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In October, the Kurt Cobain film About a Son will see limited theatrical release; the DVD drops early next year. Culled from over 25 hours of recorded interviews with Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad, the film is an artistic autopsy that will feature Cobain's meditations on his own life, a framed self-portrait of sorts that examines the musical context that shaped him.

You can get an earlier, rather enlightening glimpse inside Sept. 11 when the soundtrack is released. The official line is that it was an artistic call not to include any Nirvana songs on it, but it's likely prohibitively exorbitant licensing fees made that decision easy. Regardless, it's a far more interesting approach that'll certainly bring the majority of the band's fans to a new plane of understanding about the artistic makeup of its troubled frontman. The song list was compiled by director A.J. Schnack based on bands Cobain referenced in the interviews, so the disc feels like a guided tour through his personal record collection.

As much as he was a musician, Cobain was a student of music. As a form of expression, music was sacred to him — not only what he created but what he listened to. It was the lens through which he viewed reality, which is why he admired artists for what they represented philosophically as well as aesthetically. These artists etched his very ethics. His range of touchstones, as represented by this comp, was wide and encompassed hardcore (Bad Brains), noise rock (Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers), indie pop (the Vaselines, Half Japanese), folk (Arlo Guthrie), sludge (Melvins), and blues (Leadbelly). Actually, with such a prismatic and thoughtful song list, you'd do well to familiarize yourself with the artists featured.

Peppered throughout are interview clips of Cobain ruminating about things like celebrityhood, punk rock and hearing his own music on the radio. It's an engagingly diverse disc that paints a deeper composite of one of rock music's fallen icons.

The beat

Just another manic Monday? Not when it comes to music around town, so I turned up a couple corners of the scene that I don't get to often Aug. 27. I began at the Lodge, since Monday is the only night of the week they have live music, though you probably didn't know that since it's way underpromoted. I happened upon an acoustic musician whose name isn't important because he's not really the point here; besides, he didn't do much to change the very (yaa-a-aawn) tired acoustic paradigm.

I'll admit it, I don't know everything (GASP!). And one of those things is why 99.9 percent of acoustic musicians are compelled to turn every goddamned song into a beige, mid-paced slog. Is there some tacit oath that I'm unaware of? Seriously. Somewhere along the way, the format has become the playground of the lazy and unadventurous, relegated to being the soundtrack to whatever else is going on in the room. For example, this particular guy took songs that ranged from anthemic ("Fat Bottomed Girls") to celebratory ("Hey Ya") to downright revolutionary ("Sunday Bloody Sunday") and somehow found a way to turn them into wallpaper. Again, the point is not that this one dude was guilty of emotional anemia, it's that the guilt is so systemic. Note to acoustic musicians: Stop being the Chris O'Donnells of the music world and develop a personality.

Before ennui turned into coma, I bounced and legged it over to Screamers for Torque, their weekly drum & bass night. On the approach, I was only riding the mere suggestion of a two-beer buzz. But upon entering the club, I felt like I was on the eighth hour of a White Dove ride, minus the teeth-grinding, of course.

Though I used to run in house music circles, my appreciation for drum & bass has always been more intellectual than visceral. I marvel at the complex, polyrhythmic beat science of it and the attacking mixing style flashed by many of its DJs. Strictly as music, though, it tends to affect me with the sort of nervousness one might see in the waiting room of a methadone clinic.

In terms of technique, resident DJ Circle K was more smooth than slashing. Though lean on the dynamics that thrill, his mixing was airtight and his co-host, MC Collaborator, threw down rolling rhymes in a strafing ragga style. Jungle is but a thin sliver of the music scene nowadays, but these cats are enthusiastic about their craft and they're still holding it down in a room that sounds really good.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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