So much has already been said about Nirvana and the impact of their music. The opening powerchords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are the sound of the 80s coming to an abrupt end. Nirvana opened the door for the entire grunge-alt-rock music scene and Kurt Cobain’s songwriting still inspires countless artists (both excellent and terrible). This Thursday, they will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band unquestionably deserves the honor. Although only in the spotlight a few years before Cobain’s tragic suicide, the records they made still sound as fierce and fresh as ever. Many of the songs off of Nirvana’s three studio albums, Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero, are constant staples of rock radio. However, if you look beyond those three albums and the fabulous MTV Unplugged In New York, there are plenty of jewels waiting to be discovered.
On this list are ten “deep tracks” that I enjoy whenever I am digging through the classic Nirvana EP compilation, Incesticide, or the With The Lights Out box set or just going through the bonus tracks and b-sides included on the recent reissues of Nirvana’s three studio albums. If you want to listen to the tracks while you read, click here. I made a Spotify playlist. In no particular order, my ten picks are . . .
“Aneurysm” – Incesticide (Recorded in 1991)
There are a couple versions of this song. All of them are good. The above-mentioned version was recorded for the BBC during their Mark Goodier radio sessions and was released on the EP/rarities collection, Incesticide. There are also some great live versions of the track as well as a studio take that was a Nevermind-era b-side. That version was included as a bonus track on the 2011 reissue of the album.
“Sappy” – In Utero (2013 Reissue) (Recorded in 1993)
The version mentioned above was remixed last year and included as bonus track on the deluxe reissue of In Utero. It was used as an In Utero b-side and was originally released on the No Alternative benefit compilation.
“They Hung Him On A Cross” – With The Lights Out (Recorded in 1989)
When the band recorded their MTV unplugged special, Cobain delivered a haunting version of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”. A few years before, he recorded a couple of Leadbelly tunes at an “off the cuff” recording session produced by Jack Endino. “They Hung Him On A Cross” was one of them and features Cobain alone accompanied by a distorted acoustic guitar.
“Ain’t It A Shame” – With The Lights Out (Recorded in 1989)
This is from the same 1989 recording session of Leadbelly covers. This song features a full band backing. It is a harsh song lyrically and made even harsher by the instrumentation.
“Curmudgeon” – Nevermind (2011 Reissue) (Recorded 1992)
This track is also available on the With Lights Out box set. Originally “Curmudgeon” was the b-side of Nirvana’s hit “Lithium”. It is an aggressive track recorded after the initial Nevermind sessions as the band is transitioning from Nevermind into the In Utero material.
“Marigold” – In Utero (2013 Reissue) (Recorded 1993)
This was originally released as the b-side to “Heart-Shaped Box”. It was recorded during the In Utero sessions. “Marigold” is a unique Nirvana song, because it was written by drummer Dave Grohl and features Grohl on lead vocals. It is a haunting and pretty track that foreshadows Grohl coming into his own as a songwriter and front man following Cobain’s death.
“Molly’s Lips” – Incesticide (Recorded 1990)
This is a cover of a song by the Vasalines. Nirvana’s version perfectly blends grunge, pop and punk. This recording was originally recorded for John Peel's program on the BBC.
“Verse Chorus Verse” With The Lights Out (Recorded 1991)
“Verse Chorus Verse” is an outtake from Nevermind. Though not stronger than anything that made the original album, the song certainly has its charm.
“Old Age” With The Lights Out (Recorded 1991)
Another delightful Nevermind outtake!
“Token Easter Song” With The Lights Out (Recorded 1989)
“Token Easter Song” was demoed when Nirvana was getting tracks together for the Blew EP. The rawness of the guitar and groove of the drums unify the realms of underground grit and pop infectiousness. Although gripping as it stands, you have to wonder what it would have sounded like if it had been recorded for a proper album.
Text (c) 2014 DM Experience This Music LLC