Nirvana came to a sudden end 19 years ago this month when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. The group released only three studio albums, but they left behind tons of other material and a huge fan base that only seems to grow as the years go by. Next year they are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it's extremely likely they will get in on their first ballot. We asked our readers to vote on their favorite Nirvana songs.
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Nirvana didn't invent alternative rock, but they were one of the bands foremost in bringing it to the masses. The Seattle trio had an unmistakeable sound - a genius blend of Kurt Cobain's raspy voice and gnashing guitars, Dave Grohl's relentless drumming and Krist Novoselic's uniting bass-work that connected with fans in a hail of alternately melodic and hard-charging songs that would become signature classics. As the band enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the world reflects on the 20th anniversary of Cobain's tragic death, we're celebrating the great music of the band's all-too-brief run with a look at their 10 biggest hits on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. This ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Alternative Songs chart.
20. Dive (Incesticide, 1992)
Nonetheless, they were here, they entertained us and they left us a body of work to cherish — as the 20 best Nirvana songs make abundantly clear. Let us know in the comments section, below. A relentless two-chord garage beat which lays down some serious foundations for a sheer monster of a guitar to howl over. Having read the true story of a young hitch-hiker who was kidnapped, brutally raped and tortured with a blow torch, Cobain took the original newspaper article as his starting point and created an emotional backstory with real power which is accentuated by the restraint of his performance. Despite that, there was nothing dashed off about the performance of this superb pop-punk track, which simply smokes from start to finish and also features highly adept high-harmony vocals from Dave Grohl. We can only concur. Also, during the instrumental section, Cobain eschewed a regular guitar solo in favour of a highly effective Sonic Youth -esque noise breakdown which further ramped up the tension already inherent in the song. Switching adroitly between moody, bass-driven verses and euphoric choruses, the song has all the hallmarks of a classic anthem performed by a band at the very top of their game.
Rarely in history has so much been written about a body of work so ostensibly slim. One of their earliest successes in melding the heft of heavy metal and the melodic dexterity of pop, an ebullient bassline drags us along as Kurt lets loose his feelings on childhood alienation and the pointlessness of conformity. Musically, the track feels indebted to the feel-bad abrasion of Austin noisemongers The Jesus Lizard , of whom Dave Grohl was an ardent fan. With riffage that is by turns strangulatingly tight-wound and hopelessly slack, it remains the most powerfully uncomfortable song in their catalogue.