Nirvana: Bleach (Tupelo/All formats); Hormoaning (Japanese CD only)

WHAT’S ON offer here are Nirvana’s (bleached) roots, a raw-throated and perhaps over-fussy sounding debut LP that would eventually spawn a phenomenon. Bleach – with all its faults intact – reveals just how they managed to scramble to the top of the grunge heap to take on the world.

Bleach was released on the Seattle-based Sub Pop label in June 1989. Kurt Cobain and Chris Novoselic were still fronting the band, but David Grohl was busy hammering skins and snares for a hardcore band called Scream at the time and one Chad Channing played drums for the Bleach sessions. There was also a second guitarist called Jason Everman involved here.

Newcomers to Nirvana will undoubtedly be shocked to hear how rough some of their favourite songs sound here, compared to the half-polished diamonds that they now perform in concert. Songs like ‘Blew’, ‘Negative Creep’, ‘School’ and ‘Floyd The Barber’ (all of which are a part of Nirvana’s playlist today) sound somewhat crude and almost clumsy when compared to the gorgeous rush of power that is Nevermind. That said, it is still possible to hear through the clamour a thing of beauty taking shape, especially on ‘About A Girl’, which is one of Kurt’s finest songs.

Those fans who have resisted shelling out £100 or more for the debut ‘Love Buzz’/’Big Cheese’ 45 will also be relieved to learn that both tracks, plus the equally powerful ‘Downer’, are now freely available on the CD version of Bleach. Nirvana’s debut LP is certainly no ‘first offender’, but their best shot was a new drummer and a new record deal away. (7)

Meanwhile, the Japanese have been the first off the block to release Nirvana’s two 1990 sessions for John Peel. An inscrutably excellent production job that features high spirited renditions of ‘Aneurysm’, ‘D-T’, ‘Even In His Youth’, Devo’s ‘Turnaround’ and their great treatment of The Vaselines’ ‘Son Of A Gun’ and ‘Molly’s Lips’.

Here, Nirvana sound new-born and all-powerful, ready to take anything on that’s thrown their way without the slightest hesitation. A bomb of a band that go off right in front of you on this hard-to-find CD release. Expect either Nirvana or the Strange Fruit label to deliver these sessions over here sometime soon, but don’t miss out on getting a taste of this raw teen spirit, whatever you do. (8)

© Edwin PounceyNew Musical Express, 7 March 1992

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