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Speakers' corner
NIRVANA's Bleach

Following up our retroscope series of 2006 and 2007 - here's the New Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves/vaults of rock. This moonth's album has just left its teens, with all its teen angst still intact 20 years after.

coverpic


Nirvana
Bleach
Sub Pop

I'm feeling somehow... old. It's been 20 years since Bleach was released. Well, it's over 15 years since Cobain's (Kobain at the time when Bleach arrived) suicide, so sure time flies. Not that I was all that young at the time when Bleach hit the streets, but the spirit it beamed out..., well, it was for sure something for everybody between, say 12 and 60. It still is.

Bleach is a distilled energy blast, with a hairy sound (they were a hairy band as well at the time). Fuzzed guitars, pounding rhythms, topped with Kurdt (yes, spelled with a 'd' at the time) Kobain out-of-his-lungs, roaring scream-o-rama vocals. But, despite the fuzz, or behind the fuzz, here are pop-songs hidden all the way through. Like raw gemstones. If they've been cut and polished at the time, Nirvana might have hit bigger before "Smells Like...".

It's quite amazing that this Jack Endino steered, $600 (!) recording became what it did. Nirvana were a for-piece at the time, with Jason Everman at 2nd guitar and Chad Channing behind the drums (except for Melvins' drummer Dale Crover showing muscle on two songs). "Blew" blows "Bleach" on the right track from the start, followed by the massive stomp of "Floyd The Barber". Enter headbangers ballroom, slamdancers dancehall, stagedivers whirlpool. "About A Girl" is sort of the cousin of Nevermind's "Drain You". In fact, with a lot of the songs on Bleach in mind (and ear) it's quite easy to understand the way that lead Cobain to the poppier side of rock. Without leaving rock music, that is. Nirvana's contemporary playmates and drinking buddies of the late 80s - Melvins, Mudhoney, Tad, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, Green River, Meat Puppets - were all up the same alleys, but Cobain/Kobain merged and blended, borrowed and refined the pop elements from a lot of his favourite artists: Hüsker Dü, The Vaselines, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth. Too name a few.

"School" and "Negative Creep" ooze with a dazed-and-lazy, angry dropping-out-and-away-from-everything, so what!? The latter is indeed an angry and aggressive whirlpool of a song. I still remember I made a Nirvana 'mixtape' (uh, I guess it was Bleach in its entirety...) for a friend heading for the Reading festival to see Nirvana, August 1991 - one month before Nevermind was released. Oh, how I should've been there. Well, the live 'feel' of Bleach was somewhat comforting. Like "Scoff"'s war-drums and very cool guitar riff, and the powerdrive of "Mr. Moustache". The closing (I'm going through the vinyl LP, without extra tracks) "Sifting" is another highlight of an album, well, if not among the classics, being a powerful debut revealing a talent in bloom.

Bleach is one of Nirvana's classic album troika. In retrospect they're all milestones/cornerstones in rock. With Bleach showing pre-greatness.

Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Nirvana articles/reviews: Nevermind, Nirvana.

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