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Posted: September 20th, 2004, by Chris S

In keeping with my current listening tastes and my effort to take myself back 8 years minimum I have discovered an amazing band I feel I need to tell you about.

They were called Nirvana.

They were a punk rock band from Aberdeen in Washington and were sort of wrapped up in the K/Kill Rock Stars thing. If you like Unwound then you’ll have no problems with Nirvana who are, if anything, slightly more polished at times than their big brothers from Olympia.

Their debut album Bleach is quite sludgy in sound and lyrically a little immature but still contains some great moments. It came out on the Sub Pop label and shouldn’t be too difficult to track down on EBay but ultimately it’s a little less satisfying than their contemporaries of the time like The Melvins and Karp.

Their next album Nevermind is a real cracker. I urge you to track this one down and give it a spin. Essentially a concept album about singer Kurt Cobains break up with Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill, this is a fantastic bittersweet pop record albeit with thundering drums (courtesy of David Grohl who’s work you’re probably aware of from his time in Dischord band Scream) and lascerating guitar.

The genius part of this record is the decision to polish the production in a lot of respects. Like The Pixies Doolittle it really adds to the quality of the songs. There’s not a duff track on it, it’s a real pop winner. I’m not sure which label put this out but it shouldn’t be too tricky to get hold of.

After this came a split 7″ with heavyweights The Jesus Lizard. Obviously, nothing was going to quite live up to the might of Puss from the seminal Liar LP but Nirvana did their best with a raucous “Oh The Guilt”. This is fairly rare though, maybe someone should put together a Nirvana box set style compilation?

Their 3rd album was recorded, like most underground US music, by Steve Albini and was called In Utero. This saw Nirvana go in new directions on some of the tracks but not succeed quite as well on others. Milk It and Scentless Apprentice are warzone barrages of noise with Grohls drums taking prominence alongside Cobains screamed vocals. Songs like Dumb and Rape Me are a little too rooted in their older material and don’t sit well on the record. But still, this is close to being a masterpiece. Heart Shaped Box especially melds the pop and noise worlds that Nirvana straddled. It seems to be a tribute in sorts to Cobains partner who I believe was Courtney Love, singer in the LA “riot grrl” band Hole who you might have heard of as Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth recorded their first album. Heart Shaped Box is quite beyond compare and special mention must go to the saucy bassline provided by Krist Novoselic (now a politician). Despite its inconsistencies, In Utero demands to be played loud and is for the most part very dark and compelling listening.

Then they just disappeared sometime in 1994. Whereas fellow bands from their locale like Mudhoney or The Melvins have gone on to something of a resurgence, Nirvana is a name not often mentioned anymore in hardcore or punk rock circles. So yeah, great stuff, well worth a listen.

Chris S

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.


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