Posts Tagged ‘Nirvana’

Requisite 20 Year Anniversary of Nevermind Post

October 11, 2011

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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Versus – Settling Disputes Edition

November 8, 2010

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.