Certain Songs #1345: Nirvana – “Come As You Are”

Album: Nevermind
Year: 1991

And so while “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the catalyst, the door-kicker-opener, I eventually got sick of it after years and years and years of ubiquity. Not so with the follow-up single, “Come As You Are.”

Spooky, dark and forboding, “Come As You Are” was actually Geffen’s expected breakout single from “Nevermind,” not “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” though I’m not sure why they thought that, as “Come as You Are” has always come across as a mood piece than a hit single. And in fact it’s the mysterious aspect of “Come As You Are,” the nagging feeling that it’s still hiding something underneath all of those layers of murk, that keeps it compelling.

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Certain Songs #1344: Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Album: Nevermind
Year: 1991

The “Stairway to Heaven” of Generation X, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has been dissected, analyzed, parodied, discussed and played so many times over the past quarter-century that there’s probably no way for me to say anything new about it. It’s one of those songs that is almost impossible to hear fresh, to hear without the baggage of what it represented back then and the baggage of what it may or may not represent today.

But that doesn’t mean I ain’t gonna try!

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Certain Songs #1343: Nirvana – “Molly’s Lips (Peel Session 1990)”

Album: Incesticide
Year: 1990

It was summer of 1992, and buoyed by a gig I got as part of a rotating stable of Fresno Bee guest columnists — I could still represent the twentysomethings for a few months! — as well as a couple local underground pubs, I decided to actually take a flier at the rock criticism I’d always wanted to do.

My biggest problem had always been trying to figure out how to break in. I wasn’t on any mailing lists where I could get CDs in advance because I hadn’t got anything published, but I figured that if I just sent a review cold, the odds were that it would have already been assigned to someone else; not to mention I’d be writing it far enough after the release date that it wouldn’t make any sense to publish in a magazine like SPIN, the place where I really wanted to be published.

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Certain Songs #1342: Nirvana – “Sliver”

Album: Incesticide
Year: 1990

Recorded swiftly in a couple of sessions in July 1990 with Mudhoney’s Dan Peters on the drums, “Sliver” showed such a quantum leap over nearly all of the songs on Bleach, and totally pointed towards the noise-filled pop songs that would make Kurt Cobain into a household name.

That said, “Sliver” is a bit of an anomaly in Nirvana’s catalog: instead of the impressionistic lyrics that characterized the vast majority of his work, “Sliver” describes a specific incident.

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Certain Songs #1341: Nirvana – “School”

Album: Bleach
Year: 1989

Look, I’m no better than the rest of you: after Nevermind took control of our lives, I went back and bought Bleach just like everybody else did. And in fact, I waited nine months after buying Nevermind before I bought Bleach — at Ragin’ Records, naturally — because I think I needed for the tidal wave to recede just a bit.

But, absent Dave Grohl, who provided a busload of hooks to Nevermind, and absent Cobain’s confidence to follow his poppier instincts, and absent any kind of production values — every penny of the $606.17 they paid Jack Endino was on the album, but not a penny more — most of Bleach never connected to me. There were exceptions of course: “About A Girl,” which felt completely different from the rest of the record, “Love Buzz,” of course, and the scary-ass “School,” which showed just what Kurt Cobain could do with just three lines.

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