This week in our ‘Blast From The Past’ series we’re looking at 90s grunge legends Nirvana. Its been 23 years since the untimely passing of Kurt Cobain, yet his memory still lives on in some of the greatest rock songs of all time.
Featured on Nirvana’s seminal 1991 album ‘Nevermind’, ‘Lithium’ contains one of Kurt Cobain’s most memorable guitar riffs, and is a great example of the frontman’s powerful vocal abilities. The track peaked at number eleven in the UK Singles Chart, and has since garnered worldwide recognition. Cobain once said that the track’s lyrics are about a man who, after the death of his girlfriend, turns to religion as a last resort of keep himself alive. He later claimed that although the song’s inspiration was fictional, it did contain a number of references to his real-life experiences.
The final single to be released from ‘Nevermind’, ‘In Bloom’ was a scathing attack on people outside of the underground music community, who did not understand the band’s message. The song is best remembered for its second official music video, which saw the band parodying the musical variety performances of the early 1960s. The video was hugely important to the band, as it demonstrated their more humorous side, after years of fans and critics ‘taking them too seriously’.
Heart Shaped Box
This list has to have once track that didn’t feature on ‘Nevermind’, and there are few as good as 1993’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’. After the massive international success of the aforementioned studio album, there was a huge amount of pressure on Nirvana so produce a worthy follow up. ‘In Utero’ may not be quite as iconic as its predecessor, but there is no denying that ‘Heart Shaped Box’ is a special track. Despite not charting in the US, the song peaked at number five in the UK – making it Nirvana’s highest selling single on the other side of the pond.
Come As You Are
Musically, ‘Come As You Are’ is arguably Nirvana’s most gloriously atmospheric composition, and may even edge the song that topped this list (as if you haven’t guessed it yet). Prior to its release, Nirvana and their management team were wary of approving the track as a lead single, due to the main guitar riffs striking similarity to Killing Joke’s 1984 song ‘Eighties’. ‘Come As You Are’ is one of the best examples of Nirvana’s archetypal ‘quiet-loud’ structure, and also contains one of Kurt Cobain’s longest guitar solos. The track’s lyrics (which are comprised largely of contradictions) were perceived in a much darker way following Cobain’s suicide.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Almost every generation of rock music has its defining song, and Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ will forever be etched into the pages of rock history, as the stand out guitar track of the 90s. Another ‘quiet-loud’ masterpiece modeled on the sound of the Pixies, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is direct, gutsy, lurid and somehow completely inspirational. Not every music fan liked it, but many of those who dropped whatever they were doing, and immediately ran to the nearest guitar store. The track peaked at number six in the US and number seven in the UK and has since become one of the best selling rock songs of all time. They say that everything changed after ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that statement. Its songs like this that allow musicians to live forever.