At this point, there’s not much left to say about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. For such an influential band, the story itself covers only a very brief span of history, and is so basic and forthright, that any retelling or biography has to contain something quite revelatory or special in order to differentiate it from the glut of other Nirvana books. (Spoiler alert: there’s nothing there.) Until his former bandmates or his widow Courtney Love write their autobiographies, the world doesn’t really need a new biography of either the band or its frontman. It would be a fruitless endeavor anyway; many of the key players of the Nirvana story have declared moratoriums on talking about their friend and his band–a move I applaud.
Which is what makes Nick Soulsby‘s I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana such a compelling, interesting read. Yes, it’s the same old Nirvana story, but it’s told from a unique perspective–from members of bands that played with them, toured with them, or were friends with them. Soulsby interviewed a lot of artists and musicians, ranging from bands now well-regarded to names assuredly forgotten due to the legacy of time and obscurity. Thus, the reader gets to experience the Nirvana story in a collage-like manner, getting observations and historical perspective of a story already well-told.
Are there any major revelations to be found? If one is seeking gossip, then no. If one is interested in perspective, however, then yes, there’s a wealth of information here. Wondering what it was like to be in an ABBA tribute band that was selected to open one of Nirvana’s biggest festival appearances? You’re in luck. Wanna know what it was like to play a tiny show with an indifferent audience? You’ll find that here. Want to know what it was like to be a woman in a band booed offstage? The story’s in here. These tales are often compelling insights to the underground culture of the late eighties and early nineties, uniquely suited to the strange Nirvana phenomenon,
The ephemeral nature of these relationships and interactions practically ensures that I Found My Friends is more of a historical overview than a definitive narrative. Still, that’s not an overwhelming problem, as I Found My Friends offers a truly unique and enjoyable look into the story of one of the last truly great rock bands.