "The Best of the Box," and it also makes it of less interest to fans who just want all the truly noteworthy cuts from the box. That said, this does have such great items as the outtake "Old Age," the non-LP single "Oh the Guilt," and a demo of Leadbelly's "Ain't It a Shame," plus acoustic demos of Cobain's last two songs, "Do Re Mi" and "You Know You're Right," which is enough to satisfy the curiosity of most listeners. But it has to be said that due to its source material of home recordings and lo-fi tapes, Sliver, like With the Lights Out, is not easy listening and demands listeners' utmost attention -- and if listeners are willing to concentrate that hard on Nirvana rarities, they'd probably be better off getting three discs of the stuff instead of just one.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine