Nirvana - Bleach (Cover Artwork)


Bleach (1989)

Sub Pop

For every generation of punk rockers, there is that one band that "changed everything". For those of generations before me it may have been The Ramones, or Bad Brains, or Black Flag...For me, it was Nirvana.

I did not have the luxury of growing up in a city with a thriving underground music culture. Growing up in a small, southern town in the eighties and early nineties, rock music fans were lucky if Whitesnake or Aerosmith decided to stop nearby on tour. When I was in junior high, the fact that I was into AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Metallica was enough to label me as a freak amongst my teachers and classmates.

When I first started high school, I had little reason to believe that life was going to change much. Little did I know at the time that in a few months EVERYTHING was going to change. It's hard to put into words exactly what happened the first time I heard those opening chords to "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Suffice to say, for the first time in my life, my eyes were open. There was a whole other culture out there that I had never known before but I knew that it was where I belonged.

It was Nirvana that turned me on to Indie Rock groups like Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Husker Du, and The Pixies, It was Nirvana that turned me on to punk-fused sludgy metal groups like The Melvins, Quicksand, Willard, and punk/metal groups like Flipper and late Rollins era Black Flag, and it was Nirvana that introduced me to punk and hardcore. By delving deeper into Nirvana's influences and peers, I would in turn check out the artists who influenced them. Through Nirvana I found Fugazi, Minor Threat, Bad Religion, The Ramones...the list goes on. In short, everything I know about music, punk and otherwise, I owe to Nirvana.

In retrospect, it is very easy for us to play the MTV sellout card. But the fact of the matter is, Nirvana's mainstream success was unprecidented. It was an experiment and if anyone can claim that they knew 100% what would come of it, then they're a fucking liar. For better or for worse, it happened...

Every Punk Rock 101 scholar can talk about the negative effects Nirvana's success had on their scene. Let's, for a moment however, examine the positive effects...

Due to the success of Nirvana's music and the subsequent attention it drew to small-time indie label, Sub Pop, for the first time, underground bands were able to find themselves in a position where they could maintain a DIY/remain independent stance AND make a living off of their music. Coupled with the success of Offspring's "Smash" and the attention it generated for the then practically unheard of punk rock label, Epitaph, bands suddenly found that they were able to quit their day jobs and focus solely on their music. Like them or not, it is only because of the success of bands such ans Nirvana and the Offspring, that bands such as NOFX can boast platinum records without having to succumb to the major labels, commercial radio, or MTV.

But on to "Bleach", I discovered this CD shorty after "Nevermind". I loved both of them, but more so than any other release, "Bleach" is Nirvana at their truest. Sure, it might not have as many hummable singles and sing-along anthems as "Nevermind", but this album laid down the ground work for everything Nirvana ever was or would become. Dark sludgy punk metal with pop sensibilities. Kind of like Flipper meets "My War" era Black Flag meets the Pixies meets the Beatles. Every track is great. This album is a classic.