With the Lights Out

With the Lights Out

4.7 10
by Nirvana
This is the box set Courtney Love didn't want you to hear. But after years in legal limbo, the Nirvana archives are thrown open on this collection of long-lost material. And the good news is, the quality and relevance of Kurt and company's unreleased work is positively stratospheric. Comprising three CDs and a DVD, With the Lights


This is the box set Courtney Love didn't want you to hear. But after years in legal limbo, the Nirvana archives are thrown open on this collection of long-lost material. And the good news is, the quality and relevance of Kurt and company's unreleased work is positively stratospheric. Comprising three CDs and a DVD, With the Lights Out provides a sharply focused look at the tracks that slipped between the cracks of Nirvana's career, not to mention some nifty time-lapse glances at the development of songs that would later become favorites. The set is peppered with cover material that's quite telling, what with Kurt Cobain leading his mates -- at their first public performance ever -- through a barely-in-control version of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker," then later slicing out a tension-thick rendition of the Velvet Underground's "Here She Comes Now." The first disc is particularly heavy on previously unheard material, which ranges from bleak, In Utero–sounding scream fests like "Anorexorcist" and "Mrs. Butterworth" (the latter of which finds Cobain pondering suicide as far back as 1988) to surprisingly delicate home demos like the predawn mutter "Don't Want It All." It's revealing to hear the evolution of songs that spent a good deal of time simmering before their eventual release: The version of "Dive" here is markedly slower and more ragged sounding, while an acoustic take on "Lithium," performed by Cobain alone at a radio taping, points up the song's innate delicacy even more than the hit version. There's a goodly amount of acoustic material scattered across the set, notably the previously unreleased "Opinion" (Cobain's embryonic attempt at a '60s-style protest anthem) and three Leadbelly covers, highlighted by the gospel shout-along "They Hung Him on a Cross." The DVD component is equally illuminating, starting with an eight-song rehearsal taped in the basement of Krist Novoselic's parents' house, before an audience made up of the sort of mustachioed townies that Cobain would rail against on tracks such as "Mr. Mustache" included there. The disc is rounded out by a series of clips from far-flung live shows, notably the previously unreleased "Sappy" (later retitled "Verse Chorus Verse") and a homecoming show version of "Love Buzz," both dating back to 1990. Rife with danger, promise, and poignancy, With the Lights Out is a perfect distillation of the Nirvana legacy.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Within a matter of months after Kurt Cobain's suicide in April of 1994, fans started asking for the official release of all the demos, stray songs, alternate takes, and rarities in Nirvana's vaults. Due to various legal disputes between the surviving bandmembers and the Cobain estate, this long-awaited set of unreleased material did not appear until late 2004, when the three-disc, one-DVD box With the Lights Out finally appeared. Not counting the 20-song DVD, the box contains 61 tracks, with nearly two-thirds of this material seeing its first official release on this set (the remaining songs are B-sides, one-off singles, and compilation contributions that didn't make it to the compilation Incesticide, or appeared after its 1992 release). Much of this unreleased material has circulated frequently on bootlegs over the past ten years -- most notably on the 1995 box set Into the Black and the multi-volume Outcesticide series -- but the fidelity here is much, much better, and there are several items here that have never been bootlegged, including early alternate versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Heart Shaped Box." Just as importantly, no major item that appeared on the bootlegs does not appear here (with the arguable exception of the Kiss cover "Do You Love Me"), which makes this the definitive collection of Nirvana studio rarities and outtakes. As the sessionography in the liner notes indicates, this hardly contains all of the unreleased material, but it certainly contains all of the noteworthy unreleased material. All of which covers what With the Lights Out is, but it doesn't cover whether the set is worthwhile, either as music or as a history lesson. For Nirvana fanatics, it certainly is. While the packaging is slightly irritating -- it opens lengthwise, making it a little difficult to navigate -- it is lovingly, carefully prepared, expertly sequenced and selected (each disc roughly corresponds to each of their three official albums, all following in chronological order), terrifically remastered, and given a book with plenty of rare photos, posters, and memorabilia replicated in the liner notes, along with a touching essay from Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and a DVD filled with rare video, including a selection of songs filmed at a 1988 rehearsal at Krist Novoselic's mom's house, the public debut of "Teen Spirit," and a version of "Seasons in the Sun" recorded in a studio in Brazil. However, for listeners who are less dedicated, this set may not be quite as compelling as it initially seems. Listening to archival material like this, whether it's on an official release or a bootleg, is a bit of a chore, since it not only doesn't have the flow of a proper album, but the selections are chosen for historical reasons and therefore are interesting as curiosities as much as they are as full-fledged pieces of music. And that's the case here -- while there is much good music here, there isn't much that adds to Nirvana's legacy, nor is there much that's revelatory. To be sure, the demos are interesting, particularly when Cobain is testing different words to such well-known songs as "Teen Spirit" and "Rape Me," or performing such crushing, metallic rockers as "Serve the Servants" and "Very Ape" as acoustic numbers, but these are ultimately subtle differences that don't alter our understanding of the songs. Similarly, to hear the early, pre-Bleach band run through Led Zeppelin covers and formless but promising heavy rockers during the first portion of the set is worthwhile, if only to hear a great band in its embryonic stage, but it doesn't result in a disc that's likely to be played more than once or twice; it's for the historical record, but it's not necessarily musically significant, since it captures a band finding its voice, not immediately delivering undeniable music. A handful of songs on With the Lights Out do qualify as both historically interesting and significant music, and these are mainly the songs that were completed and saw official release, or were heavily bootlegged because they were close to release. They include: the Nevermind outtakes "Verse Chorus Verse" and "Old Age"; the 1992 non-LP single "Oh the Guilt" and the "Lithium" B-side "Curmudgeon"; the compilation tracks "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die" (originally released on The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience) and "Sappy" (originally released on No Alternative, where it was titled "Verse Chorus Verse"); the solo acoustic demos of the unreleased songs "Do Re Mi" and "You Know You're Right" (the electric version, initially released on the hits compilation Nirvana, is not present here). That's eight songs. That's not to say that the rest of the box set is filler, since it isn't -- as far as unreleased demos and alternate takes from a major band go, it's interesting stuff. It's just that Nirvana's outtakes -- unlike Bob Dylan's, the Velvet Underground's, or the Beatles' -- are footnotes to their story, not part of their main narrative. As long as this is understood, nobody who gets this box set should be disappointed, since it is as good as it could possibly be.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
It's Nirvana as the band Kurt Cobain thought it should have been: noisy, anarchic, unadorned and true in sound and spirit to the independent underground rock he cared about most.... Amid the guitar squall, is the sound of Kurt Cobain turning pain into art.
Rolling Stone - Rob Sheffield
With the Lights Out is for true-blue fans only. But if you think you want it, you do.
Entertainment Weekly - David Browne
It's no surprise that most of [the material] is raw; it is a surprise that most of it's worth hearing. (A-)

Product Details

Release Date:
Geffen Records


Disc 1

  1. Heartbreaker
  2. Anorexorcist
  3. White Lace and Strange
  4. Help Me I'm Hungry
  5. Mrs. Butterworth
  6. If You Must
  7. Pen Cap Chew
  8. Downer
  9. Floyd the Barber
  10. Raunchola/Moby Dick
  11. Beans
  12. Don't Want It All
  13. Clean Up Before She Comes
  14. Polly
  15. About a Girl
  16. Blandest
  17. Dive
  18. They Hung Him on a Cross
  19. Grey Goose
  20. Ain't It a Shame
  21. Token Eastern Song
  22. Even in His Youth
  23. Polly

Disc 2

  1. Opinion
  2. Lithium
  3. Been a Son
  4. Sliver
  5. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
  6. Pay to Play
  7. Here She Comes Now
  8. Drain You
  9. Aneurysm
  10. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  11. Breed
  12. Verse Chorus Verse
  13. Old Age
  14. Endless, Nameless
  15. Dumb
  16. D-7
  17. Oh, the Guilt
  18. Curmudgeon
  19. Return of the Rat
  20. Smells Like Teen Spirit

Disc 3

  1. Rape Me
  2. Rape Me
  3. Scentless Apprentice
  4. Heart Shaped Box
  5. I Hate Myself and Want to Die
  6. Milk It
  7. M.V.
  8. Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip
  9. The Other Improv
  10. Serve the Servants
  11. Very Ape
  12. Pennyroyal Tea
  13. Marigold
  14. Sappy
  15. Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam
  16. Do Re Mi
  17. You Know You're Right
  18. All Apologies

Disc 4

  1. Love Buzz
  2. Scoff
  3. About a Girl
  4. Big Long Now
  5. Immigrant Song
  6. Spank Thru
  7. Hairspray Queen
  8. School
  9. Mr. Moustache
  10. Big Cheese
  11. In Bloom
  12. Sappy
  13. School
  14. Love Buzz
  15. Pennyroyal Tea
  16. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  17. Territorial Pissings
  18. Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam
  19. Talk to Me
  20. Seasons in the Sun

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Nirvana   Primary Artist
Pat Smear   Guitar
Dale Crover   Bass,Drums
Kirk Canning   Cello
Chad Channing   Drums
Kurt Cobain   Guitar,Vocals
Melora Creager   Cello
Jason Everman   Guitar
Dave Grohl   Bass,Drums,Vocals
Krist Novoselic   Bass
Dan Peters   Drums
Mark Pickerel   Drums
Kera Schaley   Cello
Aaron Burckhard   Drums
Dave Foster   Drums

Technical Credits

John Cale   Composer
Nirvana   Composer
Jimmy Page   Composer
Robert Plant   Composer
Lou Reed   Composer
Greg Sage   Composer
Maureen Tucker   Composer
Jacques Brel   Composer
Jack Endino   Producer
Steve Fisk   Producer
Rod McKuen   Composer
John Paul Jones   Composer
Steve Albini   Producer
Peter Asher   Executive Producer
Ian Beveridge   Producer
John Bonham   Composer
Kurt Cobain   Composer
John Goodmanson   Engineer
Dale "Buffin" Griffin   Producer
Dave Grohl   Composer
Calvin Johnson   Engineer
Huddie Ledbetter   Composer
Thurston Moore   Liner Notes
Sterling Morrison   Composer
Krist Novoselic   Composer
Robbie Van Leeuwen   Composer
Butch Vig   Producer
Craig Montgomery   Producer
Fred Kay   Engineer
Vartan   Art Direction
Mike Engles   Engineer
Robert Fisher   Art Direction
Barrett Jones   Producer
Eugene Kelly   Composer
Frances McKee   Composer
Roger Kay   Director
John Silva   Executive Producer
Lance Bangs   Producer
Neil Strauss   Liner Notes
Michael Meisel   Executive Producer
Gillian Gaar   Contributor
Greg Babior   Engineer
Steve Brown   Director
Robert Novoselic   Contributor

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

With the Lights Out 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not really heard most of the songs because most of them are previously unreleased.Altogether, the price and the content, make this boxset a must have for nirvana fans like me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The collection NIRVANA fans have been waiting for! Many of us were disapointed with the 'Greatest Hits' CD, but this more than makes up for it. Though alot of the audio material you can find on the web, there's lots of stuff I havn't, and from the material on the DVD, it's more than worth the price!
Guest More than 1 year ago
guys, this is a must need, i am a dedicated nirvana fan and have been since i came from my mother's "moist vagina" lmfao i have no money for this so i am selling my clothes. I shall run around nakie but as long as i have this my heart shall be filled with love and beauty :) -Katie
Guest More than 1 year ago
nirvana only the best band ever to grace my ear is now coming out with this, this shall continue keeping the legends alive and the awsomeness flowing! this earth needs beauty like this more often hugs and kisses for the band, but not cortney :) go get this now before its too late in order to truly rock you need this in your house, learn from the masters and god fathers of grunge
Guest More than 1 year ago
nirvana is one of the best bands to have ever graced the world. with their meaningful lyrics, and the motivating messages behind each and every song. i cant wait to get my copy of this box set because i know its going to rock my socks!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What can I say? This is an amazing compilation. One day our children will look at Nirvana in the same eyes that we grew up seeing the Doors. This will live forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing boxset. I bought it just a couple days ago and have already memorized the words to most of the songs. "Opinion" for one is an awesome song and should have been released 10 years ago.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the most raw I have ever seen or heard Nirvana. They could never achieve this level of anger in their albums. I guess that goes with most live shows in general. The early version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has totally different lyrics. Only pick it up if you're a die-hard Nirvana fan because it's nothing but rarities and demos and stuff. Good stuff though
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though it takes it's name from a lyric from Nirvana's best known song (as well as one of its most commercially successful), "With the Lights Out", as many have mentioned, is meant more for the serious fan. Some fans have called it a rip-off and some have called it a treasure trove. Frankly, your opinion of the box set will depend on how big of a fan you are. If you are the type of casual fan that occasionally throws "Nevermind" on as background music at your parties, you're not going to get it. If you are a serious fan with all the albums, who is still hungry for more, you might get it. If you prefer Nirvana's rawer and less polished music ("Bleach", "Incesticide" or "In Utero") and you respect the indie rock music background that inspired Nirvana (such as Sonic Youth and the Pixies, to name two) you will most likely get it, as any die-hard should. Add extra points if you are a bootleg collector (the "Outcesticide" series, etc.) who is looking for slightly cleaner versions of rare songs, as well as a few they might have missed. "With the Lights Out" does not always offer pristine sound quality, but people who expect this have missed the point. Much of it consists of bootleg material that has been floating around for the past decade. One must appreciate the fact that much of the music was originally recorded with no intention of release. Add in the fact that this is Nirvana, who reveled in their rawness as any great indie/alternative band should. Serious Nirvana fans will be able to tell that the greatness of many of these songs still shines through. It may be tossed off for this band, but many lesser bands would have killed to have written one of the obscure songs. As an admitted die-hard, I have already heared some of these songs, though by no means all. Since my Kazaa crashed, it's great to finally have released versions to listen to. I don't think the best versions of every song were used, and of course, some rare material was left off, but overall, I am pleased with the box set. It would have been impossible to please every fan anyway. If anything, the lesser known tracks on the set only add to Nirvana's legacy, proving that many great songs were written that didn't even make it to the albums.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you only like Nevermind, or you didnt think that Nirvana was too raw for you to listen to, then dont buy this set. If you love the fact that you cant understand Kurt on Bleach's Floyd the Barber, then you will love this album. This set is for the Hardcore fans. I would personally rate this set with 5 stars, because its all previously unreleased, but i gave it 3 because a lot of people wont like it.