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Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana

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Kurt Cobain spent many of the million or so dollars he made from the Nevermind album on a legal jihad against Nirvana biographers Britt Collins and Victoria Clarke. He and his wife, Courtney Love, also asked EW contributor Gina Arnold to pen a competing biography. Arnold wrote her own quirky, personal, literary account of the rise of Cobain, Eddie Vedder, et al. (Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana) instead. So EW contributor Michael Azerrad, with the band’s help, got to write Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana (Main Street Books/Doubleday), a biography not enormously more flattering than the Collins-Clarke manuscript, which EW obtained.

Azerrad, a righteous rock scribe, delivers the goods on Nirvana. Singer- songwriter Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer David Grohl do turn out to be smarter than your average pop stars — much smarter than Aaron Burckhard and Dave Foster, the two Nirvana members dumb enough to incur jail time that got them dealt out of the Nirvana cash avalanche. But Cobain comes off as a thoughtful jerk. Other songwriters have insulted their enemies, but only Cobain gets rich spitting lyrics that roast his own fans and bandmates.”In Bloom” (“He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs/…But he knows not what it means”) probably ridicules ex-Nirvana players Jason Everman, Foster, and/or Burckhard and definitely savages most Nirvana fans, who don’t meet Cobain’s elitist standards.

Azerrad depicts the alternative-rock world as scarily amoral, in some ways moronic, fiercely puritanical, and — at times — insanely fun. He explains why Cobain started splintering guitars and drum sets (he was peeved about how the drums were being played), and he even manages to translate Nirvana’s weird lyrics into intelligible statements of punk doctrine. Sects and drugs and rock & roll — Come As You Are has got it all. A