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"NIRVANA: BLEACHED WAILS" by everett true

first featured in melody maker, october 1989.


feel the noise. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, britain is being swamped in a deluge of long hair, hoary old black sabbath licks and american upstarts from seattle. Rich and poor kids with nothing better to do with their time, now create devastating slabs of rock'n'roll and blow us away with their applied use of the suffocating power chords. It's music which seems to have no real sense of purpose except to say, "hi, we're here and aren't we having fun?" soon it will be time to sweep the whole sorry mess under our carpets and wish to god jimi hendrix had never set his guitar on fire, but until then, i'd like you to welcome the very best of the new breed on the block, hot on the footsteps of mudhoney - nirvana.

Nirvana are very much a band who would like to say, "hi, this is us and we're having fun, too!," but the band are also a little bit weird. They're a little bit gross and a little bit awesome. And a bit too determined to be content with just messing around. What else could you be if you grew up in the backwoods redneck helltown of aberdeen, a zillion miles away from the isolated capital of the northwest, seattle?

Their bassist, chris novoselic, takes up the story.

"see, kurdt had this tape, right?" he explains. "and we're living in aberdeen and he made it with dale, the drummer from the melvins. That was in '86. I heard it and i thought it was really cool, so i said to start this band so we started one, and we went through three drummers and now we're here today, talking to you."

chris is over six feet tall, friendly and wired. A competitive tree climber, he was born and raised in yugoslavia and looks forward to nirvana's forthcoming tour of europe with tad. Born to the outdoors, he worked as a commercial fisherman in alaska for three years, painted bridges and has elvis sideburns.

Kurdt kobain is the vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter behind the trio, who turned into a quartet for the album bleach. He's your archetypal small guy - wiry, defiantly working class and fiery. His provincial and witty lyrics bring to mind an american mark e. smith. He has a small goatee and his pet rat once bit bruce pavitt, sub pop records supremo.

Chris: "we were branded satan worshippers back home. Fuck, this girl came knocking on our door looking for a wallet and she goes, 'you know what all the other kids told me in this neighbourhood? Don't go in there, they worship the devil.' That's why nobody ever bothered us in redneck country. We would neither confirm or deny satanic affiliations."

"maybe it was those desecrated cemetery pieces buried in our front yard," kurdt wonders. "but you didn't have to do anything to be considered extreme back there. just take a lot of acid."


So, who do nirvana listen to? the usual: aerosmith, leadbelly, hard rock, punk rock, sub pop - the sensibilities of the late 70's mixed with the raw power of the late 60's. are they aware of any kind of "sub pop movement"?

Kurdt: "sort of, but we didn't start playing this stuff to join in, it just happened that way. Sure we're heavy, but a little bit diverse maybe. The album has a couple of beautiful pop tunes on it."


Chris: "we're definetly not ground-breaking. If there was no sub pop sound we'd still be doing this. If there's anything we're really close to, it's the stooges - the momentum and energy."


Where nirvana differs from most of their contempories is in the strength of kurdt's songwriting. Among those in the know, nirvana are said to be the cream of the crop. Listen to the wickedly named bleach and you can hear those roots showing - far from being a melting potpourri of every loud noise imagineable, nirvana craft their songs.

Okay, so they might smother them with licks that'd do a prime-time sabbath proud, but what the heck? Every boy's gotta have a vocation.

Jonathan poneman from sub pop appears. A cat walks by on a leash. I have a five-minute coughing fit and nearly asphyxiate. Nirvana was suitably shocked. I ask them what their name means to them.

"big amplifiers," chris replies, incisively. "not giving a shit and having fun. Dreaming. Being free from distraction and not being uptight. Jamming, having lots of good shows, being polite, respecting our parents."


Nirvana were once called too complex for their own good by simon reynolds - precisely the opposite to how i would describe them.

Kurdt: "well, the track he was describing was pretty much the most complex thing we've done. We're moving towards simplicity and better songwriting all the time. There are songs on the album which only have two parts to them. That one has three. Fuck that guy, what does he know? He was probably in a bad mood or something."

Chris: "we just want to make people happy. We wanna rock! 99% of music out there is bullshit. There are way too many bands out there and they just get in the way. So quit! Give it up! Turn in your guitars for shovels! You guys suck!"

Kurdt: "the pixies are a pretty good band though."

Where would you be if you weren't playing music?

"on the streets!"

"living in yugoslavia!"

"i'd be one depressed mothafucka."

"i'd be one burly moustached guy."

"i'd be in a bowling league."

"i'd be eating chili dogs and drinking budweisers."

"let's start again. My name's chris novoselic, and i play bass in this great new band called nirvana and we're releasing this album called bleach full of hard rock riffs and beautiful songs and ....."

nirvana shortly have a limited edition 12-inch coming out featuring "blew," "love buzz" and two new tracks. It's great! they're gonna be over here any day now, touring with tad. Don't, for hendrix's sake, miss them.


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