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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
I was pretty early (Jabberjaw & Iguana shows) and they were pretty good! But honestly... I liked Tad more.
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:42 (seven months ago) link
(...and still do!)
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:43 (seven months ago) link
― flappy bird, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:51 (seven months ago) link
― A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 00:01 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
― bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Tuesday, January 8, 2019 4:08 PM (three hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
Hip Hop too! NWA @ #1
― Infidels, Like Dylan In The Eighties (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:45 (seven months ago) link
― Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:45 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
Bleach is a fantastic album imo
― zwei dunkel jungen (crüt), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 02:59 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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
― 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
True... now that is some music I could never connect to
― flappy bird, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 05:43 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven months ago) link
> Nirvana were the opening band of three bands this night.
early STP was the other band lol
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 07:11 (seven months ago) link
― bros before HOOS (voodoo chili), Tuesday, January 8, 2019 11:40 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
i dunno if i agree w this actually. or maybe i think the influence is just more obvious when someone is 'sounding like pearl jam' than when nirvana flows through their music, like nirvana created a blueprint (harmonic/melodic) that ppl could attach different sounds to whereas pearl jam was more like an overall feel and so you *know* when someone is biting pearl jam but (give or take a puddle of mudd) most of nirvana's influence became such a part of the fabric ... idk maybe i'm tripping.
― ILX’s bad boy (D-40), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 09:40 (seven months ago) link
Thing is that Nirvana are still a very unique sounding band, like loads of can approximate the thrashy punk energy and the pop choruses but there are very few bands who can get anywhere near Kurt's sudden register shift, let alone the distinctive zombie lurch that a lot of their songs have. And yeah Grohl's drums are central to songs like In Bloom and Scentless Apprentice.
― Matt DC, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 09:51 (seven months ago) link
I was in full hipster mode as Nirvana emerged, college radio dj'ing and hearing a dozen new records and going to two gigs every week, and playing in hopeless bands. From this perspective, the shock was that Nirvana ended up being the anointed ones, singing to Geffin for tons of money and hitting big with noise intact.
By the late-80s there was a clear pipeline for "alternative" bands to get a sizable profile, and there was a lot of commercial niches one could occupy between, say, Stickmen with Rayguns and R.E.M.
SPIN was on every newsstand, and Rolling Stone had a college radio chart made up of mostly major label acts. It took a few album/tour/fanzine cycles for any given band to raise a profile. So the thing was, once a band had major-label promotion behind them, there were already in their second phase. To someone getting all their tips from fanzines, opening acts and word of mouth, this felt like selling out. There was excitement when Husker Du signed with full creative control, like they might put out something as harsh as "Plans I Make" on Warner Bros. But that side of them had burnt off.
Stickmen sounds pretty close to early Sub Pop, now that I re-listen. Throb, sarcasm, and the skidding feedback. I think the term "grunge" may have even been tossed around.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iiK0963YU8 "Grungy" was an adjective I recall us all using at the radio station to describe records coming through starting around '87, especially as Sabbath and Stooges became ascendant influences on bands moving out of their hardcore roots. You didn't want to say "metallic", even if Metallica and Celtic Frost were in rotation. 'Cause saying the word "metal" connoted pop metal for the most part. Green River were definately grungy, and were definately rising through the zine network with their Sabbath/Stooges sound. Summer of 88, Nirvana came through town when I was out of town, and made a big impression. I knew I'd missed something. I'd seen the U-Men a few years before. Soundgarden's early records went through the playlist bin and got enough attention that putting out an album on SST was a logical step, as did singing and getting marketed as a metal band. When I first heard Mudhoney's "You Got It", I thought it was gonna be huge. But like "Love Removal Machine" huge. That seemed like the upper limit for a band like that.
Bleach took off among my friends over the course of 1990. A friend sent me "Negative Creep" on a mixtape and it blew me away - Sonic Youth and Motorhead mashed together! In the context of the time and scene, Bleach was a record that ticked a lot of boxes. They might have put out the best Sub Pop record yet. But there was a feeling that some other Washington band might quickly surpass them. I was shocked when SPIN reported that they'd signed for a huge sum of money. As much as loved Bleach, I didn't think it was leading anywhere. Nevermind sounded slick in comparison on first listen. It took me a few plays to adapt to the glossier sound, but as it climbed the charts there was a sense of delight that a track like "Territorial Pissings" was headed into millions of teen bedrooms. Nirvana were the first band that moved through the system quickly enough that their spikes stayed sharp.
― eva logorrhea (bendy), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 12:58 (seven months ago) link
Can you go on about the unusual chord sequences and melodies?
My only Nirvana memories are that I had heard "Bleach" more or less when it came out and wasn't that impressed by it or much anything from Seattle at that point. My friends went to see them play at tiny JC Dobbs in Philly, but I blew it off. I assume it was this show?
I didn't really think about the band much again until I several months later actually got a phone call from a friend in Texas who was raving about "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I remember checking it out on MTV and thinking, yeah, that's pretty cool! If I'm being honest, though, I liked the first Pearl Jam album (which came out a couple of months before Nevermind?) more, but none of my hip friends wanted to see them at the Troc six months or so after that Nirvana show. And you might be thinking, Pearl Jam bleh, classic rock, etc., and you might be right. But my memory of the two bands is that I never heard "Ten" blasting out of cars in the school parking lot, but within a few months every jackass was blasting Nirvana. (I want to say, from memory, that blasting Pearl Jam became more of a thing with the next album, but who knows.)
― Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 13:32 (seven months ago) link
> Nirvana were the opening band of three bands this night.early STP was the other band lol― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli),
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli),
The name of that in between band was STP but wasn't Stone Temple Pilots. I remember them being all female or had a female lead singer.
― Bee OK, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:16 (seven months ago) link
ah yeah that was Julie Cafritz's band after Pussy Galore
― Colonel Poo, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:20 (seven months ago) link
I'm gonna politely disagree with you, here's the horse's mouth:
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:38 (seven months ago) link
― Colonel Poo, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:43 (seven months ago) link
...or do you think Weiland was so jacked up he imagined he was there? I see that there was this band with Julie & I recognize Jackie (from Dustdevils):
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:45 (seven months ago) link
I could not convince any of the jerks in my high school social circle to drive into LA for that show, so I missed it. (I did not have a car at the time and my parents wouldn't let me drive one of theirs that far)
― Οὖτις, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:46 (seven months ago) link
It wasn't 1990, but I did see early Stone Temple Pilots shortly after with one-time Sonic Youth labelmates fIREHOSE & The Butthole Surfers so it's not like they weren't ever openers on unusual lineups.
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:52 (seven months ago) link
unplugged remains the thing i listen to the most from nirvana
― marcos, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 17:52 (seven months ago) link
I'm almost positive that Colonel Poo link is correct. I'm pretty sure I saw a Riot Girl band that night. I'm also positive it was a girl lead singer. I know Scott can be feminine but it was a all girl STP band that night.
― Bee OK, Wednesday, 9 January 2019 22:20 (seven months ago) link
Yeah, seems like Scott Weiland was in a fever-dream moment and probably didn't remember much of the 90s so he just inserted himself in to history naively.
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 9 January 2019 22:29 (seven months ago) link