It’s a new year! I took a break from these posts as 2021 drew to a close, but I think it is time to get back into the habit. It would be great to finish this series before 2023. Writing a blog in the year 2023. Where’s my flying car, am I right?!
Already off to a terrible start.
We begin our Nirvana Year as discordantly as possible. Today we’re looking at the legendary sludge jam that (secretly) closes Nevermind and one of the harshest tracks from Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach. I will say up front that this stuff is way up my alley, but I will temper that with my belief that Nirvana’s greatest strengths actual rest in the ability to seamlessly blend their harshest impulses with memorable and impactful songwriting.
But then again, who doesn’t enjoy some bonkers caterwauling from time to time?
As soon as “Endless Nameless” opens, it is brilliant. The creeping chugs of the detuned guitar herald the arrival of all manner of string squeals, drum smashes, and … fart-y bass. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a bass tone so wildly disintegrate on a major album than the one found here. It’s so much fun.
The band kicks up a racket to a commendable degree as the track progresses and that is, I think, what the track is best remembered for (that and being one of the first “secret songs” that many of us had heard about). But can we talk about the NOT noisy parts of this song? The sort of creepy new-wave lounge vibe of the “verses”? Still so great, and a cheeky way of keeping this monstrosity in step with the rest of Nevermind‘s loud-quiet-loud template. I don’t think that this recording would hit nearly as hard without these breaks switching things up a bit.
“Endless Nameless” offers up loads of production trivia that could be discussed, and I remember listening for the “moment Kurt’s guitar breaks” after having read about it. It is possible that this is one track where the legend actually looms larger than the product itself, but I still think that this recording slays.
When I was a kid, I thought that “Paper Cuts” was actually pretty scary!
It’s one of the most metallic chuggers that Nirvana would ever release, full of sour guitar and screeching vocals that are wild even by the standards of a harder-edged album like Bleach. I wasn’t really sure that I liked it back in the day, but I was always really fascinated by it.
Listening to it with grown up ears, I’m surprised by how Alice In Chains-y this is in places. I think that it’s probably Nirvana’s most Alice In Chains-y song. Alice In Chains didn’t have a most Nirvana-y song, because Alice In Chains weren’t very good at writing endearing songs.
Anyway, “Paper Cuts” is a dump truck full of sludge and I think it’s pretty darn neat. Bonus parts for including the line “a good hosin’ down” in a song.
I think that there’s a different Nirvana song ranking list that these two songs would rank very highly on. This isn’t that list, though. But this list, like all of us, is getting thicker in the middle. And that’s a lot of room for these two to land.
My first instinct is to pop “Endless Nameless” in there just above “Been A Son”, but I feel like “Been A Son” has become a bit of a whipping boy in this series and I’m always just saying “I’ll put this one just above “Been A Son”, when “Been A Son” is actually a totally great song. So I’ll put “Endless Nameless” between “Been A Son” and “Son of a Gun”, because those are two very poppy songs that both have the word “Son” in their titles. Let’s break those two up.
I think that “Paper Cuts” is just slightly less interesting than “Mr Moustache”, so I’m going to put it right under that one.
The updated ranking is:
- Heart-Shaped Box
- Scentless Apprentice
- Territorial Pissings
- Very Ape
- Serve The Servants
- On A Plain
- Drain You
- Love Buzz
- Lounge Act
- Been A Son
- Endless Nameless
- Son of a Gun
- Moist Vagina
- Mr Moustache
- Paper Cuts
- Lake of Fire
- Swap Meet
- Even In His Youth
- Oh, The Guilt
- Pen Cap Chew
- Ain’t It A Shame
- Clean Up Before She Comes
“Heart-Shaped Box” is still the greatest Nirvana song of all time!
Live Clip of the Week!
This live version of “Endless, Nameless” has me considering bumping this song up a few spots… I may revise this list in future installments.