'Vana Be Adored
New Musical Express, November 23, 1991
Suddenly everyone wants a piece of NIRVANA, the most vital rock band of the moment. Selling a million copies of their 'Nevermind' LP in six weeks has brought all the industry leeches out of hiding, the same people who wouldn't even acknowledge them three months ago. And it's the band that is suffering. Mary Anne Hobbs approaches the most sullen boys in rock, and finds them just waiting to screw it up. Pictures: Aj Barrat.
The singer is Kurt Cobain. He is sullen, stooping, slit-eyed and Bic-. Grub on a string, if you will. He carries a medicine bottle in the pocket of a filthy drape and very few baffles in his throat.
We are in AJ Barratt's freezing Brixton studio. Cobain is hunched into a tight fetal position, with his back to the NME photographer. The singer's PR jives at him with a piece of sugar-free gum. This odd and uncomfortable manoeuvre is clearly meant as some sort of silent appeal.
"I'll do the f-ing pictures, OK?" snaps Cobain. "I just want to be left alone."
NIRVANA'S SECOND LP, 'Nevermind', is as important and iconoclastic and brilliant as Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica', Teenage Fanclub's 'Bandwagonesque' and Ice-T's 'OG: Original Gangster'. Moreover, 'Nevermind' scaled the Billboard US Top Ten in six weeks. And Nirvana are not being allowed to forget it. The band have suddenly found themselves diving on the media trapeze between a thousand grinning interviewers, whose common opening gambit is: "Hi! So, why did you decide to call the band Nirvana?"
In less than two months 'Nirvana: US underground collegiate contender', have become 'Nirvana: American rock phenomenon of 1991'. And suddenly the whole world wants to pluck at their jumper. Their PR tells me that Slash and Axl have been asking nicely to play with the band. Also, that the band are now attracting an unhealthy quotient of squirming herpes-couriers offering backstage sexual services. Life is getting scary for Nirvana. And 'Big Shitty Sticks' (for beating off The Vermin) will no doubt be top of their Christmas list.
Bear in mind that this is not a group who have had their label Geffen Records' marketing machine blowing gaskets on their behalf. There were no tanks in Piccadilly Circus delivering 'Nevermind' to Tower Records. Our only consistent reminder of Nirvana's existence has, in fact, been Loz of Kingmaker, who has worn their shirts at almost every bogshed venue in the UK. Yet more Americans are now beating gums over 'Nevermind' then Michael Jackson's upcoming 'Dangerous' LP. And that's a properly researched FACT.
Nirvana come from Aberdeen, Washington - Twin Peaks in real life. The type of town where 16-year-old youths have been caught abducting new-born babies for satanic sacrifice. The band signed to Seattle's Sub Pop label and released their debut 'Breach' LP in 1989. It was a vital, impressive statement of intent, single parented by Sonic Youth.
Sometime Sub Pop-affiliated groups Soundgarden and Mudhoney have always been considered Nirvana's contemporaries. Soundgarden are quite furious, but their singer sounds like the son of Kiri Te Kanawa - as if somebody's playing voodoo doll with his whelks. Mudhoney, meanwhile, might be dubbed the Senseless Things of the sonic Seattle scene.
Nirvana were Sub Pop's glittering prize, and well they knew it. Last year, Sub Pop planned to use the band as fat maggot bait in negotiating a corporate finance deal for the label. Nirvana, in turn, decided to cut out the middle man and signed directly to Geffen for $250,000. Toffee money by comparison to the $4 million that The Stone Roses are reported to have extracted from the Geffen coffers.
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