"I Hate Myself and Want to Die," The Beavis and Butthead Experience (1993)The backstory of this Brazil recording, a demented swirl of sci-fi feedback and carnivalesque bass, is much more intriguing than the song itself. Cobain originally wanted to use the title — a joke about his public perception — for In Utero, but he wisely backed off the idea. Over shards of palm-muted guitar, Cobain envisions walking into a horrific barber shop and being sexually assaulted by the entire cast of The Andy Griffith Show. ), 15. "(New Wave) Polly," Incesticide (1992)Nirvana neuter the cinematic aura of the Nevermind version with this fast, punky take included on Incesticide. Vague and watery (thanks to that pedal), the song uses a string of clichés (“The choice is yours”) and the imagery of opposites (mud and bleach, friend and enemy) to frame its theme of the uncertainty of people and the gulf between our expectations and reality. A song about the heart-bursting rush of new love or a song about the surge of euphoria from mainlining heroin? The phrase was even the working title for In Utero (a song with that name appears on the album’s original track list); it then became the working title for a planned double live album to be released in the wake of Cobain’s suicide in 1994. Ben Schwartz and His Cornrows Appear in the New Trailer for Sia’s Movie, Dr. Dre Now Recovering From Brain Aneurysm. "Aero Zeppelin," Incesticide (1992)Given that it's the first song Nirvana ever played live, "Aero Zeppelin" is fittingly tethered to their influences — most evident during a cocky, strutting guitar riff that borrows a hint of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." 66. Soon after Cobain dropped out of high school, he formed his first band, Fecal Matter, with his friend Dale Crover from the Melvins on bass; fellow Melvin King Buzzo later lent a hand. (They ran out of tape halfway through the session. "I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. “Serve the Servants” rambles through a number of targets: the media, the fans, those who criticize Cobain’s wife. Watch Queue Queue And Cobain’s scream at the climax razes everything in its path. With Jack Endino at Reciprocal Recording, with Butch Vig at Smart Studios, and with Steve Albini at Pachyderm, Nirvana tackled “Sappy” at every turn and considered it for all three of their albums before finally punting it to No Alternative as an uncredited bonus track. But where does it finish among Nirvana's best tracks? Log in or link your magazine subscription. The phase-shifting effect on “Curmudgeon” is downright nauseating, but I’ve always loved the laugh at the beginning and the tossed-off, born-again-baiting line “I love Santa / I meant God.”. They flipped the axis on what mainstream and alternative meant, usurping the likes of Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Guns N’ Roses at the top of the charts. 20. Throughout, the frontman bangs away at an acoustic-electric guitar that had seen better days while a cello hums in the background. And Cobain’s scream of “Go away” is as raw as a newborn’s primordial cry. By 1993, David Bowie was all but washed up in America. By that point, Sub Pop was already a label of some renown, both in the Pacific Northwest and on college-radio playlists nationwide, thanks to releases from acts like Soundgarden and Green River and an overall aesthetic cutting ’70s classic rock with ’80s hardcore, spraying cheap beer over all of it, a sound that would soon be called “grunge.” A mix of reverence and irreverence, it was a series that saw grunge bands covering Black Flag, as well as former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins covering Cheech & Chong. No one was taking this very seriously, as evidenced by the instrument-swapping: Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic churn along competently enough on bass and guitar, respectively, but Cobain's plodding drums are amusingly rough. 12. Make that a platinum bullet, as the song represented one last chance for, if not Nirvana, then Nirvana, LLC, to return to the top of the charts a decade after Cobain’s suicide. But they lurched into the riff nonetheless — first instrumentally, then with Cobain wildly screaming the lyrics. 9. 84. By the end of their run, he actively resented playing the track live. As Novoselic opined, Cobain “had some kind of unattainable expectations for it,” and it deserved a better fate. 91. I will be counting songs that are on live albums if they are unique to that live album and do not appear on a studio album. “Serve the Servants,” In Utero (1993). 68. “You have this great searching, this great need to find out who you really are.” But in Cobain’s reading, it’s less a search than a means to escape, a commentary on fame, on the rejection of the world and worldly possessions. (An updated Hole version then emerged two years later.) 8. 60. 68. There's nowhere to hide. "Use just once and destroy / Invasion of our piracy," Cobain declares, chased by a skeletal bass and drums. Anne Hathaway Rebranding as ‘Annie’ Won Late Night This Week, Jamie Lynn Spears Implicates Elon Musk in the Death of Her Cats, All the Celebrities Who Have Tested Positive for the Coronavirus. Four months after toppling the King of Pop from the top of the charts, Nirvana was left to try to assess just how to move forward in the wake of Nevermind. ), 57. That utterance of “I like yewwww” is equal parts sweetheart crush and psychotic obsession. And the song's ubiquity hounded Cobain for the rest of his career, signifying his conflicted relationship with fame. I've got a new complaint!" “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” In Utero (1993). 40. 9. The squawking guitar solo is no consolation. "The Other Improv," With the Lights Out (2004)Is there anyone on Earth who cites this ragged Brazil leftover as their favorite song? Framing that lack-of-narrative narrative are some of his most beautiful harmonic moments, from the lush pre-chorus vocals to the unusual chord voicings on the chorus. But few Nirvana songs slash like its cutting refrain, “Daddy was ashamed.”. "Been a Son," Incesticide (1992)R.E.M. Four years later, Cobain was deep into the dark night of this song of infidelity, depression, isolation, doubt, fear, and decapitation by train. And then there’s the pompous, narcissistic bore at the center of “Oh Me” who formulates infinity and stores it deep inside himself. The rest of the band builds a bluesy, smoldering atmosphere — the ideal, unobtrusive framework for one of rock's most unforgettable vocal takes. For as muddy and hasty as the songwriting can get, a 21-year-old Cobain allowed sweetness, sensitivity, and sincerity to peek through Bleach’s murkiness. Some of his most iconic moments were actually tacked onto compilations ("Sappy") or even went unreleased ("You Know You're Right") before his suicide at age 27. “Polly”/“New Wave Polly,” Nevermind (1991). And in an 1993 Rolling Stone interview, he highlighted "About a Girl" as a bold move for its time. 44. Discover the best lists of movies, music, TV shows, books & … Even in its unfinished state, its gloominess is haunting. But their discography was compiled no less than three times since the early ’90s, and they even re-formed to release two playful new albums in the 21st century. "Very Ape," In Utero (1993)At a succinct 1:55, "Very Ape" makes its case and gets out of the way. A curious yet ultimately underwhelming In Utero B side seemingly built out of little more than Cobain clearing his throat and yowling, “Marijuana.” He winds down with a minute of croaking, yet the song somehow was covered by the likes of Sonic Youth and former Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante, though the keeper belongs to Yelawolf, who sampled that yell for his song “Marijuana.” But for those grimly combing over Kurt’s lyrics for omens of his demise, one could do worse than the original title for this song, which Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross noted was: “Moist vagina, and then she blew him like he’s never been blown, brains stuck all over the wall.”. First called “Hitchhiker” and then “Cracker” before “Polly,” this harrowing song dates back to the Bleach era, though its minor-key folk melody was even more of a grunge outlier than “About a Girl.” It’s “ripped from the headlines” subject matter slots alongside “Paper Cuts”: Cobain took as inspiration the local story of a 14-year-old girl abducted after a punk-rock show at knifepoint by the serial rapist and kidnapper Gerald Friend. 'He isn’t satisfied with anything.' 72. 46. “We found it and were like, what is this song? But the arrangement is more intricate than one might expect, with Dave Crover's nuanced, cymbal-heavy drums leading the riffs through sections of 4/4 and 7/8. Honourable Mention: Mrs. Butterworth - With The Lights Out 39. I had a lot of fun relistening to all this stuff. "Afterbirth of a nation / Starved without your skeleton key.". It’s the sound of a band sloughing off its old skin to find a new vein of their sound, and of a rock star desperately trying to dissolve his ego in a vat of stomach acid. Yet for all their aptitude for finding new emotional nuances in their covers, this one falls flat. "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip," In Utero (1993)This improvisational demo, a blend of mumbled nonsense and atonal rumblings, was recorded during a January 1993 session in Brazil and slapped onto some CD editions of In Utero as a bonus track. Next: 25 Things That Didn't Exist Before Nirvana's Last Concert. In fact, it was a lived experience from when recent dropout Cobain wound up working as a janitor at Weatherwax High School. More information Every Nirvana Song, Ranked Thirty years after the band’s debut album, we look back at their entire catalogue. At its core is an angular, chromatic guitar riff and vocal melody that wipes the floor with 90 percent of Bleach. "To put [that song] on Bleach was a risk," he said. "Lake of Fire," MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)Cobain goes apeshit on this Meat Puppets cover, wailing on the impossibly high chorus until his vocal cords have seemingly dissolved. The admission “I’m a negative creep, and I’m stoned” is at once blunt, livid, sinister, and funny, with a ludicrously gruff bellow of a vocal driving the point home. On the didactic Bosch-scape “Lake of Fire,” his voice soon embodies and howls along with these damned souls frying in hell. Another entry for a comp on Seattle’s C/Z Records label. I can't pretend to have a good time playing it." (Some fans have joked that the lyric "I've been looking for Day Glo" sounds like "I've been looking for Dave Grohl" — given how mumbly Cobain's lyrics were at this point, I guess we can't write it off for sure.). "Dumb," In Utero (1993)With "Dumb," Cobain took aim at the stupidity he observed in everyday life: people content with their dead-end jobs, easily amused by the numbing glow of their TVs. Nirvana (90s US grunge band) Nirvana (60s band from the UK) Nirvana 2002 (Swedish death metal band) Nirvana (French band from Martigues, activ during the 70s.) "Aneurysm," Incesticide (1992)The lyrics have been scrutinized to death by hardcore fans seeking thematic breadcrumbs about Cobain's drug addiction ("Come on over, shoot the shit" / "She keeps it pumping straight to my heart"), but it's widely accepted that "Aneurysm" reflects back on the nervous jitters he experienced with his then-ex-girlfriend Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail. Except there's no melody, and the riff is a dead-end. No clue. The Nevermind liner notes, for instance: “The second coming came in last and out of the closet.” The third single from Nevermind, “Lithium” is as much about manic depression as it is about those who blindly follow religious dogma, and it blurs the lines between the two types of mental illness. One that doesn’t crop up, however, is the Meat Puppets’ II, a slice of mystic country from sunbaked Arizona punk brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood. From its dark, enchanting vocal melody to its quiet-loud leap to its signature power-chord churn — a minor-key surge that, like Boston's "More Than a Feeling," inspired countless teenagers to pick up a cheap pawn-shop guitar — there isn't a more expertly crafted rock song to emerge from the entire decade. "Big Cheese," "Love Buzz" single (1988)Some high, atmospheric vocal harmonies prove Cobain wasn't afraid of pop beauty early on, despite what the raucous onslaught of Bleach may have suggested. RELATED: 10 Huge TV Shows That Defined The 1990s This version features Pat Smear on the second guitar, who … 23. Jennifer Lopez Plays Little Mermaid, Big Snowman in Her ‘In the Morning’ Video. In case you were thinking she’d make a great replacement Sam Jones. The most effective tool is entertainment.”. They say “write what you know,” which means Kurt knew a lot about masturbation. Channing offers one of his standout Nirvana performances, barreling the song forward with his furious snare rolls. K Records founder Calvin Johnson was the college town’s unofficial mayor, his band Beat Happening the champions of unlearned, awkward, and childlike twee-folk. "Do You Love Me?," Hard to Believe: A Kiss Cover Compilation (1990)Guitarist Jason Everman makes one of his two recorded Nirvana appearances on this Kiss cover, not that you can tell: It's a demo-worthy afterthought stuffed to the brim with Cobain's wild wails. This early Nirvana number walks a fine line between Seattle’s latent redneck machismo, with its by-the-numbers riff, and the self-righteous vegetarians in Olympia, with the funny admission “Yes, I eat cow / I am not proud.”, 63, 62. Cobain always admired these Texas weirdos (and front man Gibby Haynes was one of the last people to see Cobain alive when both were in rehab at Exodus Recovery Center in L.A.), so maybe it was a subliminal lift? Leave it to Cobain to plumb these depths and find the dissatisfaction stored within. Their take is effectively a disco edit, lopping off extra verses to emphasize the chorus and lengthening the instrumental break to give Cobain space to indulge in some Eastern-tinged guitar shredding. Farmer’s ghost hangs over this splenetic, feedback-pierced song, and the plaintive “I miss the comfort in being sad” remains one of the band’s most wrenching choruses. 19. So ludicrous was the idea of achieving financial stability by playing music that Cobain replaced the word money in the line “all the money that I make” with Mudhoney. This one remained on the cutting room floor for years – partly because they never properly finished it. "Verse Chorus Verse," With the Lights Out (2004)The semi-ironic title "Verse Chorus Verse" clearly meant a lot to Cobain — he used it as a placeholder title on different occasions. "Endless, Nameless," Nevermind (1991)Ah, hidden tracks: now an adorable relic, then a genuine bolt of lightning through your headphones. “Hairspray Queen,” Incesticide (1992). 30, 29, 28. But the band's unusual presentation of this Vaselines track — itself a sort of parody rendition of an old Christian hymn — presented a new tonal range for a band that rarely ventured out of the guitar-bass-drums format. This In Utero outtake is the sound of Nirvana's classic trio in full flight — if only they were armed with a song. Chaos, degradation, rot, unbridled rage, hate — it’s a revolting sound that Nirvana brought to bear on millions of Middle American homes. In this list, I will be ranking every song by Nirvana from best to worst (#1 being the best). But you can hear the seed of a Nevermind-level song here, which only amplifies the sadness. What other song could make corporate rock suddenly — and laughably — have to pretend it was alternative rock? Cobain's guitar solo is one of his finest moments as a player — a frightening eruption of tremolo and sustain. "I miss the comfort in being sad," he barks on the chorus. “Do You Love Me?” Hard to Believe: A Kiss Covers Compilation (1990). 29. Using any other standard, it's a solid rock song, built on a spidery Novoselic bassline and Cobain-in-pop-mode hook. But Nirvana’s cover emanates from a decidedly mossier parallel universe. “Mexican Seafood,” Teriyaki Asthma (1989). So, as we roll out the birthday cake and gorge on grunge, here’s each song from Nirvana’s breakthrough record, ranked from worst to best. Sure, it’s a sound you can easily find on obscure Japanoize titles, on a Slayer album, or at the climax of a David Lynch film but in few other places in American pop culture. 39. "And that had a bit to do with why we decided to take it off. "I was heavily into pop. In this case, the latter. “Endless, Nameless,” Nevermind (1991). 69. The band clearly gives zero fucks, as at one point Cobain laughs, asks about taking yet another aimless solo, and then flails about. 59. When it emerged on With the Lights Out, this acoustic bedside recording couldn't help feel a bit underwhelming, with Cobain belting a Beatles-ish melody in a key slightly too high for his quivering voice. No quiet-loud structure here: The band sails through one of their most laid-back performances, with Kera Schaley's melancholy cello adding to the ambiance. "Lithium," Nevermind (1991)Cobain had a tricky relationship with religion. The first half of the song is fairly pedestrian hard rock, giving way to a blaring solo that conjures the punky spawn of Tony Iommi. But woe to the band that tried to go toe to toe with the Jesus Lizard in the early ’90s — its brawny “Puss” obliterates Nirvana’s side here. 55. (Fist bump to Novoselic for his melodic bass part, dancing high above the detuned din.). “Territorial Pissings,” Nevermind (1991). At least until Cobain does his best impersonation of comedian (and future In Utero liner-notes writer) Bobcat Goldthwait’s screechy delivery and adds some thrash-metal growls that thoroughly trash the song. It features more guitar overdubs, vocal takes, and studio wizardry in one song than can be found on any other Nirvana album, yet it still delivers a direct blow to the heart. Those bands were cool, but it was “Love Buzz,” the first single from Nirvana, that proved to be seismic, wholly shifting the paradigm of ’90s culture. Juvenile as it was, it continued to pop up in the band’s live sets well into the Nevermind era. "My kids have just got into Nirvana," the band's Frances McKee told The Guardian in 2010. "White Lace and Strange," With the Lights Out (2004)As a guitarist, Cobain was never a master technician. 6. Nirvana's influence was so immense, it's easy to forget just how little music they recorded. Coming at the end of an inspired set from the band, with 14 songs done in one take, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” caps the performance with an intensity that still haunts. It’s funny to imagine the milquetoast Mayberry characters as sadists, yet the claustrophobic small-town terror feels earned. Two notables, though: It’s the lone appearance of future war hero Jason Everman on guitar and the only time Cobain and Novoselic harmonized (like two hands raking across a blackboard). When Nirvana recorded its Kiss cover for the C/Z Records compilation of songs by the ’70s rock icons, it was laughable to think the band in any way would approach the rock-star lifestyle of limousines, private planes, backstage-pass queens, and uh … money. "Rape Me," In Utero (1993)The titular lyric is intended to unsettle, but there's more brewing beneath the surface than those two words suggest: The "rape" in question could refer both to the band's corporate manhandling and the resolve of actual sexual assault victims. 41. “It’s almost impossible to de-program the incestually-established, male oppressor, especially the ones who’ve been weaned on it thru their families … like die-hard NRA freaks and inherited corporate-power mongrels … But there are thousands of green minds, young gullible 15-year-old boys out there just starting to fall into the grain of what they’ve been told of what a man is supposed to be, and there are plenty of tools to use. In 1979, they dropped their debut, Is This Real? On the instrumental section, Cobain and Novoselic tangle their instruments into a harmonized, psychedelic web. They similarly capture the unbridled breathlessness of love and infatuation on “Molly’s Lips,” about the Scottish actress Molly Weir. 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