Bleach by Nirvana. 1989.
This article is for those of you out there whose love of Music did not start after hearing the opening bars of Smells Like Teen Spirit which left them obsessed with a 3 piece Garage band from Seattle for most of their adolescent life. My aim is to give you the reader an insight into an album that is largely disregarded due to the popularity of the two preceding studio albums from Nirvana. I feel that people should take an hour out of their busy lives and listen to each of Nirvana’s studio albums and unplugged in New York at least once. But with this article I would like to concentrate on their debut and probably least revered album, Bleach.
Released in June 1989 it received positive reviews but failed to reach the US Billboard album charts selling 40,000 copies in North America. Its bleak lyrics and heavy riffs were at the time competing against albums such as Madonna’s Like a Prayer, Queen’s The Miracle and Aerosmith’s Pump, and the mainstream market was not quite ready for this sound. It would only gain recognition firstly after the release of Nirvana’s second album Nevermind when Bleach was re-released in 1992 and then later after the Death of Kurt Cobain, where all material by the trio was bought en masse. Bleach subsequently reach number 6 in the Top Pop Catalog Chart and sold over 4.0 Million copies worldwide.
But enough statistics!
Let me tell you what I love about this album. From it’s opening Bass riff it drags you down into a beautifully bleak sound that is not quite Heavy Metal, nor is it Rock but the foundations of an entire Genre that would rise out of the rainy region of the Pacific North West of America. Grunge.
I will admit that I probably did not own this album until maybe 1992 or ’93 but in my defense I was 8 years old when it was released and at the time was still worshiping 4 mutated reptilian New Yorkers. Even after it became part of my ever expanding music collection it was hard to see past Nevermind. However my years have learned me and made me realise that although Nevermind is a masterpiece my love of Bleach and In Utero runs deeper. Whether it is because I played Nevermind too much? Probably! Bleach just has that raw energy to it that comes so often with debut albums.
Normally reviewers will advise certain songs that you should skip to because they jump out at that person when listening but I feel that the album has a wonderful fluidity about it and should be enjoyed in its entirety on the first consumption. Picking it apart would be an injustice to the piece of work as often in this MP3 age tracks of albums are disregarded because people are not familiar with them or have not found the time to truly listen. But as this is a review I will list a few of the songs that people should pay specific attention too.
We open with, Blew. Krist Novoselic delivering a truly dirty opening Bass riff before bursting into life with electric guitar, feedback, drums and rough vocals. It has an almost anthem sound to it and is a true classic that purely and simply starts the whole thing off. Then comes Floyd The Barber that chugs along at a more melodic pace. The first verse begins with the story of a man going to get a wet shave, by verse two it has moved onto the man being strapped into the Barber chair and then sexually molested. And by the third verse the Barber has been joined by his friends where they take turns torturing and finally murdering the man. About a Girl which is arguably one of Nirvana’s finest pieces of work and could be called the calm amongst the storm on this relentlessly heavy album is proven so by the exquisite acoustic version performed in New York during their Unplugged set. It was also used in one of the Guitar Hero games for all of you out there that need a popular culture reference to help you along. Negative Creep which is a lyrically cynical attack on Cobain himself and his own personality flaws, a reoccurring theme across all of his songwriting. It is also one of the heaviest tracks on the album which has lead to it being covered by the Californian Metal band Machine Head. You might also want to check out School, Love Buzz, Swap Meet. In truth I could name all 13 tracks on the Album and point out the pro’s of each but I don’t think that would make for an interesting read. Instead I will leave the conclusions of the reader and their opinions down to their ears and whether they feel inspired or repelled by this article.
I would like to think that you would be able to pick this album up for a couple of quid in a back row of any Independent record shop but sadly this is probably not the case. However, with the wonders of the World Wide Web a copy could easily be delivered to your doorstep with a minimal drain on your income. I would be equally surprised if you can’t find a friend who has the album stored away ready for an all important nostalgic day. If you don’t know anyone who would have it in their record collection then you need to search out and discover better friends.
Finally, I think that I should add something profound to get you to acknowledge this album if the ramblings above haven’t done so already. Nirvana may have ignited the World music stage back in 1991 with the release of Nevermind but it was back in 1989 when Bleach debuted that the fuse was truly lit.