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Bleach - Nirvana
Bleach is Nirvana's first, and arguably most impressive album. Markedly different from the slick, polished sound of Nevermind, Bleach is a powerful, raw and moody album which catapulted Nirvana onto the world stage.
Recorded in Seattle in 1989, the songs on Bleach are a masterclass in low-tech grunge. On tracks like 'Paper Cuts' and 'Downer' there is an urgency and intensity in Kurt's vocals that is unsurpassed anywhere else in the rock world.
There is also space on the album for the more catchy, pop influenced, 'About A Girl', and the bands first single, 'Love Buzz'.
The album was released by Sub-Pop Records and cost only $600 to record. The band at this stage consisted of Kurt Cobain on vocals and guitars (credited as his alter-ego Kurdt Kobain), Chris Novoselic on bass and Chad Channing on drums. The album cover also credits Jason Everman as a guitarist, but apart from playing a few early gigs with the band and fronting the $600 recording fee, Everman has no direct involvement with this album.
Bleach is the perfect antidote to the over-the-top 'jock-rock' of the late 80's and early 90's. It is Nirvana at their most free, unteathered and striking. Kurt's crunching riffs and raw vocals still send a shiver through my spine every time I play this record. The man was an immense talent and the world is a sadder place without him.
Floyd the Barber
About a Girl
'Bleach' is Nirvana's first album and in many people's opinion (including my own) the best. It holds a rawness and passion unmatched by their other albums. The opening track 'Blew' and catchy 'School' lay the roots for what would become one of the most respected song writing techniques. kurt or 'Kurdt' as he was known at the time showcases passion for the Bealtes with 'About a Girl'. many will favour Nevermind to this, but i was overcome with a far greater appreciation of the grunge genre on purchasing this after their multi million pound second effort. Some may be put off with the fast paced 'Downer' to name but one of the less mainstream tracks, but true Nirvana fans will be blown away by this album. One of the greatest debut albums and by far the best album from the Seattle scene. look out for 'Scoff' and 'Mr Moustache'. They grew to be my most favoured Nirvana tracks.
Bleach is the debut album from the band nirvana, and was released in 1989. At the time of release the album wasn't that popular and didn't sell very many copies however when nirvana started to become a more famous band and gain fans with their other albums people went back to buy their first album as well and so since has sold many ore copies worldwide.
The first song off the album is blew, it's a very low sounding song and even sounds kind of sad and depressing because of the unusual guitar tuning and the low bass throughout. The guitar rhythm does sound good however it does get a bit competitive after a while and its nice to hear the guitar solo come in to mix the song up a bit.
About a girl is the third song off the album and is much more a step in the pop kind of direction than the heavier of the songs on this album. Its about Kurt's girlfriend at the time, the lyrics aren't too bad and the singing is pretty good all the way through but the guitar is quite basic and could make the song a bit better.
scoff has to be my favourite song off this album, its track number 8 and it starts off with a pretty fast paced drum beat and guitar and bass along with it. The singing comes in a little later and is fairly rushed and shouted in parts, it feels almost like a more of an attempt at metal in parts but it dies down in some of the verses and chorus as well so it's a strange one but what I like most about this song is the different guitar parts and the change in guitar sections as well.
2. Floyd the Barber
3. About a Girl
5. Love Buzz
6. Paper Cuts
7. Negative Creep
9. Swap Meet
10. Mr. Moustache
12. Big Cheese
Bleach isn't by any means a bad album however if they had released it when they had become famous then they would probably have been slated for it and it would have been a massive flop, it is however their first album so perhaps you would expect that. If you're a fan of nirvana it's a must have, but if your not or you like some of their older material then probably just stick to that.
The first long player from a band you feel never really reached their true potential. Made for $600 for the sub pop label this is a great debut.
This really melodic punk music, simple chords with catchy hooks and repetative vocals. Short songs that get your attention from the start and often end with you wishing there was another minute or so.
As punky as this album sounds you can still heard heavily distorted, melodic punk music hidden in then, it often seems like Kurt was embarrassed by this, which is a shame as he was a wonderful song writer.
Love Buzz is a stand out track for me (I believe it's a Vaseline's cover?) with an infectious bass line and a noisy guitar screeching vocals.
About a Girl became a fan favourite and even later made it into the unplugged set.
School, like Love Buzz is another repetitive and infections song, you can shout along and smile. Nirvana were often accused of being moody but this album does sound like a young band enjoying it all very much.
There really isn't a great many bad songs on this CD, there only problem for the band was those that got into Nirvana because of Nevermind could never "go back" and get into bleach in the same way.
In 1985 Kurt Cobain met fellow Melvins fan Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington and formed a band. After a series of name changes they finally settled on Nirvana and released their debut album, 'Bleach' (working title; 'Too many Humans') with Sub Pop in 1989 with Chad Channing as drummer (he would later be replaced by Dave Grohl). Listing their influences from a diverse range of musicians including Mudhoney, the Pixies, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain sought to create a mixture of punk and pop music.
After sudden success with their second album ;Nevermind' Cobain's emotional stte became increasingly more erratic until his suicide in 1994 Afterwards Krist Novoselic went on to form the less than successful 'Sweet 75' and later 'Set Adrift' with Curt Kirkwood (meat Puppets and Bud Gaugh (Sublime). Dave Grohl went to drum for just about everybody including Queens of the Stoneage, Tenacious D and Nine Inch Nails and then formed the 'Foo Fighters'.
'Bleach', produced by Jack Endino, only sold 30,000 copies on it's first release, however after their explosive popularity with 'Nevermind' in 1991 the album has now sold over 4 million copies.
In addition to Cobain, Novoselic and Channing there is also a credit to guitarist Jason Everman on the album. Despite the fact he did not play on the album, he had forked out the cash to have the album pressed and would join the band for a brief time after it was released. Also Dave Crover play drums for 'Floyd the Barber', 'Paper Cuts' and 'Downer'
All songs were written by Kurt Cobain, unless otherwise stated
'If you wouldn't care I would like to leave
If you wouldn't mind I would like to breathe'
A simple composition played in dropped C tuning, though this was apparently the result of a technical error. From the start it sounds dark and grungy with filthy guitar chords following the aggressive vocal melody for the chorus and verses sounding almost resigned and hopeless. For the most part the guitar plays its own riff, but the melody follows the vocals when they are there. The grinding bass lacks melody. The guitar strikes out on it's own for the bridge with a relatively high pitched and melodic solo. Early live performances featured almost entirely different lyrics.
Floyd the Barber
'I was shamed
I was shaved
I was shamed'
Opening with ominous dark chords and monotonous vocals punctuated by simple percussion in a relentless unchanging rhythm that dominate the track. The vocals are dull and let yield emotion like a weapon. The bass follows the rhythm of percussion and melody of the vocals. The bridge is a simple guitar solo that moves with ease in-between the main body of the track.
About a Girl
'I'll take advantage
While you hang me out to dry
But I can see you every night for free'
Considered Cobain's first great pop song, the vocals are surprisingly touching being out of tune though honest. Suddenly he seems very young and vulnerable, not surprising considering he was only 18 at the time. The guitar riff is basic and changes very little, only changing key for the chorus. The melody is pretty and all the more poignant when backed by the basic percussion and bass. The bridge is a melodic guitar solo backed by a shaker in percussion that lightens the mood and a very basic bass which joins the guitar melody for the playout.
'Won't you believe it
It's just my luck
Despite its aggressive vocals this track remains quite slow paced, although it features as an aggressive interlude between the quieter 'About a Girl' and 'Love Buzz'. A critique of Seattle's music scene, it opens with a distorted riff and raw vocals which break for the chorus. The extremely simple composition is based around the same three lines of lyrics leaving little room for manoeuvre for the instrumentation. The bridge is melodic, but has a haphazard guitar for the first half and the second half features the vocals increasing in intensity for an explosive return to the chorus and an abrupt finish.
Love Buzz (Robbie van Leevwen)
'Would you believe me when I tell you
You are the queen of my heart'
Written by Robbie van Leevwen from Dutch band 'Shocking Blue'. It opens on a pleasant catchy bass riff which carries through to the verses and the chorus where it is punctuated by a guitar, which picks up the basic melody and livens it up a little. The vocals are gentle and innocent for the verses, but become progressively more aggressive through the chorus. There is no guitar at all for the verses and very little for the chorus. The bridge features discordant and haphazard guitars held together by unchanging bass and percussion. The outro begin a progressively discordant riff which moves back to the bass and guitar duet.
'My whole existence is for your amusement
And that's why I'm here with you'
Eerie vocals backed by ominous and basic guitar chords and a brooding bass. The vocals swing between quiet and foreboding to explosive and aggressive to match the mood of the guitar and bass. The dark cloud raised by the verses is dissipated by the intense and emotion filled chorus. The melody comes out for the chorus partnered with desperate layered vocals backed by dark chords. The verses form sets of 2 lines the first rising in pitch and the second dropping again. A pretty guitar riff fills the space in-between verse and chorus.
'I'm a negative creep
And I'm stoned'
A basic composition with a faster pace, quick fire percussion and desperate vocals. The mood is ominous and desperately aggressive with an almost insane haphazard feel. It is vocally lead with the instrumentation struggling to keep up. The lyrics sound blues in composition with three repeated lines, then a 'punchline' before a brief pause and starts the cycle again. The bridge takes the form of a basic guitar riff punctuated by a vocal scream that plays out into the outro and a fade to finish.
'In your eyes I'm not worth it
Give me back my alcohol'
Keeping the pace of the last track, 'Scoff' is relentless, forceful and filled with tension characterised by dark and heavy guitar chords. The pace winds down through the chorus and back up through the verses. The track is lead by a distorted guitar building tension throughout the verses and acting as fillers in the spaces between chorus and verses. The percussion is basic followed by bass chords making the track relentless and unchanging and repetitive lyrics help to keep the rhythm. . The bridge has a long and repetitive vocal start with a simple guitar solo followed by bass and percussion playing as one.
'She loves him more than he will ever know
He loves her more than he will ever show'
A heavy start with ambling verses falling into more forceful chorus, overall there is a pushy and driven mood to the track. The guitar formation is simple with a slight change for the chorus. There are 2 chords played behind each line then a burst of riff to carry through to the next line. The bridge features a brief, but exciting guitar solo which moves back into the basic riff for the playout.
'Is he in an easy chair?
Poop as hard as rock
I don't like you anyway
Seal it in a box'
A hasty track inspired by a dislike for macho behaviour this track has obscure lyrics. The pace is extremely fast aided by short sharp lines for the chorus short verses and a simple composition. The chorus contains many 3 syllable words broken down into 3 distinct sounds to add to the pace. The track moves with an unrelenting force with a pushy guitar riff. There is a slow wind down for the outro.
'Afraid - to grade
Wouldn't it be fun?
Cross, self loss
Wouldn't it be fun?
A slower paced track with the rhythm following the lyrical set up and a short burst of catchy, if dark riff punctuating the end and middle of lines. The heavily produced vocals to allow them to hold log high pitched notes and slow dark chords give a relentless and grinding mood. The chorus slows the pace even more and simplifies the riff as it acts as a backdrop for the vocal melody which becomes more intense. The eerie bridge ends on an ominous note before shifting back uneasily into the main body.
'Black is black, no trading back
We were enemies'
Featuring only on the CD version, this track opens with eerie guitar chords, but is joined by percussion and heavier guitar chords after a few bars. In a change from the norm, the vocals lack strength and appear sulky for the chorus and are heavier for the authorative verses. Also, the vocals are more regimented while the instrumentation is chaotic. The outro features a brief degradation of instrumentation.
'Hand out lobotomies
To save little families'
A fast paced track kept in line by the percussion with verses that feature just vocals and percussion setting the pace for the entire track, and a very subdued bass lurking in the background. The guitar comes in for the chorus with ascending chords woven around short snippets of melody. The chorus lines are spoken at such a fast pace they almost run into each other.
Bleach has a 3-piece rock band sound - Jason Everman, whom is credited on guitars, does not play a note on the album (but pays the 600 notes to cover the cost of the recording), so when it's guitar solo time for Kurt Cobain (front man), Chris Novoselic (bass) and Chad Channing (drums) carry the rhythm for the majority of the tracks, with Dale Crover as drummer for the remainder. The album goes down under the genre of grunge, and despite on initial listenings finding some of the songs sounding (perhaps too) similar, I guess my tastes in metal is why I prefer this to their successful Nevermind. Bleach does have a fair share of catchy riffs and beats in amongst the thirteen tracks, but the low production values does make the album small-sounding, so the audio aspect does not pack a powerful punch.
The album begins on a low, that is, the low bass notes of this song, where the guitars have been tuned two tones down - supposedly somebody made the mistake of detuning the guitars twice (must have been tuning by frets?). Not that it harms the song - the chorus still has it's vocal harmony! - but rather makes the sound heavier. One of two songs released as a single, and as an introduction, gives a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the album.
2. FLOYD THE BARBER; 6. PAPER CUTS
Dale Crover plays the drums on these (the other being the closer, 'Downer') - both are tracks with synchronised guitar chugs to drums. In 'Paper Cuts', the piercing open strings cut through for guitars hunching over and Kurt's shrieks which, you'll find to be awfully amusing, or find makes for awful audio. (I'm of the former.)
3. ABOUT A GIRL
This would have been an obvious choice of single, yet it's inclusion in the album alone was seen as risky - trading metal-blows for pop-hooks; this song was about a girl, and it's Kurt's love of pop that shines through. A highlight of the album, where jangly two-chord verses marry pop melodies - "I do", listen for the chord shift to that an octave higher driving the chorus on.
4. SCHOOL; 7. NEGATIVE CREEP; 8. SCOFF
Three good songs, where Chad Channing uses a double kick pedal to a single kick drum! A driving open string riff sees 'School' at play; whilst 'Negative Creep' opts for the slides as it palm-mutes said string, with a fiercely ferocious vocal from Kurt, singing as if everything depended on it - only letting up on the intensity slightly as the song fades out at the end. Meanwhile, in 'Scoff', "give me back my alcohol" demands Kurt, or he'll scream and let loose Chad on the kick pedal (which he does)! Had there been a vocal harmony to the chorus that might have helped swing 'Scoff' towards being my pick of the album.
5. LOVE BUZZ
Their debut single (albeit minus an introduction); a cover of a song by Shocking Blue. The bass riff is an obvious attraction to the song, but with the noodling about, it's not a song which I'm that fond of.
Much of the songs on this album are around the three minute mark; 'Sifting' is close to five and a half minutes, and it's moderately paced, but I like the simple chugging guitar riffs. It would have been great if there were an audible vocal harmony for me!
The tracks which I haven't mentioned I found to be average listens, but there was enough in them for me not to skip them, like 'Swap Meet' with a guitar solo that goes one better than that of the previous track 'Scoff', and 'Big Cheese' with it's daunting guitar volume-swell introduction. A cool debut album from Nirvana; unfortunately no lyrics provided for me to sing along to!
Despite Nevermind being their most critically acclaimed album, Bleach has to be the most raw of Nirvana's four studio releases. Kurt's dark side comes out more in this than it ever did in "In Utero" and many songs still maintain a pop-punk angst against the raw, scratching vocals and haunting lyrics.
The songs contrast with eachother, with songs like About a Girl and Love Buzz clashing with heavy grunge classics such as Negative Creep and Paper Cuts.
Kurt covers many themes, including love, death, rape, violence, hate, sex, isolation, self-hatred, and oppression. He covers each theme with a sophisticated level of communication and articulation, and experimental lyrics.
Instead of Dave Grohl on drums, we have his predecessor Chad Channing (I think their third or fourth drummer so far) on the kit, who is perfect for this album. He not only can do heavy, aggressive drum beats but he can tone it down substantially well for the softer songs.
And let's not forget Kirst Novoselic on bass, pumping out great contrasting bass licks consistently.
My personal favourite :]
Nirvana struck me by surprise. They knocked me down, dragged me around and changed my views on things forever with the generation-defining opening riff of "Smells like Teen Spirit". Few bands are made with one song, usually the process is that you work hard, record, tour and get a record out. After numerous underground records, a record label will catch you with a fishing hook send you to "processed heaven" and out comes a "sell-out radio friendly unit shifter". Nirvana just needed one song. A song that was so good, so cool, so in touch with the nation's feelings that 10 years on, it still ranks as one of the best songs ever recorded and released. After that, the singles just flew by as the album "Nevermind" defied all expectations- sending Wacko Jacko back to the mental insititute, making Madonna a thing of the past and notching up 10 million copies so far (Diamond status). Although, to me, the record is far overrated and deeply flawed, no one cannot say that it didn't touch them even if lyrics like "Got to find a way to find a way" seemed like complete and utter jibberish at first. Then came In Utero, an underhwhelming development that, although giving us a sharp insight into Cobain's sad life and deteriorating will to live, had little of the spark that its predecessor held so firmly. So it's sad to say, that Nirvana (or Kurt) never reached their limitations and remain a band (or a myth in todays Spice Girls culture) that could have have been "the best band in the world, ever". So what happened before Nevermind. Well, Nirvana recorded Bleach for only £600 and the record was released and made a few tremors in the music biz, but never really hit the big time. In short, Bleach is Nirvana without the pop, without the bubblegum comedy and without the drumming skills of Dave Grohl (Chad Channing was the original stone man). That's not to sya it's bad however as
Bleach displays Nirvana, the band, at its purest stage- all metal riffs, un-diluted attitudes and the larger than life persona of Kurt Cobain flexing his vocal cords a bit. Bleach is the ultimate mosh album- a no-brainer, shout-loud, shamefully dumb and enjoyable adrenaline rush that will shock your core. If you bought The Vines' album this Summer, loved the hit single Get Free then this is for you because Bleach just breaks down into being thirteen Get Free-style anthems that are either burning rubber, slouching around or running at the speed of light. The lyrics are typical grunge nonsense but have no effect on the real impact of this album, the juge chugging riffs, greased up basslines and frenetic drum pace. The guitar solos are feedback littered and even the more pop-orientated songs (About A Girl, Love Buzz, Mr. Moustache) have a dirty, scuzzy edge about them that seems to lift them from instantly disposable trite to impeccable grunge masterpieces. Opening with the tumbling bassline of Blew and a ghoulish metal thrash, the song rapidly descends to Kurt's increasingly violent and aggravated vocals until the explosions of anger occur in the chorus with a malevolant guitar lick. Tracks like Floyd The Barber, the ultimate mosh pit thrash of Negative Creep ("I'm a negative creep, I'm a negative creep, I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned", "Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more"), the elegant chorus of Scoff and the buzzing pop hook of Mr. Moustache all continue this adrenaline trend. Among the anger, distortion and guitar burning licks are some "ballads" as well. The most famous, namely, About A Girl. And Cobain's first ballad still is as cool as it ever was, sweeping the listener by into another more dreamy wistful world, the song is built upon two smooth chords and Cobain's frequent confessions of "I do". The song contains no distortion until it's feedback
laden "interlude" section. Other "ballads" are just really slowed down mosh pit numbers, like Big Cheese which rides on a slow puff puff riff that is catchy and repetitive. So, in terms of Nirvana's standards Bleach is up there with the best. To conclude, here is my ultimate guide to Nirvana's records:- 1. Nevermind (see crown winning opinion, need I say more?) 2. Bleach (aggressive, no-brainer, macho metal fun) 3. From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah (well performed live songs that showcases Kurt's ferocity on the stage) 4. In Utero (disappointing third and final studio album) 5. MTV Unplugged (ubiquitous performance might be fantastic but the listen is far too disturbing as Cobain turns all of his happy-go-lucly tunes- e.g. About A Girl- into daker, depressing acoustic break downs) 6.Incesticide (as unfocused as any other rairities/b-sides album). Number 1 will change on November 11th when Nirvana's Greatest Hits are finally released. Chow and please nominate for a crown. I'm displeased with my readers- one comment on my last opinion. Frigging write something.
For what some quite bizarre reason, Nirvana are best known for a collection of tracks from their later albums classics like Smells Like Teen Spirit, Lithium, Dumb and All Apologies... and whilst these are all fantastic, unique songs in their own right, it quite unjustly overshadows their earlier, fiercer work such as that featuring on their debut, Bleach. Two stunning rockers open the album titled Blew and Floyd the Barber respectively. They combine grinding heavy metal with rushing, energetic melodies to great effect a success Nirvana would repeat again and again over their relatively short career. Of course, it is About a Girl that is more indicative of the heights Nirvana would later attain the distinctive jangling guitar that appears on Dumb amongst others makes a notable first appearance here, in the midst of a grunge ballad. Considering that this was the band's first album, and that it is now almost a dozen years old, it is impressive that, to a new listener, it remains as fresh, original and powerful as it must have done on its release. Love Buzz utilises the hooky melodies that went on to spawn the pop-punk movement, and School screams an intense rock n' roll rage. Even the following Paper Cuts?combines paranoid lyrics and vocals with a heavy, chunky beat, sounding not unlike the beat of war drums. It seems significant that all of the tracks that I've lauded so far appear in that order on the album; certainly, it opens with brilliance, and proceeds to follow up on that time and time again. At the risk of appearing predictable, I have to point out that Negative Creep is yet another high-speed intense rock number, and I can only imagine the moshpits it must have spawned during a live gig! It's only later in the album that accusations of filler could really be levelled... by about the Swap Meet mark, the songs seem to be dimming in their brilliance, and although the pace hasn't lessened by Mr. Moustac
he, the passion does seem to have. Of course, it's likely that, in following the earlier gems, anything would seem duller by comparison, so perhaps such criticisms aren't as objective as could be hoped! Some of the paranoia and the heavy metal elements of Nirvana's sound could be and have been traced back to Black Sabbath, but despite this the band have always been something totally unique. Bleach proves that this special something was spawned with the band, and has existed as long as Nirvana has.
In 1989 a small band hailing from Aberdeen, WA recorded their debut album not knowing of the success that they would accumialate with its follow up. Bleach in my opinion is the greatest Nirvana album ever recorded as it captures everything that Grunge was, sloppy lyrics, screaching guitars and hard drum beats. One song in particular of this album started to get played heavily at parties, this song was Love Buzz. Love Buzz is a cover of a Shocking Blue song which, having heard the original is very different. The only thing reminicant of Shocking Blues version is the bass line is the same but played slower. Another song that was hitting people was About a girl but for the wrong reasons. It was a risk in the first place to put as Kurt puts it "a slower, poppier song" onto Bleach and this didnt go down too well. About a girl went on to become one of Nirvana fans favourites songs though and was the only song played off Bleach at their infamous 1994 MTV unplugged session. Kurt admitted after the album was released that he had written most of the lyrics on the way to record the songs and therefore they weren't really that personal but he would make up for that on the upcoming Nevermind and In Utero. Bleach is a must have in every rock fans music collection as it oppitomises Grunge in all its glory.
Written with production costs of less than $1000, this album is pure, unadulterated Nirvana. Even though it isn't classed as the groups best work, the raw and clean cut grunge is oozing out of this record making it a classic. Kurt Cobain wanted people to listen to this album, why do you think he plugged it on unplugged in new york??? This album gives us direct insite into the mind, the person that is Kurt Cobain and the life, the band which was Nirvana. If people mention Nirvana in a croud "Smells like Teen Spirit" is what is mentioned as being the first Nirvana record, off the album with the naked baby. But what people forget is the original, the pure; Bleach.
This explosive debut by the world’s biggest rock band, sorry, GRUNGE band, continues to sell and sell and with good reason. Every track is stunning and shows the incredible range of Kurt Cobain’s voice, as well as the range of styles that the band could produce at the drop of the proverbial hat. From the powerful arrival of “Blew” to the even more powerful “Downer”, the tracks will keep you rockin, providing a slight break with “About a Girl” in the middle. If you have the “Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah” album, then you should definitely check this disc out, as it contains the studio versions of a good lot of the tracks that appeared on it. Hearing “School” as it was meant to be played is one thing, but hearing the studio version is a fish of a different colour. Raw, to the point and essential at the bargain price that it’s available at now.
This was the record that started the whole thing off. Recorded for a little over $600 this is a very raw and stripped down record. Produced by grunge icon Jack Endino the songs really form the basis for the Nirvana sound. This was a time when the band were four members with Jason Everman providing extra guitar. Rumour has it however that his contribution was only putting up the money to record it. Cobain's guitar riffs are the thing that carries the album as for the most part the lyrics are very brief and often repeated. However to still come up with a catchy rock tune on this basis is not an easy task. For many Nirvana fans the best song on the record is About a Girl which is a wonderfully constructed song with a very simple guitar hook and more rounded lyrics. The song is believed to refer to Cobains girlfriend at the time. Altohugh he never would admit this to her. This is a record which any Nirvana fan should never be without. It's not the perfect representation of the early Seattle sound. For that you really need to be searching out the early Mudhoney albums as well as early Soundgarden records. This is also a reminder of how things changed in Nirvana's music with the addition of Dave Grohl.
In June 1989, Nirvana released their first ever album 'Bleach', under the supervision of Sub-Pop records - their first and only record label. The band as it then stood consisted of Kurt Cobain on guitar and vocals, Chris Novoselic on bass, Chad Channing on drums and a forth member Jason Everman, who joined the band during the recording but never actually played on the album. Dave Grohl was to come much later. Bleach, although not the most polished of the Nirvana albums, has a raw quality that is lacking in the Nevermind & In Utero. Through compromise rather then choice, the majority of tracks are pure Seattle grunge with metal influences, as the record label and the music scene at the time demanded Kurt put the 'pop' side to this music on hold until the later albums. Although Kurt disavows any personal relevance in the lyrics of the album, if you examine his life at the time all the songs seem strangely relevant. One of the things that make the lyrics on Bleach unique, is that when Kurt wrote this album he was as yet unaffected by the instant stardom that would become the basis of much of his future songs. The angst from which these songs are derived hail back to Kurt’s childhood, his parents divorce and his bad experiences at school. The night before the Bleach studio sessions, Kurt still hadn't written many of the songs that appear on Bleach, so a huge amount were wrote into the small hours of the morning. Kurt had a very flippant attitude towards lyrics, at the time not seeing them as very important. This is reflected in the fact that the song 'School' has only 15 words, and most of the others only have one verse repeated several times, but because of Kurt’s wide range of vocal styles and phrasing it is barely noticeable. Accompanying the lyrics are the catchy riffs in each song, and the energetic drumming. Each track is catchy and memorable, but at the same time was 'rock
and roll' enough to grab the attentions of the Seattle scene. Here is a summary of each track on the album: BLEW - For this song, Kurt tuned down to a 'drop-D' tuning, which explains the heavy sound of both the lead and bass riffs. The rhythm of the distorted guitars seems almost drunken, and the thrash drumming compliments that effectively. The lyrics on Blew fit the darkness of the music perfectly - "If you wouldn't care I would like to leave/If you wouldn't mind I would like to breathe" FLOYD THE BARBER - Floyd The Barber is a character from a sitcom in the 60's called 'The Andy Griffin Show'. The track follows Blew in terms of having a chuggy verse, but explodes into a chorus that hints at the style Kurt would adapt in later albums. It includes a keen guitar solo mid way and repetitive drumming pattern that made it an early mosh-pit favourite ABOUT A GIRL - The story behind this song is very interesting. Kurt's girlfriend at the time Tracy asked him why he never wrote a song about here (the lyrics 'I can't see you every night for free' is meant to refer to Tracy’s requests that he pay rent to live with her). As a result, we have About A Girl, the most clear indication on the album of the pop direction Kurt wanted to go in. The melody is almost Beatlesque, and is very different from most of the other tracks. About A Girl survives as a Nirvana classic all the way to the MTV Unplugged session SCHOOL - This song was almost called 'The Seattle Song', as the riff is said to be an almost perfect example of typical Sub-Pop grunge at the time. Either way, the dynamics of this song are excellent, and the riff is quite addictive. LOVE BUZZ - This is the only cover song on the album, written not by Kurt Cobain but Robby Van Leeuwen. The melody line of this song is almost oriental, and contrasts with the typically chuggy bass riff to make a bizar
re but catchy song PAPER CUTS - This the most diverse song on the album, and actually probably the weakest. It opens with a repetitive drum beat, then mellows out into a gentle Kurt-lead riff. The chorus explodes into a series of wailing vocals, and never really peaks. The lyrics however, seem quite autobiographical. He can only be referring to his Mother Wendy in the lines 'The lady whom I feel a maternal love for/cannot look me in the eyes' NEGATIVE CREEP - This excellent song sounds much like a first-person narrative from an anti-social person - 'I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned'. Kurt Cobain once said the song was about himself. The song appears later on The Muddy Banks Of The Wiskah Album, but the version on there is mild in comparison to the original. The aggressive passion in this song, along with the energetic riff makes it a very powerful track SCOFF - This song was meant to have been written during the late writing sessions before the recording of Bleach. Kurt wails 'In your eyes, I'm not lazy/In your eyes I'm not worth it' - this seems to refer to Kurt’s relationship with his parents Don & Wendy, who both declared him useless and his music a waste of time. This song has another sneaky chorus that seems almost pop like, then returns to a very basic heavy riff for the verse. Another excellent song. SWAP MEET - The title of this song comes straight from Kurt and Chris's home down of Aberdeen. In rural America, 'swap meets' take place in drive-ins or parking lots, and are giant markets where people sell their possessions to make the rent. These featured all lot in Kurt’s childhood, and the lyrics take a very direct look at the kind of people and items who appear there. The song is a little repetitive, but keeps with the winning formula of catchy chorus in-between chuggy riffs. This track contains a slightly awkward guitar solo, but some excelle
nt drumming MR. MOUSTACHE - One thing about this song, is that the title appears no where in the lyrics - a trend in alt rock that still happens today. The riff in this is furious and fast, and the song is filled with aggression. Kurt writes about 'Mr. Moustache' - a representative of the 'macho' Americans he had always despised. The track features some of Kurt's best vocal sections and Chris playing some excellent bass lines SIFTING - This song talks a lot about authority figures, including teachers and preachers. The lyrics don't seem to have a clear message behind them though, at least not to me. The pace of the song is quite mellow, and the chorus is a little bland but strangely catchy BIG CHEESE - This song is apparently about the bands first record producer. It opens with a strange guitar riff and a messy bass line, and Kurt's lyrics sound so different you could mistake it as a guest singer until the chorus DOWNER - This song is actually a very early Kurt Cobain song that was written with one of his original bands. This vocals almost amusingly fast, and the brief spurts of riff sound almost like the Sex Pistols(?). The drumming is furious and the short bass riff is so deep it makes your stomach vibrate Sales of Bleach were the best ever achieved by a band with Sub-Pop, and the ill-fated European tour that followed it's release is nevertheless a reflection of it's importance in the Nirvana story. Compared to the later and better known Nirvana efforts, Bleach sounds quite obscure. However, as well as being an excellent representative of the early mind of Kurt Cobain, the album is full of good grunge songs. Then highlights of About A Girl, Negative Creep and Scoff are essential by any standards. As a fan of Nirvana, this album is important to me as it represents a time I've only read about - Nirvana and Kurt Cobain before they were famous. The album if a
gem, and a rare insight into how it all began. As a fan of music, this album is as essential as any other in my collection. It contains the great lyrical ad vocal talents of Kurt Cobain, as well as some beautifully put together music. The album is diverse, but always true to grunge and typical rock and roll. If you ever liked Nirvana, if you ever liked rock, find Bleach in the obscure corners of HMV and buy it, I doubt very much that you will be disappointed.
Nirvana in these pre- Dave Grohl times was a different nirvana from what most people knew from the Nevermind days but nevertheless this is unmistakably Nirvana. This was the first stepping stone and a brilliant first album. Done with 4 members instead of the later 3 Bleach is more raw that any of the other albums. Although it's not as good an album as Nevermind, it's a brilliant album with a lot of songs that really stand out. For example About a Girl, Negative Creep and School are some great ones. The whole album's a stunner though. I'd recommend this to anyone, whether they're a nirvana fan or not.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Floyd The Barber
3 About A Girl
5 Love Buzz
6 Paper Cuts
7 Negative Creep
9 Swap Meet
10 Mr Moustache
12 Big Cheese