Ranking Every Nirvana Song – Part Sixteen: “Dumb” vs “In Bloom”

One of the most rewarding things about writing these posts? Interacting with my fanbase! There are about four of you now! Thanks, everybody!

I’m so tickled by the comments on Facebook and Twitter, I think that I’ll start posting my favourites from the previous week at the top of each post. I’ll redact the names, though! I don’t want anybody to get dorxxe’d!

This week, I would like to feature the following comment, which was in response to “Curmudgeon” vs “Rape Me”:

Excellent!

This week, we have two more tunes! I actually feel like this is a pretty big post. Maybe one of the biggest so far. We’re looking at one of the essential album cuts from In Utero and one of the hit singles from Nevermind!

Let’s just dive right in!

Dumb

In Utero gets a lot of credit for being a very noisy Nirvana record, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the album also contains a few of the band’s most delicate tunes as well. “Dumb” is my favourite “mellow” spot on In Utero, and may be my favourite “mellow” Nirvana song found on one of their studio albums.

Kurt Cobain was a well-documented Beatles fan, and it really shines through on a song like this. There’s obvious connective tissue between “Dumb” and a song like “I’m Only Sleeping”, in both vibe and structure. “Dumb” features a musical arrangement, however, that gives it a mournful and ghostly quality all its own.

For years, this song has had the ability to make me feel happy and mellow when I’m receptive to feeling that way, and melancholy when I’m feeling a little down. It’s yet another example of Kurt’s songwriting having the uncanny ability to live between worlds. You can have your cake, and also this other very different cake – all at the same time, and in the same cake. Also, there’s something about this song that I’ve always found vaguely… cute? I don’t know how to explain that any better than that. I don’t know. This song is kinda cute to me.

“Dumb” has a chorus that features the kind of earworm mantra that makes you feel like you’re sinking into a couch, and the repeated “I think I’m dumb” as the song closes is one of my favourite parts of this entire album.

Last week I wrote about “Rape Me”, which is an okay song with a really stellar bridge. “Dumb” is a wonderful song with a really stellar bridge. The shift into the bridge of this song, with its slightly more tense chord progression and perfect harmonies, can still conjure up goosebumps for me. Paired with the swooning cello that accompanies the song, it may be one of the best Nirvana-song bridges. Up there with “On A Plain”.

The more I write about it, the more I like it. This song is great. The performances are great. It’s got great, warm production. I can’t think of anything that I don’t like about this song.

In Bloom

“In Bloom” was the last single released from Nevermind, and it featured the best video of the four. I have featured that video above, because it is so fun. But there’s consistent crowd screaming/clapping sound effects throughout, so if you’re looking for a clean recording of the tune to really listen to, you can go ahead and click here instead.

This song is very, very, very great. This is a song that I listen to and marvel at how someone could even write a song like this. There are chord changes that should not sound poppy or catchy, but they do. The band catapults from one of their (Pixies-aping) quiet verses, into a loud chorus that contains possibly the most massive hook on the Nevermind album. Maybe the biggest hook of their career? I would entertain that argument.

Although they sound nothing alike, from a songwriting and arrangement perspective, this song reminds me a lot of “Heart-Shaped Box”. Both songs are instant classics, likeable to people who don’t even really like noisy music, and both dig deep in deceptively complex songwriting. Notes that should sound sour feature all over the place in both, but are sewn together so well, it sounds like effortless pop. I’ve made my personal bias about this band pretty clear by now, but I truly don’t think that many acts had it in them to pull together something as brilliant as a “Heart Shaped Box” or an “In Bloom”.

To dig into the specifics… Listen to how great that fuckin’ bass sounds in the verses! The drum parts are also perfect. From the iconic fills that pump up the song’s intro to the machine gun snare roll that leads into the choruses, this is one of those drum parts that someone could play with no accompaniment and you would instantly know what song they’re playing. It should be noted that this drum part is more or less exactly what Chad Channing played on the original recording of the song, albeit a little tighter and a little louder.

The mountain of guitars work well on this recording, as to the heavily produced and heavily layered vocals. The high harmonies in the chorus? Perfect.

The song also features the best guitar solo on Nevermind. A completely bonkers squall that shouldn’t really work, from a “notes” perspective, but actually manages to fit perfectly and sound just as infectious as the rest of the song.

I think that I’ve made my case for a song that didn’t really need me to work so hard. People like this song, don’t they?

The Ranking

In terms of a one-on-one matchup, this is a tougher one than most of my posts have been so far.

I love “Dumb” a lot. One of my favourite songs on my favourite record. But… “In Bloom” is my favourite song on a record that I like almost as much.

“Dumb” might not be better than “Sappy”, but it would be close. I will give it the edge over “Very Ape”.

The big question for me here, is whether or not “In Bloom” is better than “Heart-Shaped Box”. An almost impossible question. Going purely by how I’m feeling this second, I think that it might be. Also, given that this list is almost entirely arbitrary, and having a new leader will add some pep to this series…

The updated ranking is:

  1. In Bloom
  2. Heart-Shaped Box
  3. Scentless Apprentice
  4. Territorial Pissings
  5. Sappy
  6. Dumb
  7. Very Ape
  8. Lithium
  9. Serve The Servants
  10. On A Plain
  11. Drain You
  12. Polly
  13. Love Buzz
  14. Sliver
  15. Lounge Act
  16. Blew
  17. Rape Me
  18. Been A Son
  19. Endless Nameless
  20. Son of a Gun
  21. Curmudgeon
  22. Moist Vagina
  23. Mr Moustache
  24. Paper Cuts
  25. Lake of Fire
  26. Swap Meet
  27. Scoff
  28. Even In His Youth
  29. Oh, The Guilt
  30. Pen Cap Chew
  31. Ain’t It A Shame
  32. Clean Up Before She Comes

“In Bloom” is the new greatest Nirvana song of all time!

Live Clip of the Week!

Author: markmeeks

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