Nirvana – Bleach (20th Anniversary Edition)

Nirvana - Bleach (20th Anniversary Edition)

Written By: James Swigart

Label: Sub Pop – Rating:

Nirvana’s Bleach Deluxe Edition, re-mastered beautifully by Jack Endino, gets in our face from the get-go and stays there. Since this album is very attractive, we are stoked that wise people decided to make it.

Bleach Deluxe Edition contains both the original album and 12 live tracks. Six of the live tracks are versions of songs on the original. The live tracks are all from one show in early 1990. “School (live)” is simply stunning. The legendary and seminal Kurt Cobain’s vocals and guitar are both incredibly powerful. “Floyd the Barber (live)” is equally powerful. Krist Novoselic’s bass guitar is nimble and Cobain’s guitar a beast.

Novoselic’s simple yet elegant bass begins “Dive (live)” and Cobain’s trademark howl is in full effect. Cobain’s rasp has vocal power equivalent to that of the best Johnny Cash. We can not recall a vocalist having the raspy power of Cobain. The drums and bass keep a nice beat while Cobain’s voice pierces us over and over again.

“Spank Thru (live)” is a snappy little tune with some guitar similar to Johnny Marr’s while Marr was with the Smiths yet rougher. Of course the guitar’s rougher – it’s Nirvana. This tune rocks with the vocal fluidity shown by Cobain on his tragically final record, In Utero.

“Sappy (live)” begins with Cure-like guitar chords and then the vocals hit us hard and lovingly. Guitar swirls and forms a bed of flowers that we could lie on forever. The power, urgency, pace, and need of this song define Nirvana, one of the great bands in rock history.

“About a Girl (live)” is perhaps my favorite Nirvana song. The fast pace, vocal rasp, Marr-like guitar, and consistent bass display a band that’s powerful and hungry. The album ends with “Blew (live).” Good drums, peppy bass, and slower Sonic Youth-esque guitar keep us enthralled.

The original album shows power similar to that heard on Joy Division’s Closer and on the Cure’s Seventeen Seconds. Some of the pacing can be plodding as one would expect from a band with relatively inexperienced musicians. This plodding is heard especially on “Floyd the Barber” and on “Paper Cuts.”

“Blew” is the first track and we are taken by vocals and guitar. Cobain’s solo shows confidence that would serve him well musically. Chad Channing’s proficient yet much maligned drumming keeps a good beat. Channing drums on every track on the original album except “Floyd the Barber,” “Paper Cuts,” and “Downer” – tracks on which Dale Crover drums. The drumming is never bad and is frequently what we prefer – forceful and blending. We were unable to determine who drummed on the live tracks. The drummer was probably either Dave Grohl or Channing.

“School” is our favorite track on the original. “Love Buzz” shows uncommon power and a funky bass line similar to that used by Flea. In spite of the plodding nature of some tunes, the original is a good album because the string of songs beginning at the 7th song, “Negative Creep,” and ending with the original’s closer, “Downer,” is powerful, brilliant, impassioned, and seminal. In particular, Cobain’s use of prolonged guitar chords, staccato riffs, and raspy, powerful vocals is pioneering. The brutally underrated Melvins owe a huge debt to Bleach.

Need is a word that defines all great bands. The need to please; the need to perform; the need to improve; the need to experience. Cobain’s and Novoselic’s need is prevalent throughout Bleach Deluxe Edition. Those who heard Bleach shortly after its release and said that Nirvana would be great heard this need and knew how it would forecast.

Like Nirvana? Check out: The Melvins, Alice in Chains


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