Recorded for a smidgen over $600, some Nirvana die-hards argue that Bleach is Nirvana’s finest work. Such connoisseur’s say that while Nevermind is revered as the soundtrack for ‘Generation X’, its reluctant spokesman, Kurt Cobain, shows his true colours in Bleach – before the unwanted fame that ultimately cost his life took a hold.
Sophomore release, Nevermind, gripped the music world and thrust Cobain into the celebrity role he seemed to detest, but it also triggered interest in Bleach and uncovered the gems that had been hidden, with original sales of just 6,000 copies.
Subsequent Nirvana albums had a lyrical complexity to them, matching the personal struggles that Cobain went through whilst writing them. Bleach differs since its quality lies in the simplicity of the songs that deliver the crux of the album – the boredom of growing up as a confused teenager in a sleepy part of conservative America.
Kicking off with the dirty sound of “Blew” and “Floyd The Barber” – a couple of furious, dark and muddy openers – the albums’ stand-out track follows. “All About A Girl” is a ballad that should be used as a template by today’s Emo tyros, with Cobain’s superb throaty vocal over a much poppier sound than much of what we are normally used to from Nirvana.
“School” is the classic example of the minimalist grunge, with just four lines hidden under a filthy base and the album reaches a thrilling crescendo with the angry duo of “Big Cheese” and “Downer”.
But it is what’s missing that makes Bleach important – Chad Channing’s hit-and-miss drumming before Dave Grohl took over the sticks and the frankly awful rushed production job that leaves the album full of feedback and distortion. Combined, these two factors are what make Bleach special, adding a chaotic and grimy feel that Nirvana, as the darlings of the Seattle grunge scene, stood for. --Anthony Leaver
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