Ranking Every Nirvana Song – Part Twenty-Seven: “Spank Thru” vs “Pennyroyal Tea”

Last week we ran an “In Utero Rippers” poll, and from the results so far it would appear that most of you agree with my opinion that “Scentless Apprentice” rips just a little bit more than “Milk It”. But it’s darn close. Darn close.

This week we’ve got another In Utero track, and Nirvana’s first song to see an official release.

Short intro!

Spank Thru

Originally released on the SUBPOP 200 compilation album, “Spank Thru” is… a weird song. If Nirvana had further pursued this sound, I don’t think that they would have been, uh, anything. It’s not very good. Sounds like a joke pastiche.

The song is built out with three sections, all of which are different shades of dorky butt-rock. The three-chord gallop of the opening section doesn’t work at all. The brief section that bridges the two major sections of the song is a slightly more interesting starry-eyed classic rock thing, but it ends in one of the embarrassing falsetto wails that Kurt was immensely fond of at the time. So that ain’t great.

The final section rocks a little harder and features its own verse, chorus and guitar solo section. This section hews closer to some of the other pre-Bleach (and during-Bleach) era material that we’ve heard from the band. Kind of the punk-edged cockrock vibe that feels vaguely ironic in its rock ‘n roll posturing. None of it really works for me, but I’ll give points to the guitar solo being one of those classic early Kurt guitar solos.

It would be a lot more satisfying to consider “Love Buzz” the “first official Nirvana song”, even though it’s a cover. “Spank Thru” isn’t good!

Pennyroyal Tea

I really loved “Pennyroyal Tea” when I was first introduced to Nirvana, but when I really think about it, I think that it may now be my least favourite song on In Utero. I don’t think that this song is especially bad, mind you. I just don’t think that it breaks any new or interesting ground for the band, while many of the other songs on this album definitely push the Nirvana envelope in one direction or another.

Even before I had cooled off on this song, I had kind of lumped it in with “Rape Me” when thinking about In Utero tracks. It features the most standard verse/chorus/verse structure that the band traffics in, along with the quiet/loud dynamics that would have been easy to predict even at the time of its release.

The fact that the song concerns itself with abortion, which was surely sensitive ground at the time (and perhaps is now as well) is noteworthy, and the chorus is reasonably anthemic and punchy. The guitar solo section is just an amped up repeat of the verse and chorus, and I do not find it terribly interesting.

Very much like “Rape Me” in a lot of ways, but doesn’t have the benefit of the wonderful crusher of a bridge section found in “Rape Me”. “Pennyroyal Tea” is just okay.

The Ranking

“Pennyroyal Tea” is better than “Spank Thru”, but most songs are.

I think that “Pennyroyal Tea” should probably land somewhere below “Rape Me”, but let’s not go so far as to say that it’s less important than “Curmudgeon”. We’ll rank it above that one.

“Spank Thru” is kind of similar to “Blandest” in a lot of ways, but seems more ambitious. I like “Oh, The Guilt” more than I like “Spank Thru”.

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. Breed
  6. Scentless Apprentice
  7. Territorial Pissings
  8. Dive
  9. Sappy
  10. Dumb
  11. Milk It
  12. Very Ape
  13. Lithium
  14. Serve The Servants
  15. On A Plain
  16. Drain You
  17. Polly
  18. Lounge Act
  19. Stay Away
  20. Sliver
  21. Tourette’s
  22. Love Buzz
  23. Blew
  24. School
  25. Rape Me
  26. Been A Son
  27. Endless Nameless
  28. Son of a Gun
  29. I Hate Myself And Want To Die
  30. You Know You’re Right
  31. Pennyroyal Tea
  32. Curmudgeon
  33. Moist Vagina
  34. Stain
  35. Mr Moustache
  36. Big Cheese
  37. Marigold
  38. Paper Cuts
  39. Lake of Fire
  40. Oh, Me
  41. Swap Meet
  42. Downer
  43. Scoff
  44. Aero Zeppelin
  45. Even In His Youth
  46. Oh, The Guilt
  47. Spank Thru
  48. Blandest
  49. Pen Cap Chew
  50. Do You Love Me?
  51. Ain’t It A Shame
  52. Clean Up Before She Comes
  53. Help Me I’m Hungry
  54. Beans

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

Live Clip of the Week!

I think I like this live version more than the studio version!

Author: markmeeks

squid goals

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