Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Nirvana: Live at Reading [DGC, 2009]
Nirvana's outtakes retain more jam than most, in part because they've been doled out so sparingly. Even the detritus-happy three-CD/one-DVD With the Lights Out box is not only fascinating but pleasurable. A side effect of this restraint is that, except for the subdued and hence one-of-a-kind MTV Unplugged, this is the band's very first concert album--one show beginning to end rather than the hither-and-yon performances unified into From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah in 1996. Half these 24 songs aren't on that record anyway, but even if most of them were, the sustained mood and energy flow would be something new and precious. The arrangements offer few surprises, though check the guitar intro to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; the Mudhoney cover and unfinalized "D-7" at the end are there to tamp the crowd down a little. So what? This one proceeds directly to the canon. A