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I think I'm dumb, or maybe just happy

 

Nirvana

 

This is the introduction to the Nirvana page. It's supposed to give you a few bits of information about the band, or more often my thoughts on them. I don't feel like doing that right now, so you'll just have to make your own. Here's some space for you to do so:

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lineup: Kurt Cobain (screaming & minimal guitar ability) and Krist Novoselic (minimal bass ability); with drummer Chad Channing on the first album and drummer/backing vocalist Dave Grohl on the rest

review index: Bleach / Nevermind / Incesticide / In Utero / MTV Unplugged / From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah

missing albums: none

apex: MTV Unplugged
nadir: Incesticide
overlooked: Bleach


Bleach - 1989

Rating: ****
Best songs: Blew, Floyd the Barber, About a Girl, Sifting
Worst songs: Mr. Moustache, Big Cheese, Downer

 

Messy, grungey goodness. This is rather far from the polished Butch Vig sound on Nevermind -- recorded quickly and cheaply, Bleach is filled with pounding, simplistic rockers (except for the ballad "About a Girl", of course) with hyponitc grooves that get inside your (or at least my) head and stay there. The main problem is near the end, some of the material is less than stellar (such as "Mr. Moustache" and the silly ending "Downer"), but before that, whoo, you've got great tracks like "Blew" and "Floyd the Barber"! "Sifting" is another highlight, having an almost 'epic' feel. And "School" is one of the best 'school sucks' songs I've ever heard. Good stuff!


Nevermind - 1991

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Come As You Are, Polly, In Bloom, Smells Like Teen Spirit
Worst songs: Territorial Pissings, Stay Away

 

The first side of this album is wonderful, filled with pop chart smash hits like "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "In Bloom", "Lithium" and "Come As You Are" (a wonderful Tubes song indeed!). There's also a haunting acoustic piece called "Polly" and a silly little punk nihilist thing called "Breed".

Side two is um... not as good. There's really only one great song -- another haunting acoustic piece called "Something in the Way" (a great Beatles song!). There are a few decent songs like "Drain You" and "Lounge Act", and some dull throwaways like "Territorial Pissings" and "Stay Away". Ah well, it's still pretty good. Better than the following album, anyway.


Incesticide - 1992

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: Dive, Aneurysm
Worst songs: don't even get me started...

 

Why did they make an odds and sods collection after only two albums? There are a few worthwhile tracks: the opener "Dive" and closer "Aneurysm" are about a hundred times better than anything else on here, and the covers of Devo and the Vaselines are entertaining. But tracks 8 through 14 shouldn't exist. That's half the album! Skip. Reverse. Draw four.


In Utero - 1993

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Serve the Servants, Heart-Shaped Box, All Apologies, Dumb
Worst songs: Milk It, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Pennyroyal Tea, tourette's

 

Um, really. There are some more lovely pop gems like "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies" tucked away in here, but they're jammed in between crap like "Very Ape", "Milk It" and "tourette's". There's also a wonderful riff-rocker that kicks off the album ("Serve the Servants") and a "Teen Spirit"-ripoff ("Rape Me"), but the rest is pretty dull. Trying to make Bleach-esque noise-rockers doesn't quite work when the production is more like Nevermind.


MTV Unplugged - 1995

Rating: ****
Best songs: Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam, The Man Who Sold the World, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, All Apologies
Worst songs: Pennyroyal Tea, Lake of Fire

 

Hey, this one ain't bad, even if (or BECAUSE, herpaps?) half of it is just cover songs. "All Apologies" is about ten billion times better than the original version, and they wisely exclude songs that wouldn't work in an acoustic setting (sorry, no "Negative Creep", try the next album!). The song choice is almost all good, except for the still-crappy "Pennyroyal Tea", and the covers are wonderful -- the Vaselines' "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam", Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World", Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", and er... well, at least one of the Meat Puppets songs is good (that would be "Oh Me" -- Kurt uses an affected redneck accent on the other two songs that's just awful). The playing's very tight and professional, too, which is surprising -- read below for details on THAT! Also, they didn't cut out the little bits in between the songs, so you get to hear Kurt's dry wit in full swing. Overall, an excellent live album -- and it's a rare thing for me to praise a live album.


From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah - 1996

Rating: ***
Best songs: there are quite a few
Worst songs: Polly, tourette's, Milk It

 

The yang to Unplugged's yin, Wishkah is Nirvana's real live act. Electric guitars, screaming and feedback. Yeah, if you don't like Cobain's screaming, avoid this one -- he screams through the whole damn thing. The track listing is pretty good -- out of 16 tracks, only a few suck ("tourette's" and "Milk It", and the amped-up "Polly" sounds awful). Oh, and as for the performances -- well, they're pretty messy. Half the songs end with someone playing a few random notes or making some feedback. If you're a big Nirvana fan, however, this should be attractive to you: there's an unavailable-elsewhere (I think) song called "Spank Thru". Me, I'll stick with Unplunged.


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