Bleach (1989)


Listening to this do you hear anything that could conceivably say that these kids could be the next greatest thing? Not really, no. Listening to their later stuff do you hear anything that could conceivably say that these kids are the greatest thing when indeed they were the greatest thing? Not really, no.

I don’t think it even has charm, but did any of their stuff? What is “charm” in rock ‘n’ roll anyway? I don’t think anyone knows, maybe that’s the charm. “Floyd the Barber” possesses arguably Cobain’s best “solo” [ever] and “About a Girl” is as well written as any teenager’s had-it-up-to-here-with-women whiny longing. The husky tone and over-exaggeration of the last word on every line is infectious in its seemingly inner turmoil.

Cobain didn’t like the term “grunge” – he does like the Melvins, however, and offers more than King Buzzo’s dreary drawl.

I do enjoy their soft, ladish and avowed weirdness even if it is this not-quite-cult masterpiece. (B+)


Nevermind (1991)


These meticulous and steadfast young punksters are just what the doctor ordered. Never flash and never were a flash-in-the-pan; Cobain got what he dreamed of but never wanted, the same can be said for alternative rock.

Simple, sonically direct and musically ascetic, they understand their dreary post-punk influences and, if you don’t mind, modernise them to suit youth culture’s perceived milieu of the day. The hardness merged with the soft and angelic puerility is a perfect match for exactly this and though the lyrical content is the nearest thing to double Dutch you’ll find with any “pained” overnight megastar, they mean a lot to the [newly-fledged] fans.

A classic? Yeah. How couldn’t it be? A big difference from their first record? Yeah. How couldn’t it be? Every Tom, Dick and Harry claimed to see them before the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” days using such adjectives as “drive”, “energy”, “passion” and “potential”. Even the most in-tune of musos would struggle to see the last one. Retrospectively, absolutely correct, obviously.

Less Melvins, more Boston (haw haw) is a good thing. A record for the kids and for alternative rock, even if the latter didn’t want it. (A)


In Utero (1993)


I’ll ignore the non-US “bonus” track at the end and so should you, for this record bears witness totally to what this band is. It’s even simpler in its more “guitar-driven” songs and less “produced” make-up. The songs, like always, are true and relatable no matter the age or background even if you can’t make out what the words mean. After all, Kurt didn’t know himself, or want to know for that matter. That’s why he made it. Unfortunately (for him), none of the fanboys noticed and decided to stick around.

Taking influences from the likes of German novelists (“Scentless Apprentice”) and anti-rape social commentary, all of these songs are more than meaningful and the ones mentioned are meaningful in words too, would you believe? Cobain had something that many didn’t in the pop world – himself. That was probably his downfall but we appreciated that and still do. Were there better guitarists? Yes. Were there better singers? Yes. Were there better lyricists? Definitely. Hard to top his spirit, likeability, and his relationship with his music and generation, though.

The rumblings of alternative rock began in the ’80s and this band is at fault for its modern aesthetic of the “indie” sound. The bands of the ’80s could have easily competed with the bands of the early-’90s, and with a fraction of this exposure would have done so comfortably. Nirvana stuck to its roots, however, even being signed to DGC. The “indie” bands of now aren’t doing them or the ’80s any justice even if a lot of them are enjoyable to listen to, all told.

A true great for simply being him. Grohl and Novoselic were part of this too, even if we didn’t care. Would any other bassist have done? Yes, but Krist was a child, like Kurt. That added to it. (A+)



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