DVD: Kurt Cobain – About a Son

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Label: Shout Factory

Released: February 19, 2008

It’s hard to ask someone to talk about themselves over an extended set of interviews and not seem self-absorbed. For Cobain, it would probably be impossible to ask that over a twenty minute sit-down let alone something this extensive. Cobain comes across as a whiner, whether he’s crying about his childhood, his health issues or his fame. It makes it clear why he struggled so much with fame. It was so counter to all that he wanted to believe in. And it was counter to who we wanted him to be. He says that punk rock fed his low self-esteem, because punk didn’t expect him to be a rock star. Things sure did change.

The interviews aren’t what makes this film special though. About a Son recognizes that the story is about more than Kurt Cobain. Other than a few old stills scattered throughout, there isn’t a picture or a video of Kurt or Nirvana. Instead, it focuses on places and the everyday people in those places. We’ve all seen live footage of Nirvana at all phases of their career, but here we get to see what Aberdeen and Olympia and Seattle were really like. There are no Nirvana songs here either. Instead, it’s filled with the music that was part of the environment that made Kurt and everyone in that scene who they were as people and artists. That music is filled in with scoring by Ben Gibbard (a master of both mood and simple honesty) and Steve Fisk.

About a Son takes a common though extensive set of interviews and turns them into a work of art all their own. This tells more than Kurt’s story. It tells the story of the towns, the scenes and all of us in the process. I’ve often wondered, “Why Nirvana? Why were they the voice of the musical revolution? Of a generation?” I don’t know if there will ever be a good answer to that, but this film at least gives some insight by reflecting not Cobain’s image back, but that of the people and the times.

Rating: 10/10

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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