Back in 2014 when Nirvana was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Shame, the remaining members performed with a bunch of guest singers. Joan Jett, Lorde (for some reason I can’t ever understand why), St. Vincent and my personal favorite of the set, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. I especially liked Kim joining them onstage because she sang my favorite Nirvana song, “Aneurysm.” This was also the most “punk” thing the band did that night and it was glorious. A few interesting tidbits about this performance, the dress Kim wore on stage is actually the same one she wore when Nirvana and Sonic Youth toured together in the early 90’s. Also according to Kim’s book Girl In A Band (which you should totally read), during this performance she channeled a lot of her anger over her divorce with Thurston Moore (also of Sonic Youth) and the grief over Kurt’s passing into this performance. This explains a lot when you put it all in context.
I still remember listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind all the way through the first time and wondering why there was all this empty dead air after “Something In The Way.” Then, after about 10 minutes of silence “Endless, Nameless” begins to play and it all makes sense. The song itself is an interesting one. It’s a very Sonic Youth inspired song with all the noise but, it also has this really cool vibe that acts as a precursor of sorts (all be it probably indirectly) for what would become the raw sound attached to In Utero. It’s also worth noting that this is the only other song on Nevermind credited to all three members of Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being the other.
My all time favorite Nirvana song is Aneurysm. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it thinking that this is one hell of a jam. The dynamics of quiet to loud on this song are stunning. One thing I’ve always noticed is that live versions of this song are way better than the version that appears on the Incesticide album. This live version is from their performance at the Paramount in Seattle in 1991. Some other tidbits you might find interesting about this song is that, “Aneurysm” is one of the few Nirvana songs credited to all three members. It was first performed live on November 25, 1990 at the Off Ramp Café in Seattle. The first studio version was recorded on January 1, 1991 and was the their first with Dave Grohl, who had joined Nirvana in September 1990. This version of the song was released as a b-side on the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” single in September 1991.
Nirvana- Aneurysm (Live 1991 at Paramount Theater-Seattle):
There is a debate that has been going on for quite some time about Nirvana. There are many out there that consider Nevermind to be the holy grail of their brief catalog. Then there are those who hold In Utero in higher regard. I tend to fall in the In Utero camp. Not to take anything away from Nevermind, In Utero is just the better album in regards to the production, and songwriting. Sure “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “Drain You” are all good songs. Those songs while meaningful just don’t connect as much as the ones on In Utero. There is more desperation anguish, and suffering in the In Utero songs. The production of the vocals really show that as well. Steve Albini’s engineering skills trump Butch Vig any day. Not to take anything away from Butch, his work on Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, and all the Garbage albums are great. Nirvana just needed someone like Steve Albini to really get at the raw nature of the songs. Songs like “Scentless Apprentice,” “Heart Shaped Box,” “Rape Me,” “Milk It” and “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” have that hard edged roar to them and the way they were produced really captures that demand to be noticed. The softer side of the album with songs like “Dumb,” “Pennyroyal Tea” and “All Apologies” embrace the very delicate nature of the band. The only song to really capture that on Nevermind was “Something In The Way.” The drums thump in more of a way that captures the true essence of how Dave Grohl plays. The bass sound has more of a dirty yet balanced sound that attaches itself to the rhythm in a clearer way. The guitars have more edge to them. They cut through the songs with an abrasive razor sharp dynamic. Vocally you can hear all of Kurt’s pain in every syllable he sings. His screams reach new heights since Steve Albini refused to double track Kurt’s vocals. It’s quite noticeable at the end of “Rape Me.” There is something else that has always bothered me about Nevermind. The way Nevermind turned out sort of has a very controlled production and compressed radio-friendly mix.That is something that is not very flattering to a rock band like Nirvana.
Granted this is all just my opinion, but I think this makes for a good debate. Sure we will never know what the next step for Nirvana would be. Though the indication of “You Know You’re Right” which was done by Adam Kasper shows that they were continuing in the direction that Steve Albini steered them in.
There is always a big debate when it comes to cover songs. Did the band do it justice or does it fall flat? Did they make it their own or do it verbatim? One thing for sure is that when a band covers a song and they find the right one, it becomes undoubtably theirs.
There are quite a few that stand out in my mind and Nirvana’s version of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World is one of my all time favorites and perhaps one of the best covers ever. Their performance of this song at their MTV Unplugged is such a stand out track. The words fit perfectly with Kurt Cobain’s persona. The arrangement also treats the original in a special way not to completely deviate but to fit in with the sound of Nirvana.