Ranking Every Nirvana Song – Part Twenty-One: “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” vs “Stay Away”

Hey, would you look at that! It’s a good one!

Last week’s post wasn’t super exciting, even with trying to spice things up by switching some songs around on the ranked list. So it feels good to have drawn two songs that I’m pretty fond of for this week’s post.

A lot of the time when I start writing these, I already have a pretty good idea of where the songs are going to land on the list. Not really so sure of things here, but almost certain that these will both land in the top half of the list.

Let’s listen to ’em.

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle

This is one hell of a tune. There have been times when this has been my fave In Utero track, and given that In Utero is my fave Nirvana album, that could put it in contention for best Nirvana song. I don’t actually think that I can rank it that high, but I absolutely love it.

The tense, chugging riff that opens the track and underpins the song’s verses remains one of the album’s best. The way that the riff simmers and explodes works extremely well, and it gives the song a menacing feel that marries into the lyrics just perfectly. More on the lyrics in a minute, but that one time in the first verse that they’re running through the central riff, and it’s played with distortion and modified slightly, and punctuated by insane feedback shrieks? It’s one of the coolest passages of the band’s entire catalogue, and it only happens in the song once. It’s fucking sublime. I can’t even describe how much I love it.

The verses are terrific and I love them, but the chorus is huge. It’s a pretty hooky melody, but there’s nothing clean sounding about it. I’m stretching my brain to try to conjure up what the right word for the way that the “FFWHHROS” chorus makes me feel. The grit in the vocal performance makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Paired with the absolutely perfect, overwrought angst lyric (“I miss the comfort in being sad”), it was a total punch in the face to me when I was a teen, and it still holds up. I love it.

I don’t write much about lyrics in these posts, but I feel like this is a song where I should mention that the lyrics are pretty exceptional. So many classic lines, so smartly written to convey a thoroughly earned feeling of misanthropy. I love it!

Guys, I’ve used “I love it” to end four paragraphs in a row. I think this might be a pretty good song.

Stay Away

I feel like there are songs on Nevermind that feel like what one might call “album cuts” that are still better than 90% of the singles that other bands choose to serve as the highlights of their albums. “Lounge Act” was one of them, and “Stay Away” is another. This is probably why Nevermind is about as close to a perfect album as I can imagine. Even the middling tracks are bonkers brilliant.

The swelling snare drum that brings us into “Stay Away” sets the table for the pummeling that we’re about to receive, but we’ll have fun while we’re being pummeled. This song is fun as hell! It manages to be bouncy and fun while still sounding pretty raw and unhinged. Not quite as unhinged as, say, “Territorial Pissings“, but still wild enough to make most pop-punkers seem mild by comparison.

This is an amazing showpiece for the bass guitar, just as “Lounge Act” was. Every bass line and bass fill here is brilliantly written and played perfectly. I feel as though Krist Novoselic gets the least credit and attention of the three core Nirvana members, but his work on all of Nevermind is such a great example of what a tasteful yet tuneful hard rock bass player can be. Fun flourishes can be found all over the record that really help bring the songs to life.

What else to say about this one?

…When I was a kid, I thought that the guitar/vocal pairings during the “I don’t know why” lines were maybe the coolest thing I had ever heard.

This song rocks. What do you want from me?

The Ranking

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” is better than “Stay Away”, but “Stay Away” is still a really great song!

“Stay Away” will sit just below “Lounge Act”, although I think that I like them around the same amount.

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge” will land… on top of “Scentless Apprentice”. Some people are going to think that’s too high, but to them I say: “I hear you. And I love you. But I need you to stop.”

The updated ranking is:

  1. In Bloom
  2. Heart-Shaped Box
  3. About A Girl
  4. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
  5. Scentless Apprentice
  6. Territorial Pissings
  7. Sappy
  8. Dumb
  9. Very Ape
  10. Lithium
  11. Serve The Servants
  12. On A Plain
  13. Drain You
  14. Polly
  15. Lounge Act
  16. Stay Away
  17. Sliver
  18. Love Buzz
  19. Blew
  20. School
  21. Rape Me
  22. Been A Son
  23. Endless Nameless
  24. Son of a Gun
  25. Curmudgeon
  26. Moist Vagina
  27. Mr Moustache
  28. Marigold
  29. Paper Cuts
  30. Lake of Fire
  31. Swap Meet
  32. Downer
  33. Scoff
  34. Aero Zeppelin
  35. Even In His Youth
  36. Oh, The Guilt
  37. Pen Cap Chew
  38. Do You Love Me?
  39. Ain’t It A Shame
  40. Clean Up Before She Comes
  41. Help Me I’m Hungry
  42. Beans

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

Live Clip of the Week!

Author: markmeeks

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