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“Nirvana’s Album Bleach Does Not Exist within a Vacuum”

As the Chicago Cubs proved at least in theory with the managerial mantra accompanying their World Series victory this past fall, there’s a marked difference between “being good” and “not sucking,” and the latter is just as worthy an endeavor, case-specific baseball assessments of course pending on their own. Well, this blogger would like to offer Nirvana’s album Bleach as one of the most thorough not-suckin’-type-lookin’ album thingies of all time… in fact had it been the theme music of the ’16 Cubs it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. [1]
In a perfect world I would try to steep this post within a discourse of music criticism, but as any grunge historian knows, there was no harsher rock music diagnostic than Kurt Cobain himself. Now, I’ve heard surprisingly spectral accounts regarding the sentiments behind Chad Channing’s firing [2], but I have to say personally that I would take Mr. Chansworthy over AT LEAST Dan Peters of Mudhoney, and probably Pearl Jam’s Jack Irons, if not necessarily Pearl Jam’s Dave Abbruzzese [3], or the great grunge journeyman Matt Cameron [4].
Part of my problem with the public’s overall perception of Bleach has to do with a tendency to extract specific songs like “Negative Creep” and handle them as if they’re in some way iconic [5], rather than modest contributing factors to the LP’s whole. Another problem I have here is that songs like this are discussed as if in functional confluence with the remainder of Nirvana’s catalogue, whereas in fact, Chad Channing’s free, ferocious drumming style initiates a torrent of distinction unto this particular track. Don’t get me wrong, “Negative Creep” is a good song, helped in large part by a classically grating Cobain song title, but for Christ’s sake it’s not god da** “Lithium.” There is no possible reason for particularly favoring “Negative Creep” over the rest of Bleach, or the rest of the cat., which would not have directly to do with Chad Channing’s drumming.
Bleach is an extremely playable, listenable pop/punk album, very contributive toward the overall m.o.’s of Brainiac and The Dismemberment Plan, and harking of classic punk, The Stooges and classic rock. Another thing is that it needed 2009’s “remaster” like it needed a hole in the head. Jack Endino engineered the original, as is detailed in Nirvana: The Biography, for $606, eventually turning around the best percentage profit on a rock album since the Elvis Sun sessions — but listen to that mix and you’ll recognize that it slays. Give us the bonus tracks and live version, sure, but leave Endino’s master work alone. Over and over, I hear other album’s dogmatized: everybody talks about Unplugged constantly and the magic of the Meat Puppets covers or whatever, Nevermind’s got the archetypal cover and In Utero is the hipster pick, but Bleach is the mark of a band which was young, hungry and ferocious — what’s more, it’s sequenced masterfully, even granting us the Unplugged opener “About a Girl” at the comfortable third slot, before getting back into the voluminous ear drum-assault with “School” (Kim Deal’s favorite Nirvana song). I personally have to allot the classic three-song trio of “Scoff,” “Swap Meet” and “Mr. Moustache,” the latter of which features a mind-blowing, incessant riff proving once and for all that Kurt Cobain doesn’t “suck at guitar,” as a rapid but rugged node of blistering rock of which the band would never be exactly, precisely capable, again for their entire existence.
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[1] Although it was Nevermind’s “Breed” which made it onto the commercial for the one baseball video game, I remember at least from my own menial life, soundtracking some key NCAA Football 2003 bouts to the Bleach album straight through… also along with Primus – Frizzle Fry it was my main fantasy baseball drafting background noise for sho.
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[2] This would be courtesy of the world-class Nirvana: The Biography by Everett True.
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[3] You’ll kindly note that as is detailed in Pearl Jam Twenty he was kicked out of the band for personality clashes, and jammed on the final album Vs. (“W.M.A.,” anyone?)
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[4] Cameron was not only a great player but also song writer, penning the Pearl Jam Binaural album track “Evacuation.”

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