Bleach, the reason for the grunge music scene becoming a national phenomenon and the reason Nirvana would soon be launched into superstardom. Bleach was an album that combined animalistic aggression and an intriguing use of creativity to spawn one of the best punk rock records of not just its time, but in history.
The humble beginning of the track “Blew,” that a simple, but memorable bass line to lead the rest of Nirvana into the upward spiral that would be Bleach. “Blew” has metallic guitars that blast over the rest of the instruments, pounding drums, and vocals that lay down a ballistic attack over the listener’s ears. Rather than focusing on a more melodic style of music, Nirvana worked hand in hand with a careless attitude, but a serious outlook on making outstanding music.
The whole of Bleach follows a very strict pattern of mostly dark and sludgy sounding songs that destroyed speakers, shook up crowds, and gave people a reason to love punk again. “Floyd The Barber” follows and this again is an auditory assault. The near tribal drums from Chad Channing, the schizophrenic lyrics of Kurt Cobain, and the flowing bass from Krist Novoselic creates such a contrast between the next following song, “About A Girl.”
“About A Girl” keeps the pace of a Nirvana track, but instead decides to use more uplifting chords, less impactful drums, and ultimately a more lighthearted approach than the other tracks on Bleach. Surprisingly, “About A Girl” is still one of the more instrumentally jamming songs, and Kurt’s lyrics, “I can’t see you every night for free,” rephrase throughout the track, using harmonies from Novoselic and eventually fade into the more classic grunge sound Nirvana was known for.
“Wont you believe it, it’s just my luck” is nearly the only lyrics shouted from Cobain on the track “School,” but they coincide so well with the frantic guitar work. “School” is a track that emotionally feels so entertaining and this is primarily do to the way that Channing moves up and down the toms, using different fills and cymbals to battle the frantic guitar work.
The raw emotion that Nirvana portrays in each and every track on Bleach was so reinvigorating even now, 27 years later. I feel that as time progresses, Nirvana’s sound stays eternal and will never go out of style. At the time of Nirvana’s releases, they were looked at for the way they blazed trails, cared even less about public opinion, and generally wanted to just “stir shit.” Now nearly three decades after their first release, Nirvana is still looked at for their raw instinct that guided so many different musicians to find music as therapy and an expressive device.
Bleach continues with “Love Buzz” and “Paper Cuts.” Both tracks are different in style, but follow the same general principle. The thing that stands out on both tracks is Cobain’s voice and the strain in “Paper Cuts.” Kurt Cobain puts so much emotion into the lyrics of the two tracks, but the screeching on “Paper Cuts” is still just so memorable and when mixed with the instrumentation, it is a perfect combination.
The following track “Negative Creep” is easily the strongest and most abrasive of all the tracks on Bleach. The way the drums pound out sixteenth notes on the bass drum, the way Novoselic destroys the bass, and the way that Cobain just abuses the microphone. The shouting, the forceful guitar, and the whole attitude of the song just paints such a vivid image of true “Animal Rage.”
Bleach then follows with “Scoff,” an easy-going classic punk song that has a substantial breakdown that flip-flops between a detached amount of instrumentation and some head-banging bridges between the chorus and meat of the track.
“Swap Meet” then follows and this is again one of the heavier tracks on Bleach. The entirety of Bleach really takes no breaks from the destructive nature of grunge music. “About A Girl” is the only track that simply follows a totally different format than all of the other tracks. The way that “Swap Meet” follows this sporadic and always changing guitar riffs and solos, makes requests for some powerful background instrumentation from Channing and Novoselic which they fully deliver.
The following, “Mr. Moustache” is where Novoselic shines through and makes this track all about the bass line. The entire track revolves around the bass line and Cobain’s vocal performance. “Mr. Moustache” is a hundred-mile per hour drive into an ending that feels like hitting a brick wall. The entire band slows down into what feels like a near crawl, from the speedy and recklessness of the track’s opening, to the very bitter end, “Mr. Moustache” is one of the more musically challenging pieces on Bleach.
As Bleach slowly, or actually speedily comes to a close, the final tracks start to focus more and more on the bass and its importance to each track. “Sifting” has another stellar bass line that conspires with the guitar and becomes this flesh-out powerhouse of a track. The drums, bass, and guitar are the stars of most of Bleach, and while Cobain’s lyrics are interesting, Cobain ultimately decided he was not really interested on lyrics with Bleach. In an interview with SPIN Magazine, Cobain described his emotions toward the lyric’s of Bleach as, “(I) didn’t give a flying fuck what the lyrics were about,” claiming that around 80% were made up the night before recording. The music came first with Bleach, and it is clear in Nirvana’s later releases that Cobain would start to take writing lyrics with a more serious tone and approach.
The last two tracks “Big Cheese” and “Downer” are of a quicker pace, following the theme of getting in and destroying the stage before anyone could understand what just happened. “Downer” opens with one of the faster styles to the point where it feels almost sloppy, this feels like a call to the punk rocks songs and Bleach seems to tightrope between hard rock and punk music through the entirety of its length.
Bleach created an outbreak of a new genre, a genre called grunge that echoed into society for the rest of punk rock and hard rock’s days. Not Only was Nirvana successful in releasing a substantial debut record, but successful in starting a wave of new generations breaking down the musical walls.