Album Review: “Bleach” (1989) by Nirvana

Band/Artist: Nirvana (Vocals/Guitar: Kurt Cobain, Bass Guitar: Krist Novoselic, Drums: Chad Channing)

Album: Bleach (1989)

Genre: Grunge, Punk Rock, Hard Rock, Indie Rock

Label: Subpop

Hello everybody, this my review of the album Bleach by grunge rockers, Nirvana. Bleach was the first studio album by the Seattle band and boy does it rock hard. The album is made up of eleven tracks and I will be speaking about each of them individually and then the album as a whole. Bleach did not chart on it’s initial release but the critics were impressed by it. Before Nevermind was released in 1991, Bleach sold 40,000 copies in North America alone. After Nevermind came out though and Nirvana became the one of the most popular bands of the nineties, Bleach became certified Platinum by the RIAA and has went on to sell 1.9 Million copies and that’s only the United States. Now this review may be a little bias as Nirvana are my favourite band of all time and Kurt Cobain was an inspiration to me growing up. Funnily enough, Bleach was the last Nirvana album I purchased after Nevermind and In Utero. So here is my run down on each of the songs:

  1. Blew – Blew comes in with a very strong start for the album. That initial bass line really gets you into the song and then the rest of the band kicks in with the hard drumming and dirty, grimy guitar playing. Kurt Cobain’s singing is on point in this song, but for me the bass line has to be the winner. Overall a fantastic song!
  2. Floyd the Barber – Another grimy and very raw song that is more about feeling then technical work. The drums are very vibrant and raw and make you head bang and along with that guitar it is a match made in heaven and then it suddenly gets to the chorus and you can hear the talent from all three members of the band, But Cobain’s singing really steals the show at the chorus.
  3. About a Girl – One of the more technical songs on the album, it is not a hard song to play, but boy it is fun. The band seems to really come together and they make something really special. Chad Channing’s soft drumming throughout the verses for it to come alive during the solo really adds to it. The bass line by Krist Novoselic is superb in the background and Cobain’s guitar playing and vocals are absolutely top notch. Definitely one of my favourite Nirvana songs.
  4. School – One of the more raw and grungier songs on the album. This song gives me the feeling that you are only meant to rock out to it instead of really listening to it. The hard pounding of the drums to the roar of the guitar during the chorus really gets you in the groove. Cobain’s voice in really good and it really gives you the angst vibe you usually get with Grunge.
  5. Love Buzz – This is a cover of a Dutch band called Shocking Blue and Nirvana really made it their own. The bass is absolutely fantastic, not overly crazy but it definitely adds to the charm of the song. This was the song that was released on Nirvana’s first EP and it released as their debut song. Truly I feel like everything is secondary to the bass line in this song, not that everything else is bad, god no! But the bass line is so good that it just makes me bop my head back and forth. Excellent song.
  6. Paper Cuts – One of the best songs on the album. The tone of the song is so raw and dirty and grimy and one of the hardest hitting songs on the album! Cobain’s voice blew me away on this. There is something about the shout at the end of every line of the verse. I feel like the band were pulling out all the stops for this song and it really shows. A true grunge song.
  7. Negative Creep – This song will definitely get the crowd going. The pace is faster than other songs on the album but none of the instruments hit any less and Cobain sings a lot fiercer. There seems to be a lot of feeling and emotion to this song and you can feel it from each band member doing their job and doing it well. Amazing song!
  8. Scoff – Another technically impressive song. There is a lot to this song, from the boppy verses to the droning chorus, its a song that has a lot of parts and each of them work well as a whole. My personal choice for the bits that stand out have to be the drums though. The drumming throughout is absolutely fantastic and definitely makes the song.
  9. Swap Meet – From the awesome guitar to the excellent singing from Cobain, Swap Meet is a very fun song from start to finish. The chorus is where is stands out though. It really ties the song together from a sort of monotony to a chorus that really bites. A very fun song and one of my favourite on the album.
  10. Mr. Moustache – Personally I am not a big fan of this song. It is okay, I feel if they slowed it down a tad it could have worked better. Nirvana were still finding their feet in terms of the punk scene so some of the songs lean more towards that. The thing is I like punk but I just feel that this song is a bit messy. Not a bad song, but not great.
  11. Sifting – A fantastic song! Really atmospheric and ticks all the right boxes for me. Another very raw song with a lot of angst attached to it. Cobain’s voice is absolutely on point in this song. The band compliment each other and you can really hear the contribution from each member of the band. For me the chorus is the best part, it is an absolutely awesome track and a strong ending to a tremendous album.

Final thoughts:

A remarkable debut album that really added to the grunge scene in Seattle and abroad. While the album didn’t make Nirvana a household name yet and launch them into the stratosphere of stardom that would come down the road, this album really laid the foundations of what would become their magnum opus, being Nevermind a few years later. For those who want a raw, emotion filled, dirty grunge album, but at the same time has some technically impressive work filled with a lot of talent, then Bleach is definitely one to add to your collection. Almost every song has it’s own story to tell and it’s own way of telling it and no two songs sound similar. A real work of art and an album that is a joy to listen to straight out of the gate.

My favourite song on the album: Negative Creep

9/10