Versus – Settling Disputes Edition

Come As You Are – Nirvana V. Eighties – Killing Joke

So why I am I comparing a song from THE 90s alternative band with a song by a late 80s/early 90s post-punk outfit that most people have never heard of.  Well, I was driving around the other day and Killing Joke’s “Eighties” came up on XM.  I vaguely remembered the song, and I was definitely enjoyed hearing it.  But there was something about the song that was bothering me.  The guitar riff sounded really familiar.  By the end of the song, I was pretty sure it was a Nirvana song.  Hmm.  Being the geek I am, I went straight to wikipedia when I got home to nail this down.  Bingo, the song was Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and there were disputed claims as to whether Killing Joke did or did not file a copyright infringement suit.  So I figure there’s only one way to settle this beef.  Let’s go to the audiotape!

So I come into this with a definite bias.  “Come As You Are” is my least favorite song on Nevermind and has one of my least favorite videos (I mean c’mon, a dog with a cone collar, water flowing down stairs, wtf?).  It doesn’t help that this song comes after two legitimately great songs and immediately after my favorite Nirvana song ever, and the song I’d choose as the best song of the 90s if I had a gun to my head.  I think the main sin of  “Come As You Are” is that it kills the momentum for me created by “Teen Spirit” and “In Bloom.”  I just feel like it’s kinda a lifeless song, though the guitar solo at the 2 minute mark is pretty rockin’.  The riff beginning the song is very deliberate and sounds as if it’s coming from underwater (guess that might explain all that damn water in the video, or a pipe broke on set and they didn’t call a plumber).  Likewise, the lyrics just sound flat and Kurt sounds bored singing “memoria” and “i don’t have a gun” over and over.  Dave Grohl’s drumming breathes some life into the song until they get to that guitar solo.  Even not taking into the context of the album, I’d say this is an average song.

Killing Joke’s “Eighties” carries none of the baggage that “Come As You Are” carries in my mind.  I don’t know much about the band or the album this song came from.  But, as a song I like it so much more.  For one, the riff in question is sped up though it also has a similar, though less, waterlogged quality.  I think this riff was just meant to played at this tempo, and Nirvana’s slower version just can’t match it.  The bass drum pounds a few solitary notes before being joined by snare and cymbals that keep the song moving along at a brisk pace.  Lead singer Jaz Coleman’s sneering vocals (reminding me a little of PiL era John Lydon) are very effective and while lyrically this certainly isn’t saying anything profound, the hook “living in the Eighties” is catchy, much more than Nirvana’s tune.

So, I think the winner here is clearly the underdog, Killing Joke.  And, oh yeah, there’s no way that Nirvana didn’t clip that guitar riff.

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2 Responses to “Versus – Settling Disputes Edition”

  1. Geoff @ the world keeps spinning Says:

    I like Nirvana but have always thought of that particular song wasn’t as great compared to others. I think I may have even heard of the band you were referring to because it did seem familiar.

  2. Sarah Says:

    Can you make money starting song dispute suits from CA?

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