Best Band Of The 1990s? Nirvana
Let’s start here, the three albums released in their lifetime:
Bleach (1989) – B+
Nevermind (1991) – A-
In Utero (1993) – A+
then add the B Sides, obscurities and John Peel sessions:
Incesticide (1992) – A
Three live albums:
MTV Unplugged (1994) – A+
From The Banks Of The Muddy Wishkah (1996) – B
Live At Reading (2009) – B+
That’s the heart of the matter. The 1993-1994 axis is why they weren’t just the voice of their generation, not just “Smells Like Teen Spirit” but one of the great rock bands of our time and “Live At Reading” is career defining for Grohl. But if you want live you need to get boots. I own a couple, the “In Utero” boot is magnificent.
So let’s look at something else… best songs!
About A Girl – The most Cobain song he ever wrote, off the first album. A love song on a punk rock album.
Negative Creep – As much as mantra as self abuse, and the birth of one of those great screams.
Smells Like Teen Spirit – A denial indeed. This is the sound of a generation, perhaps the last time one song defined an age group. It is a hard, hard shrug and act of rebellion. While their parents were active, hippies or punks, Generation X were stuck in a time of paralyzed cynicism. They’d seen where caring got you and resisted by denying.
Come As You Are – The “no fluke” third track not only included his epitaph, it also pointed outward. It was as inclusive as Nirvana got.
Something In The Way – Points to In Utero and Unplugged and where he may have ended up if he wanted to write in a quieter tone.
Sliver – One of his greatest achievements. Incredibly as it may sound, he captured what it felt like to be a child. Maybe his greatest song.
Serve The Servants – The response to success is a self-lacerating masterpiece with no way out.
Scentless Apprentice – The best riff on In Utero, the best scream on In Utero, and a defeated outrage as Cobain waits to be thrown on the fire.
Heart Shaped Box – Written for Courtney Love, this takes the quiet/loud as far as it would ever go and was so far ahead of everything coming out Seattle and anywhere else. And the lyric? “Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back”.
Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle – A song would have to be pretty awesome to live up to this tit;le. This one does it on its head and includes in the chorus the best explanation for Cobain’s suicide: “I miss the comfort of being sad”
Pennyroyal Tea – It sounds like the day before the end of world.
All Apologies – Sounds like the end of the world.
And some covers
The Man Who Sold The World
Lake Of Fire
Where Did You Sleep tonight
And that’s it. I never saw Nirvana live, and I have heard (and listened to) mixed opinions by people who have. Like their only equal in the 1990s, Biggie Smalls, there isn’t enough material but there is some. Enough to include Nirvana among the greatest bands of all time.