I’ve devoted a many blog posts and many words to taking a closer look at bands from the 90s and basically just making fun of them. Hell, the only major traffic spike this blog ever had was when someone with a following tweeted about the Pearl Jam series.
The thing is… making fun of things is really easy! And fun!
How do you write about something that you really like, though? The idea of tackling a “Reevaluating Nirvana” series seems too strange. I don’t need to reevaluate a band that I’ve been a ravenous fan of for almost thirty years. I have evaluated them and they were fucking great. So there hasn’t really been an opportunity for me to waste my time and a handful of readers’ time writing anything about Nirvana.
Recently, though, I’ve been writing posts that involve stack-ranking every Nu Metal band on Wikipedia’s big list of Nu Metal bands. A terrible idea. It has been mostly painful. But it got me to thinking about a big ranking of Nirvana songs that Rolling Stone released a few years ago. I disagreed with most of it, and thought that I could do better.
Here I am on post number one of doing better than Rolling Stone. Each post, I’ll pick two songs from this big-ass list using a random number generator. I’ll build the ranking two songs at a time in this series that I will for sure, definitely see through to the end!
“Been A Son”
One hell of a banger off of the Incesticide collection. “Been A Son” is a melodic blast of punky power-pop. The verse and the chorus battle for hooky supremacy and the winner is too close to call. This tune is instantly infectious, clocks in at under two minutes and has a bass solo (!). I don’t know what else you want.
It is worth noting that we’ve now had about 30 years of power pop bands descended from 80s college rock and 90s alternative music, so it is probably difficult for our ears to imagine just how fresh something like this must have sounded in the early 90s. It still sounds urgent and vibrant to me now, as an old person. Bring it all together with one of Nirvana’s most pointed critiques of patriarchal hypocrisy and we’ve got a real winner of a tune.
Still so great.
Nevermind‘s noisiest, craziest track (of the tracks listed on the album sleeve, anyway) has aged better than most songs released during the alternative 90s. “Territorial Pissings” is a relentless three-chord assault that just seethes with intensity until it finally breaks down completely. It might appear simplistic at first blush, but the song’s arrangement and recording flourishes lend it plenty for the listener to latch onto.
That opening drum fill! The completely bonkers fuzzed-out guitar tone! The irony-drenched intro! When I was a kid, the mid-song bass and drum breakdown was one of the coolest and most sinister musical passages I had ever heard. The way that Kurt completely blows out his voice at the end of the song seemed heroic. Something to aspire to.
This is a perfect punk song. It still rips so hard. I got goosebumps while listening to it. Hahaha.
This is already exceptionally difficult! I think that both of these songs are essentially flawless. At first I thought that I was going to hand this to “Been A Son”, given its more significant melody and lyrical substance. But then, listening to “Territorial Pissings” and having such a visceral reaction to it – thirty years later! – I got to thinking that it’s hard to understate how far vibe and performance can carry a song.
I couldn’t come up with an answer on my own, so I conferred with a few buddies and while they also had to take a moment to consider it, the winner became clear.
- Territorial Pissings
- Been A Son
Territorial Pissings is the greatest Nirvana song of all time! For now. Unless one of the remaining 118 songs is better than it is.
You might disagree with this ranking. Please let me know! I’m even going to put a poll into this post, because Canada is in the middle of a snap election and I am DEMOCRACY CRAZY.