Ranking Every Nirvana Song – Part Eleven: “Drain You” vs “On A Plain”

Big moves on the Nirvana ranking front last week, with “Heart-Shaped Box” clinching the top spot! Things stay exciting this week with two more big tracks entering the fray.

Nevermind is pretty close to being a perfect album, and even the deep cuts from that masterpiece could have been selected as singles. As much as I enjoy listening to the odd little rarities from Nirvana’s catalogue, it’s a treat to have drawn two crowd-pleasers to listen to this week.

It’s a Nevermind showdown. Like the BLEACH BOWL, but catchier.

Drain You

“Drain You” throws a hook into your face as soon as it starts.

The verses to this tune are huge slices of power-pop, which is like pop punk, except it’s good. I’m not going to delve deeply into the lyrics in this post, but I’ve always been a fan of the lyrics on this tune. I remember trying to decipher the lyrics as a kid. The CD booklet was very little help. Remember the wavy block of lyrics from all of the songs in the CD booklet that didn’t have the complete lyrics to any of the songs? I think that’s cool now. But back then it drove me crazy.

There’s a lot that I still dig about this tune, but I’m not sure that I would consider it a favourite. The drum performance here is great, which is typical of the album. The little transition between the verse and chorus still slams hard, and the pummeling drum onslaught during the choruses in general still sounds pretty tremendous.

“Drain You” features a bridge that is functionally just a big noise rock crescendo, a refreshing surprise, and quite possibly what prevented this song from being a proper single 30 years ago. It rules, and the caustic bursts of noise are so much fun.

It’s a terrific song. It must have been an absolute blast to hear live. What kind of a monster record would you have to have written for this song to be one of the middling tracks?

On A Plain

Another power pop banger, “On A Plain” is probably one of Nirvana’s most straight-forwardly “catchy” songs. The fact that they buried it as the second last track is just another example of what I keep coming back to: this album is just that good, friend.

I love this song. A ray of sunshine for (almost) its entire duration, it’s propulsive and ballsy, but also inviting and infectious. The harmonies on this song are some of the best found on the album, both on the “love myself” hook, and on the backing vocals in the chorus hook. Which hook is better? That’s a real reverse Aliens vs Predator situation! Whoever wins, we win! I just lost all five of my readers!

One of the things that brings this song over the top for me, though, is one of my favourite bridge sections of any Nirvana song. It introduces a feeling of darkness and doubt to an otherwise sunny song, and it does so while switching up the rhythm and switching up the melodic approach. The harmonies shine here as well, and the whole thing wraps up with an adorable “doot doodle-oot doot” bass riff. It’s fucking genius.

The production is super fun and cheeky as well. That ridiculous fuck-around guitar noise as the track opens? Just great! The fade-out of the band tracks, leaving just the backing vocals to close out the song? Inspired!

I think I really like this song, guys.


The Ranking

As I said, in the battle of the Nevermind mid-album tracks, there are no losers. Both of these songs are great. Given the fact that this is being written by me and I only sort of give a shit if anyone reads this, I’m going to just be honest.

I think that “On A Plain” is better than “Drain You”. They’re both very catchy, well written songs. “On A Plain” just tosses out slightly bigger hooks at a slightly quicker pace and it has one of my favourite bridge sections of all time.

These songs are very tight, though, in terms of the overall ranking. I feel as though it is appropriate that they get ranked as a pair, and I think that they’ll slide in nicely ahead of “Love Buzz”, but shall not get the better of “Serve The Servants”.

The updated ranking is:

  1. Heart-Shaped Box
  2. Scentless Apprentice
  3. Territorial Pissings
  4. Very Ape
  5. Lithium
  6. Serve The Servants
  7. On A Plain
  8. Drain You
  9. Love Buzz
  10. Sliver
  11. Lounge Act
  12. Blew
  13. Been A Son
  14. Moist Vagina
  15. Mr Moustache
  16. Lake of Fire
  17. Swap Meet
  18. Scoff
  19. Oh, The Guilt
  20. Pen Cap Chew
  21. Ain’t It A Shame
  22. Clean Up Before She Comes

“Heart-Shaped Box” is still the greatest Nirvana song of all time!

Live Clip of the Week!

Credit to Phil for finding this. I had never seen it, and this is the only footage of Kurt singing without a guitar in his hands that I’ve ever seen. Great performance, too.

Author: markmeeks

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