Thursday, 10 April 2014

Remake/Remodel #6: Charlie Hunter Trio does Nirvana

In what appears to be a perfect fit for a segment titled "Remake/Remodel", today we look at Nirvana's "Come As You Are".

Much has been written of Nirvana's sound, how they intended to sound like the Pixies, emulating the soft quiet of their verses mixed with shrieking loudness in the choruses of their songs. It has even been mooted that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has a guitar riff that is a knockoff of "More Than A Feeling" by Boston. That is a statement that is not without credibility.

But Kurt Cobain had a habit of recycling and regurgitating. The riff to "Smells..." does have the same rhythm pattern as "More Than A Feeling", but the chords are different. It was different enough to avoid trouble, but "Come As You Are" was not so lucky.

The riff for this song was the subject of a lawsuit from British alternative band Killing Joke, who claimed that the riff to "Come as you Are" was a slowed down version of the riff in their song "Eighties". To my ears, Killing Joke appear to have a winning case.

It has also been speculated that this was one of the reasons that Kurt was so depressed before he died. He loved Killing Joke and didn't intend to rip them off. But we'll never know for sure. What we do know is that Killing Joke dropped the lawsuit in the wake of Kurt's death.

Musically it is a slow burner of a track, with the dark, heavily processed run of notes in the verse, with the heavy guitars making an appearance in the bridge section "Oh I swear that I don't have a gun...", giving a bit of light among the shade.

In the wake of Kurt's passing in 1994, there were a huge wave of tributes and covers. One of the more interesting ones, in my view, was a cover of "Come As You Are" by the Charlie Hunter Trio. Charlie Hunter is a jazz guitarist and this track was my first introduction to his work.

Charlie Hunter is amazing from the point of view that he plays a hybrid guitar with 3 bass strings and 5 guitar strings, enabling him to play lead guitar and bass lines all at once. It is truly remarkable what he does. In the intro to his version, he plays "Come As You Are" in the bass line, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in the guitar line - all at once. I don't know how he does it, but it blows my mind.

VERDICT: I don't really have a favourite of the two. The original is great as it is. Charlie Hunter does a version that takes the bare bones of the original and takes it to a new place entirely. It does amazing things that I never though could be possible and is makes my head spin every time I hear it.

What do you think? Drop us a line in the comments below.


  1. Charlie must be using both sides of his brain or he has worked out what women do and do two things at once LOL. Great music though and I see the similarities between Killing Joke and Kurt's definitely a case there but all irrelevant now.

    I've started to tune in everyday now as you have been posting some interesting articles lately. Keep up the good work.


    1. Thanks Deutros. Great to have along and thanks for the feedback!