Oh Gawd, Part II
The Rocket, October 1991
Nirvana's second record kicks butt, rocks the casbah, is a pop materpiece, oh, nevermind.
by Jennifer Boddy
If ever a band were a bunch of fudge packin, flower sniffin', crack smokin', kitty pettin', Satan worshippin', baby kissin', corporate rock whore motherfuckers, It's Nirvana. They are a nine-sheets-to-the-wind trio of dichotomy, the music at once Innocent and jaded, punchy and proverbial, backwoods and inner city, Shocking Blue and the Knack, vitamins and cigarettes, sideways and straight-on. And the best incongruency of all, they are a testament to the reason rock 'n' roll doesn't matter and the reason It matters so much.
See, they don't go for the pretenses and larger-than-life rock star thing, but are Just the fellows to be rock stars. And, unlike other Northwest bands hanging onto the whole Seattle thing, Nirvana - one of the initial Northwest-sensation bands - bypasses it altogether. In fact, they've been steadily heading away from the metal/grunge thing all along. Jason Everman, former guitarist (who never actually played on any releases but went on to a stint as Soundgarden bassist) had more hard rock Ideas, which explains his mutually agreed upon departure.
Songwriter/singer/guitarist Kurdt Kobain and bassist Chris Novoselic preferred a punk pop format, which Kurdt describes as "Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo." The first full-length release in 1989, Bleach (recorded in three days for $600), Is a heavier and angrier Nirvana than on Nevermind (from "Negative Creep" to "Love Myself, Better Than You" - "On a Plain"). On Bleach the hint was there, but on the "Sliver" Sub Pop single, the direction of the music came on In full force. Now, on Nevermind, we get all sorts of pop piss-pourings - powerful choruses, quick changes, swollen-gland /almost sick vocals, tempered with deep chunky bass lines and slaughtering drums. Still angry, still edgy, still right-on, with lines like "I'm so ugly, but that's OK 'cuz so are you" ("Lithium"), or "I feel stupid, and contagious/ Here we are now, entertain us" ("Smells Like Teen Spirit") or the chorus "I Don't Care I Don't Care I Don't Care" ("Breed"). Emo-pop.
The amazing music comes no matter the band's penchant for food fights, fire extinguishers and fuck yous. By leaving behind all the rock 'n' roll premeditations and belabouring, they create songs, real songs that you want to sing with, music so simple and so true it gives you an unreachable sense of near-bursting. As Rockpool wrote in a review, "if Nirvana doesn't do it for you, you are Imbeciles."
"Well," says Kobain, "we had two years, and its the best of two years of material. But some of the songs weren't wrItten until just before we recorded the album, and most of the lyrics were written while we were recording. In fact, a couple of days everyone had to wait around for me to finish the lyrics."
"So we were just standing there with our arms crossed and our feet tapping, just staring at Kurdt as he sat there sweating and writing and looking and writing and looking," says Novoselic. "Just breathing down his throat, so that pressure element was there. I think the pressure element was healthy."
Probably a lot healthier than some guy somewhere In the bowels of MCA, the parent of their now label, the David Geffen Company, shooting Alka Seltzer shots, trying hard to understand them. The dichotomies, remember, Innocent and jaded; third grade Idiot savants on parade. And life on a major can be fun, what with larger distribution and so many new toys to play with.
Nirvana found Geffen CDs ideal for carpet-skiing and crusty when microwaved. Another good game Is building towers to run crashing through, though Kobain clarifies It wasnt Sonic Youth stuff (and won't be Teenage Fan Club either, now that they're on DGC). There's more catered parties on Geffen, thus a larger food wardrobe, and Nelson records look spiffy with pentagrams drawn on them. Then there's those zany mishaps causing some MCA-size ulcers.
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