Nirvana: ENOUGH already!

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Nirvana was cool, though they never were really completely my thing. i think what's pretty accurate is how they did help kill hair metal but what's less stated is how The Black Album likely laid the foundation where radio was ready for the singles from Nevermind. That coupled w/some incredibly bad releases from a lot of mainstream pop metal giants, and the lack of lasting excitement over the Use Your Illusions. It wasn't overnight though, Adrenalize and that Slaughter album got some desperate "please make these albums happen" airplay in '92.

omar little, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 18:59 (eight months ago) link

never thought about that, I always thought The Black Album came out the same day as Nevermind, but it came out a month before (with "Enter Sandman" released in late July)

flappy bird, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:19 (eight months ago) link

ENOUGH Already! is still my favorite Nirvana album.

Hootie and the Banshees (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:28 (eight months ago) link

FUIUD

Hootie and the Banshees (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:28 (eight months ago) link

is my second favorite Nirvana album.

Hootie and the Banshees (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:29 (eight months ago) link

As someone who has thought all along that Nirvana is possibly the single most overrated band in history, I'll take anything as close to backlash as I can get.

Allow me to bask in this gloriousness.

(basking)

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:30 (eight months ago) link

I cannot think of him without immediately thinking of THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST!!!!

frogbs, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:32 (eight months ago) link

I was told by a studio engineer many years ago that "In Bloom" sounded that way because it was a Butch Vig copy and paste job. Have no idea if that is true or not, but I could believe it.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:34 (eight months ago) link

that makes sense.

calstars, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:43 (eight months ago) link

This is a great sounding album, take a listen to the MFSL disc.... actually don't do that y'all probably will say it sounds like numetal

brimstead, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 19:51 (eight months ago) link

As someone who was much more drawn to rap & “rhythmic format” dance / house as a kid, and who hated the bands that drew directly on their sound, most of my life (And well into adulthood) I had a kind of respectful disinterest in this band ... they’d also been so fully canonized that it was hard to see through the thick layers of hyperbole and rockist discourse ... never thought they were “overrated” as much as “impossible to rate” without feeling the burdensome weight of 100000 previous conversations and just as many musical tropes and cliches

I revisited the whole catalog though recently, feeling like it was finally time, and I completely love them and, trite as it may seem, their music really has aged incredibly well. They may have introduced a tide of terrible imitators but they all do *such* a bad job of the imitation; it’s very clear to me there are things nirvana could do and did that were inimitable and that they also did more efficiently than their influences ... idk I feel like I’m speaking the obvious here but their ability to speak to certain uglier emotions in a pop structure without trivializing those emotions or making them feel like juvenile entitled bullshit... idk I think it’s aged abt as well as something can

ILX’s bad boy (D-40), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:09 (eight months ago) link

hilarious (over)analysis itt

ask someone who was there if Nirvana was good or not

alpine static, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:35 (eight months ago) link

In anticipation of this I have recorded a new song entitled "My Thugz They Don't Sweat Me." Acoustic guitar, 808 emulator and voice. I eager await releasing it under the Tupac imprimatur.

― J0hn Darn13ll3 (J0hn Darn13ll3), Sunday, November 17, 2002 2:36 PM

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 21:30 (eight months ago) link

deej otm

jolene club remix (BradNelson), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 21:30 (eight months ago) link

Oooh yea the "In Bloom" drums are cool. Some Ringo-esq simplicity, or if Ringo was a hard hitter I guess.

billstevejim, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 22:01 (eight months ago) link

i think the main thing that's helped nirvana stand the test of time is the sheer strength of the songwriting--familiar chords played in unfamiliar order, modes and substitutions straight out of tin pan alley, and that's before you get to the lyrics, which were always memorable even at their worst (looking at you, polly)

bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 22:08 (eight months ago) link

Can you go on about the unusual chord sequences and melodies? I remember reading a really interesting post on Cobain’s “modal tendencies” here on ILX but I can’t find it in the infinity of Nirvana/KC threads.

flappy bird, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:27 (eight months ago) link

ask someone who was there if Nirvana was good or not

I was. They weren't.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:37 (eight months ago) link

I was, they were, but at the same time I never need to hear another note of their music for the rest of my life

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:38 (eight months ago) link

I was pretty early (Jabberjaw & Iguana shows) and they were pretty good! But honestly... I liked Tad more.

https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/nirvana/1991/iguanas-tijuana-mexico-43d67f03.html
https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/nirvana/1991/jabberjaw-los-angeles-ca-7bd6caa4.html

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:42 (eight months ago) link

(...and still do!)

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:43 (eight months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0-QESafo50

flappy bird, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:51 (eight months ago) link

I was, they were, but at the same time I never need to hear another note of their music for the rest of my life

ditto

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 00:01 (eight months ago) link

xp: ^^^^At 52:24 you can feast your ears on the very first performance of "Come As You Are"

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 00:04 (eight months ago) link

Can you go on about the unusual chord sequences and melodies?

My favorite example is probably Lithium--the first half of the chord progression is fairly common (D F#m Bm G), but the second half of the progression seems to modulate with every chord change (Bb C A C). Someone with more theory expertise can explain exactly what's going on, but that kind of progression is more common in, say, show tunes than rock music. It's surprisingly jaunty when you play it on the piano.

In a lot of other songs, he'll do a little major/minor substitution that adds a bit of comedy, or a bit of tension. Like in Heart-Shaped Box, going to the major IV instead of the minor iv on the "real complaint" chord. Or in Teen Spirit, which throws in that Db chord instead of the much more common C or C minor.

bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 00:54 (eight months ago) link

Yeah, I remember that analysis. Like, the pixies would also do that major substitution for a minor chord to give a sort of manic feel, but unlike frank black Kurt would fit his vocal melodies around the chord substitution, modulating with them, rather than against them

Vapor waif (uptown churl), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 00:57 (eight months ago) link

i think what's pretty accurate is how they did help kill hair metal

This is one of those rock history truisms that's gotten a whole lot fuzzier the more I've read, and also given what I remember from that era firsthand. There's some truth there but it's usually overstated or embellished (not by you, but in so many other accounts) to the point that it distorts what was actually happening at that moment in popular culture.

On the one hand, as someone who started paying attention to rock as a preteen around 1994, the whole hair-band era felt indescribably ancient and foreign. But what felt foreign about it was mainly the image and the production style, both of which were already going out of fashion before Nevermind came out. So the landscape certainly changed but things were already going that way with or without Nirvana. Lots of post-Nirvana hard rock (Candlebox etc.) was just pop-metal in disguise anyway; the first rock album I ever bought, in the spring of '94 - Aerosmith's Get a Grip - was just regular old pop-metal, no disguise necessary, and it was fucking huge - that album came out in 1993 and sold clean through the next year, probably the peak of the grunge era. When the band followed up with a greatest hits at the end of 1994, it sold 4 million copies - almost as much as Vitalogy or Nirvana's Unplugged. And Guns N' Roses was very much still a big deal, including the Illusions records - my local hard rock station had at least 4 cuts from UYI II in regular rotation through 1995 or 1996. I mean, GNR has never really experienced a lull in popularity, but in the mid-nineties the Illusions records still felt pretty current and relevant even to a young listener who missed their supernova phase.

Def Leppard's popularity must have cratered just months before I started listening - they kept putting singles on the charts through mid-1994 but I never heard any of them; except maybe for a couple stray spins of "Photograph" or "Rock of Ages" I don't think I heard a thing they did until later in the decade. I might've heard a couple of Motley Crue tunes around that same time. The lesser hair bands were pretty much nonentities on radio at that point. But even before the nineties were out a hair band revival had started to take shape - driven mostly by VH1, whose turn-of-the-millenium programming was maybe the first major iteration of mass Eighties nostalgia.

I don't really have a point with all this but it's just interesting to reflect on. Did grunge sound like a foreign country to someone who was 12 years old in 2001?

the F word, the N word, raunchy sex, your name it (thewufs), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 01:05 (eight months ago) link

i think w/GNR the albums felt mature and interesting in a way that was maybe a little unexpected and not exactly what was desired; the singles from the albums were played a lot but tbh i don't recall much culture-wide interest in UYI past the albums' releases and what at the time was a longer period of excitement for new albums. Maybe on the hard rock stations, as you said. They didn't experience the same type of plunge that Def Lep did, i mean after all the UYIs were actually good while Adrenalize just felt like it came from a band bereft of ideas and maybe completely wiped out after everything they went through.

Aerosmith benefited from the pop-metal phase but they always felt outside of it, they were to some of these metal dudes like Neil Young was to some grunge bands. They never really adapted to the times artificially, they just adapted slightly.

i don't think Nirvana killed these bands at all, it was more that their sudden ascendence and the success of other less clownish acts made the more low-hanging fruit bands (that were strictly that late '80s pop metal style) seem all the more absurd. But at the same time, it probably was less an actual death blow and more of Cobain and co rising up to fill the vacuum and grab the fan base these bands were beginning to leave behind. It didn't hurt that they (and Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and AiC) were all pretty interesting both sound wise and personality wise. They got huge pretty swiftly and everyone loved them and no one cared about those other bands, many of whom tried to adapt to the grunge sound and none of whom looked like anything but pathetic when doing so.

omar little, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 01:44 (eight months ago) link

Aerosmith were exceptions to the rule: they were still riding the wave of a massive comeback that, while indebted partially to being Hair Metal forefathers, they managed to keep a foot outside of it as well. They were also able to reap the rewards of Classic Rock nostalgia that rose concurrent to Grunge (Dazed & Confused soundtrack, mid-90s CD remasters etc.). They were legacy artists that it was still okay to like.

XP Or what omar said...

Infidels, Like Dylan In The Eighties (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 01:54 (eight months ago) link

Def Leppard's popularity must have cratered just months before I started listening - they kept putting singles on the charts through mid-1994 but I never heard any of them; except maybe for a couple stray spins of "Photograph" or "Rock of Ages" I don't think I heard a thing they did until later in the decade.

Adrenalize is a classic New Jersey, but "Two Steps Behind" got massive airplay in summer '93, a hair metal ballad in name only.

Also: holdovers like Ugly Kid Joe and Mr. Big.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 01:57 (eight months ago) link

This whole narrative is ahistorical bullshit. Skid Row's second album went double platinum three months before Nevermind came out. "Hair metal" bands continued to make records, and sell records, well into the 1990s. Yes, a few bands like Warrant saw their promotional budgets go down, and a few others just naturally fell off, and labels tried to find alt/grunge bands of their own once Nirvana was a hit, but nothing swept anything else away en masse. Soundgarden was sold as a metal act - their biggest tour before they "broke" was with Faith No More and Voivod. Alice In Chains was sold as a metal act - they opened the Monsters of Rock tour (Van Halen, Anthrax, Dokken IIRC) before they "broke."

grawlix (unperson), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:02 (eight months ago) link

i think the main thing that's helped nirvana stand the test of time is the sheer strength of the songwriting--familiar chords played in unfamiliar order, modes and substitutions straight out of tin pan alley, and that's before you get to the lyrics, which were always memorable even at their worst (looking at you, polly)

― bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Tuesday, January 8, 2019 4:08 PM (three hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

otm.

i don’t often feel the need to stick up for nirvana because who cares but this is my opinion: KC wrote fantastic pop music. he had a preternatural sense of melody and song structure. his lyrics were unusual and delightful (brad N also otm). the songs are so fucking good.

the songs are also ruined by the worst production, too much compession, and KC’s affected vocals. the performances too are hampered by over-playing and a belabored faux heaviness — in other words, just kinda heavy handed.

rarely does the band approach the material, excellent as it is, with finesse, with any real attention to timbre or dynamics (and i don’t mean LOUD soft LOUD soft). it’s a shame and, imo, one of the more disappointing lost opportunities in pop music.

budo jeru, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:04 (eight months ago) link

Michael Azzerrad had a good point about Nevermind's 'fluke' ascension in Come As You Are, saying something along the lines of how the album arrived against Michael Jackson's gradual decline w/Dangerous*, GnR putting out two albums at once, and U2 putting out an Art album, all of which worked in Nirvana's favor.

*And there's the long circulated anecdote about how Nevermind hit #1 after Xmas based on returns/exchanges for Dangerous.

Infidels, Like Dylan In The Eighties (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:05 (eight months ago) link

I think the glammiest, poppiest end of hair metal was already basically dead by 1990-91. It was probably bands like GNR and Metallica as much as anyone who drove the stake into its poodle-coiffed, coke-engorged heart. After that, even hair metal had to be a bit harder or smarter. Skid Row came across as darker and edgier than the glam bands of a few years earlier. This was also the era of progressive and technical hair metal like Queensryche, Tesla, Extreme, Winger, etc. Sure they had long hair, but these guys were serious musicians, man. It was kind of a late-mannerist phase, at least in retrospect. When Nirvana came along, it wasn't thirst for "authenticity" so much as for the hooks and hummable melodies that had slowly drained out of the increasingly grown-up pop metal scene.

o. nate, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:32 (eight months ago) link

i think it was creative exhaustion w/a lot of those bands and also just a general sense that the next wave that was coming along was diminishing returns. it's not something specific to that genre at all, and like unperson said a lot of those bands continued to sell. their sales decline was less precipitous than their mainstream cultural one.

omar little, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:37 (eight months ago) link

The Jackson vs. Nevermind battle was way overplayed. No one's mentioned the quietest, subtlest reason why Nirvana did so well: Soundscan. Garth Brooks was the season's other surprise hit. Turns out we'd been underestimating country sales for twenty years!

Also, the '92 pop chart gives no impression that indie won.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:42 (eight months ago) link

Hip Hop too! NWA @ #1

Infidels, Like Dylan In The Eighties (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:45 (eight months ago) link

yep!

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:45 (eight months ago) link

NWA's #1 was a result of billboard shifting to soundscan rather than traditional label payola.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:48 (eight months ago) link

That millisecond rest that growl puts before the downbeats of the chorus of teen spirit is pretty great. You can hear it on the studio recording but it’s even more pronounced on the live set that flappy posted above

calstars, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:54 (eight months ago) link

Bleach is a fantastic album imo

zwei dunkel jungen (crüt), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:59 (eight months ago) link

xp tho the sheer magnitude of country music's success was a surprise post-soundscan, there was abundant evidence for like a year leading up to its introduction that the country format was growing rapidly. country music was not quietly doing garth brooks-level business for decades undetected.

dyl, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 03:41 (eight months ago) link

No, of course, but Billboard had seriously underestimated the sales of Randy Travis, Yoakam, Clint Black, Rosanne Cash, etc

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 03:43 (eight months ago) link

Did grunge sound like a foreign country to someone who was 12 years old in 2001?

― the F word, the N word, raunchy sex, your name it (thewufs), Tuesday, January 8, 2019 8:05 PM (three hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I was 9 in 2001, I got Nevermind for Xmas that year. By the time the greatest hits came out a year later I was completely obsessed, had all the Outcesticides & many other bootlegs, remember waiting months to hear "You Know You're Right." At the time, third/fourth? wave grunge bands were all over MTV: Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Creed, 3 Doors Down... it was obvious to me at the time that this was runoff, and even though I loved Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Linkin Park (who are all more distinct than the other bands I mentioned that were straight carbon copies), they didn't have the depth or artistry that Nirvana did, and they never would. I was young but Nirvana's era seemed a million miles away to me, Kurt had already attained sainthood. at the same time, the pop punk bands like Green Day, blink-182, Sum 41, Jimmy Eat World, et al. were all doing their own thing but there was still a reverence and respect for Kurt (cf. the "Come As You Are" reference in blink's suicide song). He loomed over everything.

So that golden era - Nirvana, Pumpkins, Hole - didn't feel foreign, just a brilliant era that we were living in the shadow of, putting up with a worse, diluted version, with no one rising to their heights artistically.

flappy bird, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 04:46 (eight months ago) link

System of a Down were a bracing one-off. "Chop Suey!" is the only song I remember hearing in that era and just being completely floored, perplexed, confused, overwhelmed - just WTF is this?? (in the best way)

flappy bird, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 04:48 (eight months ago) link

when i was 11 in 2001 i heard nirvana mostly in the context of "smells like teen spirit" getting played by my classmates at the middle school talent show and hearing my brother tell my dad in the car that he heard it was supposed to the one of the best songs ever according to some magazine. i was like, okay, it's fine if you're into that kinda thing... but honestly it did feel very distantly removed from other music that just felt more vital and urgent to me. on some level i suspected the received wisdom was part of why so many my age seemed to like it, in the same way they liked beatles music that i didn't give a fuck about. i never *felt* it the way i did "chop suey"

dyl, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 05:14 (eight months ago) link

pearl jam/eddie vedder was far more influential to the sound of mainstream rock music in the late '90s/early '00s than nirvana

bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 05:40 (eight months ago) link

True... now that is some music I could never connect to

flappy bird, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 05:43 (eight months ago) link

I wonder if any prom theme went for a nirvana song over pearl jam’s Black or even some Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

Philip Nunez, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 05:46 (eight months ago) link

i was actually there and have told this story elsewhere on ILM.

it was August 17, 1990 and i was going to see a band called Sonic Youth at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard. in these days we were typically late for shows, still kicking myself for being late for a Pale Saints show but i regress. if you notice the above date, it was 13 months before Vevermind came out. Nirvana were the opening band of three bands this night. i knew when i was watching the show i was experiencing something special and might have a story for the rest of my life. the performance that night blew my mind, i had no idea who the fuck Nirvana was but they put on a show for the ages. i remember Kurt climbing speakers and then threw himself off. i really thought he was going to hurt himself. i also remember thinking there is no way any band can follow what i just witnessed. i was right for the next band as they sucked or really could not come on after Nirvana. Sonic Youth were on point that night and had a great show. it was almost like they knew they had to do something special because of the Nirvana buzz that was in the Palladium that night.

flash forward about a year and a half later. a bunch of us were actually going to another show, i want to say it was the Blur/Pulp show but i could be wrong. we turned on KROQ and was listening to whatever they were playing. it happened to be request night and so they played "Smells Like" first, next request was "In Bloom and then "Come As You Are" which was all fine because they were singles, but why i'm telling this story is because the next request, which they were doing live on the air, was "Breed." anyways all the request were for Nevermind straight through. we could not turn off the radio as it felt like history, when did this band take over KROQ? they even played "Endless, Nameless" as the last caller said we have to finish with the hidden track don't we? i have never heard a whole album requested like that before, it just felt like a moment, yes "Smells Like" was starting to get big but it was a movement that i had never experienced before.

i also saw like the third to last US show they ever played but that is another story...

Bee OK, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 06:42 (eight months ago) link


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