Whilst “Nevermind” may have been their big break record, “Bleach” was actually their first album and didn’t not feature Dave Grohl (who joined the following year). It’s a very low-fi affair but contains some classic songs that deserve more attention than they get.
“Blew” opens the album with grungy guitars, simple production and Cobain’s vocals squealing over the top of everything but in a controlled and effective way. “Floyd the Barber” is a two note riff song that gets stuck in your head for the way how the drums fall around it. The chorus is classic four chord Nirvana and shows a big flash of brilliance. “About A Girl” is the most commercial the album gets. The live version of the Unplugged CD is a better version because it has better atmosphere and production but this is no slouch again showing the potential within the group.
“School” is the introduction to the easy riffs that went on to catalogue a lot of Nirvana’s b-side material. “School” is another song that deserves attention, if not for the lyrics but for the catchiness of the song in general. “Love Buzz” continues the funky riffs that get stuck in your head as the sole cover on the album but it feels like their own song when compared to the original.
“Paper Cuts” brings in the slow moody side of Cobain’s writing with a great song. Chugging bass and guitar feedback propel this grizzly track with Cobain really going for it in the chorus’. It’s a really taut number and one that stands out. “Negative Creep” is another zippy track that is relentless in its chorus’ and has the funkiest bass lines in the verses. Kurt Cobain screams out his lyrics with pain and affliction and you just can’t beat it.
“Scoff” is an interesting track as it sounds slightly different to the rest because of the way the drums are produced and its the drums that give this song an edge. “Swap Meet” is a dirge in the absolute best way. The riff is downbeat and repetitive and also slightly detuned. However there is a relentlessness to its onwards march that I really connect to and enjoy and therefore this song has became a favourite.
“Mr Moustache” is a lesson in maddening riffs. So simple, so effective, so infectious. It’s a great track to introduce people to Bleach as a whole as it shows off Kurt’s tongue in cheek lyrics and the bands expertises. “Sifting” is the original final track on the album and is a downbeat and depressing ending to the album with an almost live smash up finale.
On CD however there are two more tracks. “Big Cheese” is a personal favourite, being a simple two chord catch-a-thon. The lyrics are great and you can’t help but wonder why the song wasn’t on there to begin with! Who can’t shout “Big Cheese” in a grunge song? Lastly there is “Downer” which also appears on the b-side album “Incesticide”. Its a short track all about the bass and distorted vocals and is an obscure bonus track to add on.
The low-fi charm and the sure fire song writing placed together makes you feel like you’ve discovered a new band every time you listen. Nirvana may not have ended up the big success they were if they’d continued down this path but they’d have still done well from it. The “unknown” album from the big grunge band that you should really hear is “Bleach”.