Nirvana only produced three studio albums over the course of seven years, yet they are one of the most long-lasting influences in modern rock and roll. They were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and consisted of just three members. They had a lot of drummers over the years, but the best-known of them is by far Dave Grohl. Long-term members included Krist Novoselic on bass and, possibly most famous of all, Kurt Cobain on guitar and vocals. Of all Seattle grunge bands, they are considered to be the most influential.
Cobain was largely responsible for the band’s success. He had a deep, throaty voice that helped to popularize some of the band’s most notable hits. This was especially true on their second album, Nevermind, released in 1991. The album contained popular songs such as “Polly,” “Lithium,” “Come as You Are,” and the extremely popular hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” On many of these songs, especially “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Cobain would sing in an almost soft version of the typical grunge style before ramping up the volume on the chorus. This style was relatively consistent going into the band’s 1993 album In Utero, which contained classics such as “Dumb,” “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “All Apologies” and “Rape Me,” but the general musical style and lyrics became much more aggressive.
It was after the release of these albums, especially Nevermind, that more fans sought out the band’s 1989 album Bleach. It had been re-released in 1992, in between the releases of Nevermind and In Utero, and it did much better than it had when it first came out. The band’s general style was not as present on this album, and according to Cobain many of the songs had tried to achieve the same style as Aerosmith. The one exception was “About a Girl,” which did not necessarily mimic the style of songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” but was notable for not completely adhering to the conventions of grunge music.
One of the lasting qualities of Nirvana’s music was that it was incredibly dynamic. Not only did the volume and tempo have a tendency to range more than that of most other grunge bands, but the emotion was raw and yet intelligent at the same time. In songs like “Lithium,” “Rape Me,” and “Heart-Shaped Box” the emotional content is evident from the very style of Cobain’s vocals, yet the meaning is often hidden behind clever lyrics with subversive phrasing and imagery. Many of the lyrics were often dripping with sarcasm, which suited Cobain’s vocal style to the letter.
Nirvana did not survive Cobain’s suicide in 1994, but there music has survived for quite some time since. Many saw the band as the voice of Generation X, having influenced a number of grunge and alternative rock groups to come after them. Nirvana showed that underdog grunge bands had their place in 1990s pop culture, and that anyone from anywhere could make an impact on the music industry with a unique style and a quality sound.
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