Unheard Kurt Cobain recordings to be released

Brett Morgen.
Brett Morgen.

NEW YORK • Even after eight years of contemplating Kurt Cobain for an authorised documentary, writer and director Brett Morgen had trouble closing the vault.

Following the premiere this year of Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, for which Morgen listened to more than 200 hours of tape from the tortured Nirvana singer's archives, he decided the movie was not the end of the story he hoped to tell.

More selections from that lot are being released as a somewhat unorthodox soundtrack. Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings, coming out on Friday from Universal, consists of lo-fi song sketches, goofy skits and bedroom noodling.

Playful yodelling and experimental sound collages can be heard amid demos of Nirvana songs such as Sappy and Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle.

At one point, Cobain stops playing to answer a call and take a message for his girlfriend at the time.

In addition to a 13-track CD version and a double LP on vinyl (out next month), a boxed set includes a 31-track deluxe edition, the film (on Blu-ray and DVD), a cassette of the soundtrack, a hardcover book, a puzzle (with collectible storage container), a poster, postcards and a bookmark.

In 2007, Courtney Love, Cobain's widow, had granted Morgen full access to the archives - most notably 108 untapped cassettes of home recordings that were initially vetted by Cobain's sister, Kim.

Some of that material made the film, including a spoken-word piece in which Cobain details his early suicidal thoughts and a cover of The Beatles' And I Love Her.

Manna from heaven for some completist superfans, the collection has been viewed less charitably by others, who question the holidayseason arrival of recordings that were never intended to see daylight.

"This home recordings album is going to do more to destroy Kurt Cobain's legacy than build it," one rock critic on Twitter wrote. "Imagine someone secretly taped you singing songs to your pets & then released it as a 2xCD."

But Morgen bristled at any suggestion of exploitation, framing the project instead as necessary historical archiving.

"I believe there is tremendous public interest in exploring how great art is created," he said. "We look at manuscripts, we explore how Leonardo da Vinci arrived at his final creations. I think Kurt is a profound and incredibly important artist."

He said it was ultimately Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who had final say.

Though the album is tied to his film's DVD release, Morgen has said he has no financial stake in the soundtrack. "It's my understanding that if the album is profitable, the beneficiary would be his family."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Unheard Kurt Cobain recordings to be released'. Print Edition | Subscribe