Thursday Thive: Nirvana Singles

Posted on March 21, 2013

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5: ‘Sliver’ (Incesticide)
I would probably go on record as saying this is the most underrated Nirvana song in the entire back catalogue, with the possible exception of ‘Frances Farmer…’. It is a simple 2 minute pop romp, a verse and a chorus, nothing more, Cobain at his Pixies-aping best, but good lord it works. The wail of the third verse is glorious, the quiet last verse is genuinely classic, and the chorus is one of the bands finest. It’s also 1 of only 2 songs on Incesticide that wouldn’t be out of place on any of the other albums.

4: ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ (In Utero)
Okay, I suppose this is cheating. ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ was about to be released when Cobain ended his life, and was thus pulled from the shelves and not actually released. However, this is my blog and its in this list, because me. Whilst songs like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Come As You Are’ are more recognisable and iconic to the average listener, for me there were three Nirvana moments that were more iconic than anything else, and one of these was the MTV Unplugged solo version of the above song. For a long while it was my favourite Nirvana song based purely on that version. The album version is pretty wonderful as well, featuring yet another glorious chorus and probably my favourite Nirvana anti-solo.

3: ‘Lithium’ (Nevermind)
The second of those three iconic moments is the version of the above song, and in particular the crowd interaction in the first verse and choruses. Out of the entire Nirvana back catalogue, heck, out of the entire alternative rock back catalogue, there isn’t a chorus better suited to festival joyous singalongs. If you can show me a better one, I will show you someone who is deluding themselves. If you care about rock music, you would kill to be in a crowd of people drunkenly singing along to this. There would be more exploding goosebumps than you or me can imagine.

2: ‘You Know You’re Right’ (Nirvana)
Again, kind of cheating as this was a download/promotional song as best as I can remember, but it was the lead off song for an album and thus counts. Plus, its on the Discography Wikipedia as a single, so there. There was a heck of a lot made of this song when it was released, and I can clearly remember working in Spar hearing it faintly off in the corner of the shop and thinking ‘woah, holy moly’. I was a pretty big Nirvana fan as a 16 year old (I don’t know many people I love who weren’t), so the fact that all of a sudden there was new material was pretty mindblowing. The fact that the new material was also an absolute storm of a song helped too. It sparks off all manner of ‘what if’ discussions regarding what the next Nirvana album would have sounded like, but there comes a time when that becomes irrelevant. This is a great song. It’s one of the bands best, with or without the context and hyperbole.

1: ‘Heart Shaped Box’ (In Utero)
Again, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is more iconic, it was the song that everyone heard first and its the song that still gets huge reactions in rock clubs throughout the world. For me however, ‘Heart Shaped Box’ was the song that made me think ‘hold on a minute, maybe I genuinely like that band’. It was the first time I began to actively listen to a band, rather than songs. Everything about this song is as it should be in the best way, the verses blend into the chorus beautifully, the production is absolutely gorgeous (the whole In Utero album is), the chorus is typically huge and the video compliments everything above. Whilst Nevermind was the seller, I think In Utero was the band that Nirvana and Cobain especially wanted to be, and ‘Heart Shaped Box’ is one of the best examples of that band.

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Posted in: Music, Thursday Thive