Albums Revisited: Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ Turns 25; Grunge icons début album celebrates 25th anniversary on June 15th.
When Nirvana exploded into fame with their break-through 90’s album ‘Nevermind‘, it felt to many like the band came out of nowhere. But in truth they’d been active since the late 80’s. But their first album ‘Bleach‘ was a commercial dud, appealing initially to only a small fanbase.
‘Bleach’ turns 25 this month, and it remains an interesting time capsule, showing the nucleus of a band just finding its roaring, tortured voice.
Buoyed by the initial college radio success of the surf-inflected ‘Love Buzz’ single, the band were given the go ahead to make a full-length release.
But, by most accounts, neither their record label Sub-Pop, nor the band were very fond of the album. Cobain said he felt constrained by the label’s request for the Seattle grunge-friendly sound. And the label delayed the album while trying to figure out how to sequence it.
But despite everyone’s misgivings, ‘Bleach’ still packs a punch. The band’s patented brand of righteous self-loathing came through loud and clear on the seething ‘Scoff’, lumbering ‘Floyd The Barber’ and scathing ‘Negative Creep.’
And despite Cobain’s complaint that he found the album’s songs “one-dimensional” , he did manage to sneak his Beatle-esque song craft on the brooding ‘About A Girl’, a song which would be more fully realized during the band’s iconic ‘Unplugged’ special.
‘Bleach’ also set the template for Cobain’s free-association, nonsensical yet emotionally impactful lyrics. But Cobain, always self-deprecating, marginalized his lyric writing skills, telling Sounds jourmalist John Robb; “When I write a song the lyrics are the least important thing. I can go through two or three different subjects in a song and the title can mean absolutely nothing at all…most of the lyrics on the Bleach album are about my life in Aberdeen.”
Another thing that makes ‘Bleach’ stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the band’s catalogue, is their lineup. Dave Grohl had yet to join the band, and then-drummer Chad Channing lacked his infectious, muscular, swinging style, giving the songs a much rawer, stiffer quality.
After the success of ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Unplugged’, ‘Bleach’ would be rediscovered, celebrated and would eventually go platinum. It remains Sub-Pop’s best-selling release.
It may be rough and unpolished, but it still sounds fresh and has the distinction of not being played into the ground. It’s ground zero for a musical movement, showing the humble beginnings of a band that would change pop culture, end in heartache and be celebrated in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Want to own ‘Bleach’ on iTunes or Amazon? Order via the links below.
[amazon_image id=”B002JN74VY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Bleach (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]