This week we’re looking at what I would consider to be a showdown between two fairly big Nirvana rarities. Neither of the tunes are found on one of the mainline Nirvana studio LPs, but they’re both pretty well known and significant.
“I Hate Myself and Want To Die” was originally released on the Beavis and Butthead Experience compilation album in the 90s. And (probably more famously) “You Know You’re Right” was released in the early 2000s and was touted as “the last song that the band ever recorded”.
Which song is better? Only time will tell!
And me. I will tell.
I Hate Myself and Want To Die
I don’t know about you, but I loved Beavis and Butthead. So when the compilation album came out, with a Nirvana song on it? I saved up and bought the shit out of it! On cassette!
This one is a little tough for me, because I am pretty sure that I like this song a lot more than it actually deserves to be loved, and certainly more than it is loved by Nirvana fans at large. It’s top-tier for me. It might be a top-ten Nirvana song for me. I think it’s perfect.
It was recorded during the In Utero sessions, so it’s got that amazing In Utero/Steve Albini sound. That being said, it doesn’t really sound like anything else off of In Utero. Except maybe “Tourette’s”, but that’s in vibe only.
This mix of the song starts off with what sounds like Dave Grohl talking about a porno movie. Which is interesting. But the song starts off with what is probably my favourite Nirvana guitar riff to play. There’s one other Nirvana riff that I might like to play as much, but we haven’t actually covered that one on this series yet, so I won’t mention it…
But I guess if you’ve never played this song with your buddies in a jam space (preferably with a good drummer who can nail the intro), you might not have a sweet tooth for this song the way that I do. The song is dead simple. And I know that Cobain talked about it kind of dismissively in at least one interview, and considered it kind of a throwaway. But the whole thing is just so dirty and fun and catchy to me.
Also, the lounge-y noodling in the little bridge section is great.
Dudes, I love this song. I can’t really rank it as highly as I would like to, because I’m sure that I’m actually not “correct” about this, strictly speaking. But man. I never, ever skip this song when it comes on shuffle.
You Know You’re Right
This song seemed revelatory when it came out. Like hearing a ghost!
The crazy thing is that this came out in 2002, and at the time I remember thinking “man, it’s been so long since Kurt died!” but it’s now been 20 years since this song came out. That is a long time.
As time goes on, my opinion that this song’s perceived importance can mostly be chalked up to the circumstances of its release. I like the song, and I loved it on release, but in the pantheon of Nirvana’s great tracks, I have a hard time giving this one as much credit as some of the others.
For one thing, this has always sounded (understandably) pretty unfinished to me. The structure is clearly all set, but the vocals are mumbled in a way that sounds more like a “working track” than a “finished track”, and some of the lyrics seem like they were in-progress to me.
Speaking of the lyrics… these are about the marriage, right? We’re all on the same page, yeah? That this is about the marriage? Yeah.
Anyway, there’s a lot to love about this song. The plodding two-chord riff that both the verse and chorus are built around manages to sound both mesmerizing and bracing when it is needed to. The song makes great use of loud/quiet dynamics for dramatic effect, and there are moments of absolute catharsis in both the vocal performance and the instrumental performance. It certainly sounds, at points, like a band on the edge.
A lot of the guitar work is particularly stand-out across the track, from the really interesting use of harmonics in the introduction, the massive string sweeps in the louder sections of the song, and the characteristically controlled squall of feedback that Cobain seemed to be able to bend to his will at the drop of a hat.
All this is to say that I think that this song is very good, and there’s something about it that remains very chilling to this day. I’m sure that I got goosebumps the first time that I heard it.
People might kill me for this, but I think that “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” is better than “You Know You’re Right”.
That being said, I’m going to try to be careful about ranking these. I think I’ll actually rank them together, one right after the other. And maybe I’ll put them both below “Tourette’s”? I think that they’re both better than “Love Buzz”.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
The updated ranking is:
- In Bloom
- Heart-Shaped Box
- About A Girl
- Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
- Scentless Apprentice
- Territorial Pissings
- Very Ape
- Serve The Servants
- On A Plain
- Drain You
- Lounge Act
- Stay Away
- I Hate Myself And Want To Die
- You Know You’re Right
- Love Buzz
- Rape Me
- Been A Son
- Endless Nameless
- Son of a Gun
- Moist Vagina
- Mr Moustache
- Big Cheese
- 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
- Help Me I’m Hungry
“In Bloom” is still the greatest Nirvana song of all time!
Live Clip of the Week!
No live version exists for either song covered this week, so… enjoy this Beavis and Butthead clip!