I hope that you’ll all join me in taking a break from our lousy Smarch weather to check out a couple of Nirvana tunes. Unlike last week, we’re looking at a heavy-hitter today! The other song, though… is a KISS cover.
I’ve kinda debated back and forth about whether or not covers like this should be included. I decided that they kind of have to be, because it would be unthinkable not to include the covers from the Unplugged in New York set. But there are also a pile of covers and half-covers to be found on bootleg live recordings from Nirvana shows that certainly should not be included.
I have decided that a cover will be included if it was recorded in studio, or if it was a part of a major album release. “Do You Love Me?” is a studio recording, and was included on a compilation album release. So, for better or worse, it’s in.
Do You Love Me?
Up front: I think KISS sucks. I have never liked their schtick, and I’ve never liked their tunes. To judge this cover on its merits as a cover, I had to actually go and listen to the KISS version of “Do You Love Me?”
It sucks ass! The Nirvana version of this tune isn’t a great track, but compared to the sluggish and joyless KISS version, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Nirvana’s version is upbeat and goofy. It remains fairly faithful to the original in structure, but is clearly being played for a laugh. Notably, this recording features a prominent vocal performance from Krist, and it certainly adds to the buoyancy of the track. His vocals in the chorus and the bridge section are actually pretty solid and tuneful (not what one might expect from the “Territorial Pissings” intro). The bridge is particularly hilarious and fun.
I dunno, it’s a rock n’ roll song. The songwriting is dead simple. This kind of thing is not really my thing, but it sounds like they were having a good time.
About A Girl
I could use this review to talk about the excellent version of this tune on the Unplugged in New York album, but both versions are really excellent. We will tackle the Bleach version because this is how we handled “Polly” and “On A Plain”.
“About A Girl” is a clear anomaly on Bleach, which is a sludge-fest of an album. I would love to hear from someone who heard Bleach before Nirvana broke to see what they thought about the song in context with the rest of the album. You’ve got, like 11 tracks that are primarily just aggressive riffing, and then this one perfectly formed, brilliantly written pop song. It must have been a trip.
This song has been written about by real writers, so I don’t want to waste a bunch of text-breath explaining to you how this song was an early demonstration of Kurt Cobain’s songwriting prowess or the band’s very real crossover potential. I will instead, just talk about the song itself for a bit. Because this song is wonderful.
Like a lot of Nirvana songs, “About A Girl” gets tremendous mileage out of two alternating chords. The verse, guitar solo and the conclusion of every chorus all just rest on two chords, making this a fairly easy song for young guitar players to learn. It might seem simplistic, but it provides the underpinning for some of the strongest vocal melodies that the band would ever release.
The chorus is classic pop perfection, made even greater by the way that it utilizes one of those key changes that seems like it shouldn’t work, but manages to introduce a spectacular new dimension to the song. Even before I knew about what a key change was, I could kind of hear that something special was going on there. Beginner songwriters bounce around from key to key all the time because they don’t know what they’re doing. So this was either blind luck, or something that Cobain actually knew that he was doing. Probably the latter. But who knows?!
Last thing about this tune: Still a very fun guitar solo to play. Easy to learn. Love it.
I dunno. Who can complain about this song? It’s one of the best! That’s a spoiler!
“About A Girl” is obviously better than some KISS cover, because “About A Girl” is better than the entire KISS catalogue put together. KISS sucks.
“Do You Love Me?” is more fun to listen to than “Ain’t It A Shame”. So I think it makes sense to throw it in just above that one.
People might hate me for this, but I think I’ve gotta slot “About A Girl” in there right above “Scentless Apprentice”. Those two songs couldn’t be more different, and it’s a bit of an apples and oranges conversation. But there are two great versions of “About A Girl”, and I really do think that it’s one of the band’s most enduring tracks.
The updated ranking is:
- In Bloom
- Heart-Shaped Box
- About A Girl
- Scentless Apprentice
- Territorial Pissings
- Very Ape
- Serve The Servants
- On A Plain
- Drain You
- Love Buzz
- Lounge Act
- Rape Me
- Been A Son
- Endless Nameless
- Son of a Gun
- Moist Vagina
- Mr Moustache
- Paper Cuts
- Lake of Fire
- Swap Meet
- Aero Zeppelin
- Even In His Youth
- Oh, The Guilt
- Pen Cap Chew
- Do You Love Me?
- Ain’t It A Shame
- Clean Up Before She Comes
“In Bloom” is still the greatest Nirvana song of all time!
Live Clip of the Week!
We didn’t talk about this version of “About A Girl” above, so let’s just honour it here instead.
Some say “About a Girl” played in grade 10 guitar class from 1997 echo through the halls of Nicholson Catholic College to this day.
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Best class ever.
“Just Fucking Around 101”