Toronto Artists Take On Nirvana

It’s been a busy month and a half for Nirvana’s ghost. First, the band’s final album In Utero was remastered and given the deluxe re-release treatment. The 20th Anniversary Edition was released by Universal on September 24 and includes demos, b-sides and live material.

Yesterday, Nirvana was nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their name was shortlisted along with: The Replacements, N.W.A., Chic, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, LL Cool J, The Zombies, Cat Stevens, Hall and Oates, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Deep Purple, Link Wray, The Meters, Linda Ronstadt and Yes. 2013 is the band’s first year of eligibility.

Also notable, but not necessarily making the same headlines, Hand Drawn Dracula released a stunning compilation of 16 Nirvana covers by a variety of Toronto-based artists called Milkin’ It. The compilation covers all 12 tracks found on In Utero along with 4 bonus b-sides. “The compilation exists primarily for two reasons, the first being to take a snapshot of a particularly fertile, vital moment in Toronto’s musical history which, for all we know, may be inspiring a younger generation as it happens. The second, of course, is simply to pay tribute to three guys from a rainy corner of the continent who first inspired us to do what we do.”

The album kicks off with a dreamy version of “Serve the Servants” by Breeze. Breeze is led by Josh Korody, who also appears on track 3, playing guitar for Beliefs on their take of “Heart Shaped Box.” The Great Bloomers’ frontman Lowell Sostomi, gives “Dumb” the slacker acoustic treatment. It’s atmospheric, super-dreary and beautifully haunting; a lovely surprise.

Absolutely Free provide one of my favourite songs on the compilation, one that’s quite different from the source material. Their neo-kraut-rock take on “Milk It” is full of melodic textures and just enough pitch-shitfing keyboards. The Weather Station (Tamara Lindeman) strips the anger from “Pennyroyal Tea,” yet still maintains much of the emotional resonance. The psych-country sounds gives the song a touch of mystery.

The Wooden Sky does their best Deer Tick impression  on “All Apologies” by fusing the sounds of grunge and folk rock. It’s the loudest the band’s ever been and it’s absolutely fantastic. Lead singer Gavin Gardiner wins the award of having the best Kurt Cobain voice on the comp. As the album info explains, “The quartet rise to the challenge of covering one of Nirvana’s most well-known and beloved songs, and it’s no mystery why their performance here served as the reason for this compilation to exist in the first place.”

Milk Lines takes on “Sappy” with a banjo, a drum machine and an organ solo. My words do this song no justice, it’s a must hear.

Milkin’ It can be streamed on Soundcloud, but do yourself a favour and download the album for free and drift off while celebrating what happens when Toronto artists breathe new life into a classic album.

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