Bossa Nirvana

I watched the rather hit-and-miss adaptation of John Grogan's charming memoir Marley & Me last weekend, and while there were some strange choices made throughout (starting with the casting of Owen Wilson, who I like but who feels a bit too somnambulant for the role), one thing I did enjoy was the movie's use of pop music. In telling the story of a Gen X couple's progression from courtship to large family, the film deploys some clever remakes of alternative pop hits to suggest both the giddiness of that shift and also how disorienting it can be-- your new self is layered onto your old self, without the old self entirely fading away.

That notion of the cover-song-as-lost-identity is best captured in the above cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," here performed by Chicago alt-folk artist Bruce Lash. Its bossa nova groove, reminiscent of Nouvelle Vague, is mellow in a way that enhances the song's lethargy and instability, rather than flattening it out; it takes the gorgeous, fragile melody that's buried in the original and releases it, reminding us that beauty and anxiety are always doing a tentative dance in Cobain's work.


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