There are a few albums out there that grab your attention. There are other albums, however, that scramble your brains really, really badly. All of a sudden, you're wearing plaid and you don't know why. Then you wonder why your jeans are all ripped up. Today, perhaps, Nirvana
would not rake in the big bucks like that fat idiot in everyone's music video
would make. But in 1992, Nirvana caused quite a stir. Think of it: music, as we know it, seems to be over. We all want to shoot people, shoot ourselves, do something
to unleash all this pent-up hostility we have. Then, Nirvana
comes out with Nevermind
and says, "Well, damn. I just can't handle any more of this "pop
" crap. Try nonsensical wailing, horrific guitar playing, nearly non-existent bass
, and the mutilation
of a drum kit
." So, we did. And we liked it.
All we heard was angst, and the punishment of instruments. And it was good. Hell, I'm not ashamed to admit that it was the simplicity of Nirvana that made me study, study, study guitar. Other bands were rolling right along with their own "heavy" sounds: Guns N' Roses strolled around with their semi-big hair and over-engineered albums. Metallica wanted to crush the listener's skull, but failed with the Black Album. Both of these bands made millions of dollars, but musically, were missing one thing that Nirvana had in abundance: simplicity. Lead singer Kurt Cobain didn't sing very well, he didn't wail vibrantly on the guitar like Slash did. He didn't growl at you and attempt to tell stories about war, like James Hetfield did. He screamed, and I, for one, couldn't get enough.
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit, the song that made a band. Nevermind's first single, considered by most to be a "classic", launched Nirvana into super-uber-stardom. Everyone was sitting around, waiting for Guns N' Roses and others to release another Don't Cry, when suddenly there's this guy shouting at you. From the morose mumbling of the verses to the driving, four-chord chorus, this was the song that caught everyone's attention. And sold an ass-load of albums.
2. In Bloom was a slower song, that contained a fair example of the Butch Vig sound. Still, it contained that quiet-and-singing, followed by loud-and-screaming undertone accompanying almost the entirety of this album. Though it had a hilarious music video - sort of a bad copy of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show - it really didn't grasp the public's attention like Teen Spirit did.
3. Come As You Are had a well-done yet strange music video, but I don't know how many people that I've known around my age who've said that "it was the first song I ever learned to play." In addition, some non-guitar-playing friends also pick up my guitar today and pluck it out, then they look shame-faced, and say, "Uh...yeah. That's all I know." It was a single, and had tremendous airplay. This song didn't have as much screaming in it, but of course, it talked about guns, so there's enough angst to go around.
4. Breed was a personal favourite of mine. This one was fast, had brutal drums, and it's where I discovered that singing was a relative term, and that it wasn't really necessary when one wanted to fly around the house breaking stuff. In truth, it's a fairly repetetive song, but it's where the listener notices that, yes, Dave Grohl really pounds those drums.
5. Lithium, the true follow-up to Teen Spirit, actually show that the band could do a fairly catchy, straight-up rock song. Sure, it's not exactly Aerosmith, and the chorus is nothing but YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH over and over again, but it doesn't matter. The bass, even though Krist Novoselic is hardly a Flea or a Les Claypool, is catchy, a bit of genius even. This song is not so much the "grunge" feel often associated with Nirvana, but is more your basic rock tune.
6. Polly is morose, keening, and the guitar that Cobain plays is a $20 junk shop Stella, but it suits the song. The lyrics make no sense, and the guitar is the epitome of the simplicity I've been speaking about; But it's just enough, this one. It's slow, low, almost melodic. There's successful use of harmonized vocals, believe it or not. This song is one of two acoustically-oriented songs on the album, with a complete lack of screaming and guitar torturing.
7. Territorial Pissings is a song I always remember because of the wailing of The Youngbloods song at the beginnning: "Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together..." That's about the high point of this song, however; it's fast, there's a lot of screaming, but it's repetetive and boring.
8. Drain You is one of the happier numbers on the album, with a fairly bouncy guitar riff at the beginning, and happier vocals than the rest of the album. This one is also extremely fun to play on guitar. Grab yourself a tablature, and learn this one. Then go into a music store and play really loud. Much fun will be had by all.
9. Lounge Act is, by far, my favourite song on this album. The only one that exudes any form of creativity, this song has its own murky, downtrodden feel. It's not overly "grungy"--whatever that means--but it does have its own darkness, and its own special feel. Think Everlong, by Foo Fighters.
10. Stay Away is Territorial Pissings all over again. You can skip this one. Or listen to it. You will not gain anything from the experience. Grunge at its worst (which does not translate to 'good').
11. On a Plain is a bland song. But hey, to its credit, it has a bridge! I'd recommend the acoustic version found on the MTV release, Nirvana: Unplugged in New York. That version seems to me to be a little more in character for this song.
12. Something In The Way is the second of the two "quiet" songs on this album. Strangely, it was never released as a single. Played again on acoustic guitar, there is also, in the background, some cello playing. The Drop D Tuning of this song doesn't detract from the song's plain elegance (that's right - plain elegance), and is very simple to play on guitar.
About thirteen minutes and 50 seconds into track number twelve, Endless, Nameless begins. It's long, about nine minutes, and it's nothing more than torturing the guitar and screaming.