Requisite 20 Year Anniversary of Nevermind Post

In Bloom – Nirvana from Nevermind

It’s hard to imagine a rock album (or any album for that matter) taking over the public consciousness nowadays in the way Nevermind did in 1991-1992.  For me, the album came out at a time when I was discovering more and more “alternative” music, and as an impressionable teenager, the first time I heard the riff opening Smells Like Teen Spirit, I was hooked.  It became one of the few CDs I owned at the time as I was a late mover from cassettes, and by default it got a lot of listens.  While that song was the visceral core of the album and the song that most people identify with the band, I was always drawn to the track that followed.  In that hypothetical top ten songs list we all have, In Bloom is definitely in mine.

While Teen Spirit opened with a bare guitar riff, In Bloom blasts both drums and guitar at the outset, then its the guitar that bows out as Dave Grohl crushes his tom toms 10 seconds in as the song settles into its groove.  Grohl’s drumming on this track is superb and really sets  the vibe of the song for me.  It’s the kind of crisp, simple drumming, with a few flourishes, you’ll find backing a Johnny Cash or Jerry Lewis song.  Of course, the production here pushes the drums much more to the fore than back in the days of Cash and Lewis.  A similarly easygoing bassline by Kris Novoselic complements Grohl’s drums.

Cobain’s guitar riff isn’t as frenetic as Teen Spirit but there’s still plenty of bite to it.  Like in Teen Spirit, at the beginning of the quiet sections of the quietLOUDquiet song structure, the guitar is non-existent, then builds toward the LOUD chorus.  That chorus features Cobain and Grohl harmonizing.  As we know now, Grohl is plenty capable of singing in a rock outfit, so in retrospect this doesn’t seem so weird, but how many bands give their drummer harmonizing duties on choruses.  Cobain’s own voice, which could range from fragile to ferocious, saunters somewhere in between these two extremes here.  He calmly sings “nature is a whore” and then gets more into a gravelly yelp as he hits the chorus.

The net effect of all this, as I see it, is an amped up version of a 50s/60s pop song.  The pop polish of this song compared to Smells Like and other songs on Nevermind make it somewhat of an outlier.  The song was the last single released from Nevermind and it seemed to close a chapter with the band as their next album wouldn’t create anything so radio-friendly.  For me, this is a pantheon-level pop song.  I’d like to think if the Beatles had continued recording into the 80s and 90s, they would have created something similar, say an updated version of Day Tripper influenced by heavy metal and punk.

Here’s the video the band released for the song, which I think shows the band having fun with the fact that a punk/hard rock had created a great pop song in the tradition of “square” 50s/60s pop groups (the homage to the Beach Boys here is pretty obvious):

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One Response to “Requisite 20 Year Anniversary of Nevermind Post”

  1. Geoff Says:

    hard to believe it’s been 20 years!

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