Game Changers: Bleach

This lad needs to learn how to darn.

This lad needs to learn how to darn.

I spent a lot of time deciding on an appropriate choice for a game changer. Should I pick something like ‘One With The Underdogs’, the first hardcore album I ever heard, or should I pick something like ‘Dopethrone’ by Electric Wizard, that for me totally re-invented the term ‘heavy’ music. Or ‘Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever’ by Explosions In The Sky which opened a whole new door into post-rock for me? Ultimately, I remember I’m too easily influenced, I’m all too often easily impressed by music, so picking from any one of a number of albums, and subsequently genres I’d gotten my dick harder for than a nympho on Viagra was a waste of time, as there were too many to count. Instead, I plumped for ‘Bleach’ by Nirvana.

A peice  of Post-rock perfection

A piece of Post-rock perfection

I grew up without TV, and about an hours bus ride from any town large enough to have a record shop, so early on I spent my time soaking up whatever my Ma and Da had lying around the house. Folk, Acoustic and Blues were the main fair, anything from Cohen to The Animals was easily at my disposal, and I dined out on it until high school. I’d listen to Radio One occasionally, but would quickly get bored of the pop music on there, which for whatever reason, didn’t really interest me. At high school, as now, I didn’t really mix well, bar a few people, and subsequently I’d never even heard of Nirvana. One day not long into high school, I happened by a record shop in the town and popped in with a tenner. There was a copy of Bleach on a rack in there, and the cover immediately caught my eye. For the most part, I was used to album sleeves with pictures of beardy clapped out types holding acoustic guitars and looking blankly into the distance. Bleach was in stark contrast to that, the cover hinted at a world I had zero idea of. Here was a representation of a level of chaos I’d not even had a whiff of. Some daft twats with long hair looked like they were going in harder than Paxman on Tommy Robinson. The image was inverted for no good reason, the typeface in no way linked to the oddly cropped photo. It would have been comparable to ‘Songs Of Love and Hate by Cohen’ but in form only. Here was an implied overtone of excitement, of energy.

Get a hair cut.

Get a hair cut.

The music in no way disappointed. If anything, the cover had managed to understate what I was hearing. Short intros of distortion led to little bass sections or driving drum beats. There were churning riffs, and almost psychedelic-esque guitar solos. Rasping, strained vocals that are half singing half shouting. Later I’d realise that a small amount of this album was fillers, but every single track still had its charm. The more upbeat sing a long ‘About A Girl’. The almost funky bass intro of ‘Love Buzz’. ‘Paper Cuts’ with its dark demented intensity and its grinding riff, those little vocal sections where it was almost a deep squeal as his voice rose and broke. ‘Negative Creep’ with its loop back riff that was only broken by the short ‘whirp’ sound that just went full pace like Mo Farah after a line of marching powder. The schizophrenic ‘Downer’ with its chops between riffs, drum sections and vocal styles. Nearly every song had a crunchy sound to it that I just instantly absorbed. I could literally go on forever, but here was an album seemingly as chaotic as it was energetic, there was a weird brooding intensity to it all. Like an oral petulant angst. Each song felt like its own separate banger, and yet it all somehow hung together well as an album. You could pull each song out on its sound, but still listen to it back to back in any order, and it all seemed to fit. I don’t think I could claim, even then, that it was ‘better’ than anything I’d listened to before, it was just somehow massively more captivating then. Lyrically, I enjoyed it and some of themes in the songs, but I think it would be lying to say I could relate to any of those themes at that age. Those themes certainly seemed to matter to Kurt though, and that came over well in the vocals. I’d listen to it a lot over the coming weeks, enjoying the songs that were now becoming completely engrained, and at the same time, little musical touches I’d some how missed. I’d get in from school and listen to it most nights.

You can’t ever really be ‘late’ to music, because a lot of it is still relevant and interesting years after the context it was created in has faded from memory. But, for want of a better word, I was late to Nirvana by a couple of years, this all took place post ’94. So I’d missed Nirvana’s impact on popular music, but I did learn about it later. My Da, unusually for his age and tastes, had played me a bit of punk he was into before. He’d explained that fortunately punks never actually succeeded in ‘bringing down the system’ but that it had been successful in smashing established styles of music at the time while paving the way for a new ones. It seemed Nirvana had done the same thing, maybe not so much with this album, but as they had become more famous. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder about pop music, and the fact Nirvana had kind of gone against that and somehow still ended up a massive part of that was endlessly fascinating to me. What’s more, my parents hated it. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the kind of kid of acts of petty teenage rebellion and I did, and still do, love all the same music they do. But, the fact they hated Nirvana on a musical level seemed to resonate with me. It was different, it was fresh and it in massive contrast to what I’d heard before.

After this I started buying a lot of heavier and harder music and consuming it at a un-controllable rate like a recovering alcoholic in a Bargain Booze closure sale. I don’t think I can contribute my current love of music of this, or any other style of music, to this one album. I’d have ended up at it one way or another, but it just so happened that ‘Bleach’ was how I reached it.

1 thought on “Game Changers: Bleach

  1. I can’t remember the name of the track but I love the one where Kurt screams give me back my Album whore for 3 mins I’ve had that breakup 😉

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