10
Jan 13

STILTSKIN – “Inside”

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#707, 14th May 1994

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Pop’s triumph is when a private language turns out to have been public all along. When the way you express yourself – visual, lyrical, physical, vocal – becomes something hundreds of thousands understand, like a word that was somehow always waiting to be said. This was Nirvana’s triumph too, and part of Kurt Cobain’s doom. His scraping, negating, self-scouring howls and sneers turned out to be a Rosetta Stone, a way for his fans to start making sense of themselves.

But the language he’d helped discover was too powerful – it went too far for him, made him fans he hated, and then rippled out still further, beyond Nirvana and Seattle. “Grunge” mutated quickly, from music to catch-all generational tag – I bought a lumberjack shirt from a British chainstore sometime in 1992, not really understanding why. It was very comfortable. I would never have had the nerve to buy Levis, though. They were for the fashionable, not the misfits.

As grunge spread, and labels moved past their initial panicky gambles, the ideological booby-traps Cobain set in his music (for himself as much as anyone) were quickly cleared away. No more self-questioning, no more gender politics, no more playing rock like you hated rock. What emerged was a brute, very male sound: a glowering take on hard rock – more commercially burnished than grunge but just as sullen.

Utterly charmless to my ears, but here’s the thing about pop’s new-language moments: the people who come in their wake are copyists but also largely sincere. The legion of post-Elvis clones were fulfilling commercial imperatives but, I bet, their own urges too. Which makes the curious affair of Stiltskin – grunge’s great mocking cameo on Popular’s stage – all the more remarkable.

This record seems to be a case where the “manufactured” label – and all its tiresome baggage – is completely deserved. Writer Peter Lawlor put the track together specifically for the Levi’s ad “Creek” (old-timey, women, trousers, bathing hunk, twist ending – it’s a great commercial, I admit). He needed a singer and found Ray Wilson – later Phil Collins’ replacement in Genesis, closing some kind of circle of grudgeful blokiness. It’s Ray’s clench-arsed voice you hear being “broken minded” on “Inside”, but every other instrument is Lawlor.

The result is a spectacularly brazen jacking of grunge tropes, ribboned and bowed in a preposterous choral intro. Guitars thresh, drums thud, quiets loud, Ray’s butt flexes. Midway through there’s a tiny break where the bombast stops and a tres Novoselic bass lick pokes in – just a little memory trigger, a brand reminder: KIDS do you remember GRUNGE it made you buy CLOTHES. Cobain’s body was found in his garage a couple of weeks before “Inside” was released, the kind of sad coincidence that – if you were as serious as Ray Wilson, or grunge – might make you reframe song as insult.

And the lyrics – my God! Pick your favourite – “Seam in a fusion mine / Like a nursing rhyme / Fat man starts to fall” – nursing rhyme, not nursery rhyme, you’ll note, and perhaps feel unreasonably cross at. “Ring out in a bruised postcard / In a shooting yard”. Actually I think the best bit might be “strong words in a ganja sky”. It’s a cataract of nonsense – somewhere, Simon Le Bon sucks air through his teeth in awed admiration.

But look on songmeanings, YouTube, tumblr – you’ll see “Inside” quoted sincerely, cited for its “meaningful lyrics”. Act serious enough, and with enough intensity, and you become serious – no matter how debased your origins. And anyway, the advert teaches you how to appreciate “Inside” – ride the crescendo and grin – and for most of its buyers that’s all you needed.

I never liked grunge, I never even listened to Nevermind until twenty years later. What I remember was how it fitted into a world and an attitude I caught a flavour of, even in Britain. Angry, mistrustful, painstakingly suspicious of authority and commerce but reflexively against turning those feelings into a ‘movement’. “Generation X” was diagnosed with apathy – on the ground it felt more like paralysis: all stances and ideas riddled with their opposites. Nirvana’s records found a language for that. But this gross, shameless, blackly hilarious record is speaking that language too.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Although, I ‘spose you can go the MMM route of just playing the noise long enough to hear all sorts of wierd sonic blips wirthing around in the fog: I remember Joey Ramone saying in End Of The Century that Johnny played so loud, he could hear all sorts of horn and string parts in the harmonics created by the layers of distortion and reverb.

  2. 32

    Well my argument is the opposite I think, that you enter the room for the antics of the singer but it’s the subtleties of the texture (and other small things) that ultimately keep you there (assuming something keeps you there, or keeps you coming back) when newer and different antics beckon elsewhere — which of course in pop/rock they likely always do. But yes, lots of people do texture very badly and boringly — and some people probably do it well, but do antics very badly. I love Joan Jett primarily for the grain in her voice — it’s what reignites my adoration every time. There’s plenty of other cool stuff in her story — but that’s actually what I’m attached to.

  3. 33
    Steve Mannion on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I always thought Stiltskin were equidistant between Marillion and the likes of Cracker myself.

    Levi’s though were proudly trendhopping though usually focussed on depicting some bygone era to reflect the authenticity and durability of their product. The US alt-rock sound was just another fad amongst these to such a market-leading behemoth.

    Some ironing is in how stylish and ad-like the bigger grungey bands videos had also become prior to ‘Inside’ (no more than any other genre but it did seem to glaringly contrast if not betray the musical aesthetic more).

    I’m still unsure how much advertisers anticipated run-off success for the songs they chose to use. It sounds like ‘Inside’ was crafted more with this in mind than the company’s previous and subsequent choices which had more of a life of their own before ad association however powerful it turned out to be. This suggests Corgan’s anecdote is true, and it may even have led Levis to focus on using existing songs by hipper more obscure acts like Biosphere and Smoke City.

    It’s a bit of a relief how varied the ads were from the likes of Levi’s and Guiness and whoever else over these years because it suggests they weren’t really concerned with creating instant massive hits more than just getting the right fit of sound and vision for the ad itself. Think how many more #1s would’ve occurred via impulsive reactions to striking marketing campaigns otherwise.

    This shone more light on how a huge portion of the nation’s song-buyers whims could be fuelled by specific musical moments that could stand out in the crowd (certainly on both TV/the cinema screen and radio) urgently – a burst of heavenly choir (would ‘Inside’s studiously rowdy guitars alone have sold it quite so well? I doubt it) or a freaky high-pitched singsong being the prime examples.

    In some cases, if the song as a whole and the imagery it was attached to were deemed novel enough (and perhaps for this reason it’s a good idea of Tom’s to post a still from the advert for ‘Inside’ rather than its actual cover…although perhaps the cover was also a still) it could follow suit (as ‘Guaglione’ very nearly did a year later). Somehow though a few more years on it worked with just a conventional, unremarkable rock guitar hook and the affirming harmonies from a man struggling to retain relevance barely ten years after breaking through.

    So locating the rhyme or reason behind how these things happened never really got any easier and it just underlined the unpredictability of the market further (however much Cowell or whoever would seek to rein it in themselves). Perhaps the surprising (not because the song is good/bad) popularity of Bowie’s new single this week only echoes this again (or would if it were chart eligible)…should anyone still care.

  4. 34
    fivelongdays on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I wrote this back when The One And Only was the contemporary Popular entry, and I’ve saved it until now, because this is the best, and only time to say what I have to say. It does go on a bit but, from a purely selfish perspective, I need to say it.

    I have an odd relationship with grunge. Sure, I was only 12 – and not into music – when Kurt Cobain shot himself, but getting into music around that time, and having what is probably (to use Tom’s wonderful phrase) a vocation towards general loud guitaryness, grunge was a path that, after my indie phase, I took for a bit, mainly around 1997, the year of ULTIMATE TEEN ANGST, when I turned 15.

    I was in a band with a bunch of AC/DC fans, but I always wanted to go more ‘alternative’. I wanted to listen to bands who were ‘alternative’. Part of this was the way things were, and part of it was I developed a horrible case of unrequited love for a girl at my school who declared that she was ‘alternative’ (too ‘alternative’ for me, sadly). And, in my never-ending, and ultimately doomed, quest to get near this particular girl (who will not be named) I decided I would embrace being ‘alternative’ and explicitly reject all this big-haired poodle pomp corporate -Yes, Corporate, not like St Kurt of Smack – dinosaur that they called Cock Rock. Totally. Down with it, down with its bombast and its desire to have a good time. How shallow! How non-alternative!

    A few weeks before I turned 16, late February, I got a free CD with Kerrang! On this CD, was the song “Bombed (Out Of My Mind)” by Backyard Babies. As I listened to it, I felt shock, anger, confusion, and joy. What was this? Was this band *gasp* having fun? How non-alternative! Are they allowed to feel this way in this day and age? Are they allowed to sound this way in this day and age? Oh my God it sounds really good, though…No, it IS really good! Oh, sweet God, there needs to be more bands like this! Where’s my copy of Appetite For Destruction? Do I have a blank cassette so my pal (and band’s vocalist) Chris can tape me Skid Row’s debut? THIS FUCKIN’ ROOOOLZ! Where has this been? Jesus, I get it now. Grunge. Is. Fuckin’. Dead.

    Of course, I was already a die-hard Manics fan, so really it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me, this realisation that the music I’d been told to dub as Cock Rock was actually awesome, and Grunge was so much miserable corpse-fucking. My obsession with the girl died out soon after largely because I realised being ‘alternative’ was, basically, wank.

    Nowadays I can see both sides of the musical coin. I can see that Glam Metal was dying, and something needed to replace it. I can appreciate a lot of grunge. But I still can’t listen to any of the major acts of grunge, great though they may be, without feeling slightly shameful, like I’m listening to the music that stopped rock’n’roll being fun.

    So, where does this leave Stiltskin?

    Well, they certainly weren’t some hyper-cool bunch of misfits from the Pacific Northwest. They looked like a bunch of competent, but basically uncharismatic, session musicians who turned up at their studio’s fancy-dress party as a grunge band. This is because, basically, they were. They were pulled together by Peter Lawlor at the last minute when his Levi’s soundtrack needed a band to promote his (really rather corking) song. They were, in many ways, the antithesis of what grunge, and St Kurt of Smack, stood for.

    That really doesn’t matter.

    What of the song? Well, it’s lyrics are a bit daft, and it his a choral bit at the start for no real reason, but it does have a very, very nice bit of crunching guitar that you don’t get at the top of the charts much. Basically, it rocks, maybe its calculated, but rocking is rocking. And this certainly does rock. Immensely.

    Don’t believe me? Just check out that ascending riff. It fucking rocks.

    More to the point, for people my age who have taken a more rocking path, this is basically the same thing as The One And Only. It’s the song we all pretend to like ironically, but in actual fact, we all really like it. I suspect it served as a bit of an Introduction To Loud Rock Music for many, fwiw.

    Stiltskin, and this song, weren’t on a mission to make you realise that having fun was bad, they weren’t attempting to show you that greyness was better than technicolour, they weren’t developing angst over writing a bunch of songs that people liked, and they weren’t taking fuckin’ heroin because they had a poorly tummy. All they wanted was for you to buy a nice pair of jeans. The world, and this song, is all the better for it.

    Because it does rock, and because it annoys smug, snotty hipster types, it’s a surefire…

    10.

    And if that particular girl is reading this: I bought a Bush album, just because I thought it would impress you. For this, I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed. You know who you are.

  5. 35
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I don’t agree with your mark (obv) but I LOVE the phrase “people my age who have taken a more rocking path”

    (& definitely the urge to enjoy the Rocking Path where you find it not where you’re told it is.)

  6. 36
    MikeMCSG on 10 Jan 2013 #

    A couple of years after this I started seeing a number of pub bands around Manchester because it was the only way of keeping in touch with a friend after the social group we were in had acrimoniously cloven in two and we’d chosen opposite sides. A lot of them had assimilated this into their sets – whether because they recognised Stiltskin as one of their own or because it was easy to play I couldn’t say.

    I liked the idea of grunge but I was that bit too old for it and Nirvana apart – and some of their stuff is unlistenable – it produced few songs that really stand the test of time. That’s why I was indifferent rather than outraged by this.

  7. 37
    wheedly on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #5 The chorus of Inside is built on a similar rhythm and chord progression changes as Today by the Smashing Pumpkins (albeit in a different key), which suggests that Corgan may be telling the truth here.
    What interests me, though, in the light of that story (which I’d never herd before) is how Lawlor uses the guitars compared to Corgan. Corgan was a professed fan of British indie music and often uses a bed of guitars in a My Bloody Valentine shoegazey kind of way: as a comfort blanket. His guitars are soft. Lawlor uses them more like Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell – to be aggressive, for impact, which is one of the reasons that it sounds more like a Nirvana or Alice in Chains rip than a Pumpkins one. The latter weren’t from Seattle and never really had much in common musically with either the punky Seattle bands or the classic rock/metal-influenced ones.
    There’s way fewer of them on Inside than on Today (some songs on Siamese Dream feature over 40 guitar overdubs in different voicings, textures and frequency ranges, many of which needed to be submixed along the way to all fit on the 2x 24-track master tapes), and as a result they sound bigger, as they have more room.
    Inside is wretched, but to be fair to Lawlor he knew about the sound he was emulating and does a fair job of getting it.

  8. 38
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #37 I think I read somewhere – during my actually-more-extensive-than-usual research for this one! – that Lawlor worked as a sound effects guy before this, so that would make sense.

  9. 39
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #32. Yes, grain is definitely good. When I listen to Rod Stewart I always feel like a dirty junkie, going to a shameful, squalid place to get my fix of ‘grain’. I don’t know why I feel Rod is such a guilty pleasure, lord knows there’s lots of equally uncool music I like without such feelings of shame.

  10. 40
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #39 same here re. Rod, but with him (when he’s on form) I find that it’s the “grain” and more than keeps me coming back. Intense expression of heartfelt suffering and sincerity, and other things that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the record that this thread was instigated in response to.

  11. 41
    flahr on 10 Jan 2013 #

    re 33: actual sleeve – no Levi’s logo in sight! stiltskin were UNE PROPER BAND whose success was nothing at all to do with the advert HONEST

  12. 42
    anto on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I always think of the Pumpkins as being paralell to grunge rather than belonging to it. There was a delicacy and meticulousness about Billy Corgans work which seemed contrary to some of the heavier groups if anything. I think he’s a rather misunderstood figure in some ways. What I like about his take on rock is that some of his songs have an almost nineteenth-century preciousness about them as if he was trying to make heavy metal sound as elegant as possible.

  13. 43
    logged out knitter on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Now even the knitters are in on it:

    This year we’re doing a club based on 90′s alternative rock & grunge. Remember the 90′s? The plaid jackets and torn jeans, Kurt Cobain belting his lyrics out unintelligibly and being so great at it? Well, we want to celebrate some of the innovations from the music industry from that era through yarn. We hope you’ll join us for this ride. It’s going to be more fun than Adam Sandler at a hacky sack competition.

  14. 44
    will on 10 Jan 2013 #

    ‘Ring out in a bruised postcard/ in a shooting yard’? A ‘ganga sky’? My God, those lyrics are priceless! Inside is even more like the Fast Show parody of grunge I always thought it was.

  15. 45
    wichita lineman on 10 Jan 2013 #

    All I have to add is that the source of the riff/hook always seemed to me to be the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Hey Joe, a record Lawlor and Wilson were probably more familiar with than any chunk of grunge.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQf4hzKpF1c

    2 mins 3 seconds in – played by Noel Redding (I presume) rather than Hendrix. Or possibly both.

    Having never heard Smashing Pumpkins’ Today until five minutes ago, I’d say it sounds far too light and major key to be the inspiration for Inside.

    Gosh, what a good thread.

  16. 46
    fivelongdays on 10 Jan 2013 #

    The Pumpkins were a Chicago band whose main songwriter was as (openly) influenced by Classic Rock as he was with anything the US punk scene threw up which, for me, made them odd bedfellows for the likes of Nirvana/Mudhoney et al.

    The relationship between the lovely pretentious Corgan and Cobain/Vedder/et al was, I believe, always somewhat strained.

  17. 47
    Izzy on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Fabulous article, Tom, and a great set of comments too.

    #5 and #39: the impact of this track and its advert in my circles (meaning school and NME I guess) was electrifying. Smashing Pumpkins were definitely the reference point for it, and I remember massive excitement that they had come back and come up with something brilliant. I was tired of grunge by then – I’d been playing it with my band all year – and I suppose sick at what Kurt did, and never got beyond admiration at the riff. Of course it only took one look at the band, or one breath of the vocal, for the excitement to dissipate, though I remember it taking a few weeks for the less hip kids to catch on.

    #14: yes, Senna’s death was the really devastating one. It took a day or two for the Kurt news to wash around provincial Britain – preInternet seems like a different era, somehow – meaning you got the news through rumour, or comment, or osmosis. It was like the creeping onset of dread, with Senna as the devastating payoff. The more so because it didn’t make sense, whereas Kurt’s was full of adolescent meaning. Anyway, a horrible month (I feel like there may have been others too); it felt like being knocked down once, then again, by the horror; being worse for knowing by then what it was.

  18. 48
    Cumbrian on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #47: I could probably go on for hours about Senna. He’s one of the few sports stars I can think of, in my lifetime anyway, who you had to watch because he was capable of something heart stopping at any given moment (I’d put Usain Bolt in this bracket for what it’s worth).

    The worst thing, amongst several close competitors, about Senna’s death is that, unlike Cobain’s – which as you say took a little bit of time to spread – was the immediacy of it all. Those races are broadcast round the world. Once he hit the wall and the doctors got there, you knew that here was big trouble – his death basically played out live on TV and a large number of people watched it. I think I’m right in saying that they’d declared him dead even before the (restarted) race had finished (and if not, it was announced a matter of minutes afterwards).

    It capped a bloody awful weekend. Rubens Barrichello nearly died earlier in the weekend – he was right at the start of his career at that point. Then Roland Ratzenberger died in practice (one of the few great things Max Mosely ever did was skip Senna’s funeral – held on the same day as Ratzenberger’s – to go to the Austrian’s funeral instead, on the grounds that everyone would be at Senna’s funeral; someone needed to pay respects to the other guy) and, some of us said, well they’re both inexperienced. How unsafe can it be? And then Senna swept that line of thought clear away.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that, even though I knew what was coming in that documentary, I wept seeing it all again. Fabulous film though – would recommend even to those with no interest in motor sport.

  19. 49
    Izzy on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I’ve got the documentary but I haven’t yet dared watch it. I did make myself watch footage of the crash and aftermath on youtube once, with the sound off, but I’ve no appetite for it. I wasn’t watching on the day, though it was on elsewhere in the house and I was aware of it unfolding, but I couldn’t bring myself to go and see – it was all too horrible, a nightmare really happening.

  20. 50
    wheedly on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #46 Strained between Cobain and Corgan because Corgan was Courtney Love’s ex, and she’d been said some flattering things about his, er, prowess in the press.
    As for relations between Corgan and everyone else, Corgan’s been more than a little bratty at certain points and is the kind of person who doesn’t know when to shut up and so has managed to offend just about all his peers at one point or another.
    That said, I remember him praising Vedder and co. for their stand against Ticketmaster in the late ’90s.

  21. 51
    thefatgit on 10 Jan 2013 #

    The Senna film is hugely affecting. I watched the events unfold on TV like many others, as Ayrton came to grief at Tamburello, what made it more tragic was of course, Tamburello had claimed Roland Ratzenberger that same weekend. It also brought to mind the death of Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder in 1982. Gilles’ death was perhaps the most shocking I have ever witnessed. A rear-end collision with Jochen Mass catapulted Villeneuve’s Ferrari into the air before nosediving into the ashphalt. The car disintegrated with the main body of the car including the cockpit tumbling in a sickening somersault which launched its driver into the catch-fencing at the edge of Terlamenbocht corner. The force of the impact had caused his helmet to fly off.

    After all the death, finally safety became paramount in the sport and Senna still remains F1’s most recent fatality.

  22. 52
    speedwell54 on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Who’d have thought such a thread for this. Though Nirvana are the “go to” grunge group I think this single is right up there as a “go to” track. I know “Ray” doesn’t sound particularly Scandinavian, but he looked a bit that way, and the lyric sounds like it might have been farmed from a dictionary. I can understand the confusion about their origin up thread somewhere. Good spot about Hey Joe.

    Do Wah Diddy Diddy, TheTwelfth of Never, World In Motion, Inside, Bunny- connection?

  23. 53
    ciaran on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I don’t mind this track too much but oddly I’d agree with the 3 mark.the length of the piece and criticism by Tom had me preparing for a Belfast child ‘1’.

    a decent riff but appalling lyrics. The relevance to Kurt cobains death is a little bit unfair.surely it was being put together before the day in question.

    inside to me always had more of a classic rock feel to it than Seattle leanings although I’d base that on it appearing on the best rock anthems in the world ever released around that time. (sharing CD space with queen, Boston, huey Lewis et al-more in line with that than pearl jam, soundgarden and Alice in chains)

    it has had more life as a sports anthem than anything.thing I remember inside for is the chorus being sung by a tartan painted child on a sky sports Scottish football highlights show in the mid to late 90s.(might leave the football references alone for now.gonna be plenty of heated discussion related to the beautiful game coming on here very soon.

    this has been a very bleak run of number ones. great discussion on here though it must be said.

  24. 54
    Billy Hicks on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Well, for possibly the only time in the 1990s, chalk me stumped.

    No contemporary memories – it’s not one to appeal to the five year old PJ & Duncan fan I was – and even having listened to it recently nothing sticks in the mind for me to remember. Give me any pop or dance track of the decade and I’ll go on about it forever – and indeed a fair few of the Britpop classics too – but this? The only other song I can name you classified as ‘grunge’ is Smells Like Teen Spirit.

    Never in my Popular lifetime have we come across something so completely opposite to my tastes before, and rarely will we again – as of January 2013 anyway. If I could describe ‘Inside’ as anything it’s four and a half minutes of guitar feedback with someone shouting over the top.

    Come back Take That, all is forgiven!

  25. 55
    fivelongdays on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I suppose this is as good a point as any* to mention that my two favourite albums EVER were released by British rock bands in 1994, and therefore tip my hat to the Manic Street Preachers (who I’ll bang on at length about when we get to them) and Therapy?, whose The Holy Bible and Troublegum hit the shelves about four months after, and one month before, this.

    The whole authenticity thing could apply to both bands – The Manics are famously ‘4Real’, whereas T? are famously jovial fellas who happen to write songs about feeling screwed up, violence, and wanking.

    Not sure what the point of this comment is, but I don’t really need an excuse to mention British rock bands of the 90s.

    *If only ‘Tequila’ had made it to number one!

  26. 56
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #52 Who’d’ve thought it indeed, Speedwell? Couple of thoughts:

    I remember hearing Robin Gibb and Barry Gibb interviewed by Johnnie Walker (broadcast Dec 31 2010), and the Gibbs explained how they began writing songs by imagining how the next record of their favourite act would sound, and trying to compose it. It sounded so sweet and brotherly. They weren’t being cynical, and I don’t think the creator of this work – following a similar process but perhaps with less affection – was either. Maybe I’d feel differently if I felt someone was getting too close to one of my favourite acts. Which brings me to point 2.

    Since this has become about Nirvana: Is it now impossible to just think Nirvana were ok – to sort of “get” them, to respect how others view them, but still only like and not love them? Consider them a bit of a curate’s egg, even, since someone uses the phrase above? For me, Lithium is utterly brilliant; SLTS, On A Plane, Heart Shaped Box not far behind. But not because those songs say Something To Me About My Life – they don’t – they just connect. And after those 4 songs – that’s enough. I could see how in 1991 Nirvana truly represented an alternative to what else was about at the time, and I bought Nevermind at a time I could barely afford albums. I was simply a bit disappointed. All that noisy noise annoys. But, still, 3 great tracks.

    PLUS! #52 – I know that one – must have takena while to identify? -I wonder if others care / know etc.

  27. 57
    Ed on 11 Jan 2013 #

    @23 On the pleasures of the “thick rough sound” of amplified guitars; it was explicit at the time that that was really the whole point of Nirvana: detoxifying traditional hard rock so that a generation that grew up with the ethics – and especially the sexual politics – of the 1980s could enjoy it. Cobain’s guitar-playing is great for that, actually: because he was never particulalrly innovative or flashy – no fiddly solos – most of the pleasure in his playing lies in the texture and weight of it. (Plus there’s Grohl, who really is one of the last great rock drummmers.)

    I remember the NME making the point to its readers in 1991, with what was probably Nirvana’s first cover. The headline: “The Guns’n’Roses it’s OK to like”.

    And – God bless the interwebs – here is that NME story: http://obitbday.tripod.com/articles/nme911.html

    It turns out to be a great piece, written by Mary Ann Hobbs. Whatever happened to her?

    All the thoughts about Nirvana that other people have been trotting out for the past two decades, right there six weeks after Nevermind came out.

  28. 58
    swanstep on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Is it now impossible to just think Nirvana were ok – to sort of “get” them, to respect how others view them, but still only like and not love them? …..For me, Lithium is utterly brilliant; SLTS, On A Plane, Heart Shaped Box not far behind. But not because those songs say Something To Me About My Life – they don’t – they just connect. And after those 4 songs – that’s enough.
    I think that’s a perfectly respectable position to have, and not just about Nirvana but about a lot of other consensus, all-time-great groups. There are plenty of people who dig the four best-known Kraftwerk songs, or the best four Guns and Roses songs or the best four Joy Division songs, but then say ‘that’s enough’ (‘all those bleeps and bloops/yelps/moans and groans just annoy’) to all the rest. There’ll always be people who’ll threaten to excommunicate you from, what?, the church of pop-culture-commentary for not having or pretending to have completely catholic tastes, but most people will be more reasonable than that.

    Anyhow, I’m really enjoying everyone’s comments (esp. #34). I hate the Stiltskin for more or less the reasons Marcello essays, but I did enjoy the ad.. It’s so very funny to see something like grungy style, as it were, pasted on to a very hunky, uber-healthy male body, when the wasted-away, smacked-up male body was quite vividly associated with the music at the time (and later in 1998-2000 I’d occasionally see Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley around the U-district in Seattle, frighteningly thin and haggard and apparently – one didn’t want to stare – missing fingers and God knows what else).

    I had a couple of tracks from Smashing Pumpkins’ latest album on my 2012 top 20 ballot. Since they’re rather unlikely to make the FT hive-mind top 10, check ’em out (they sound a lot like SP in 1994, slightly influenced by Weezer would have sounded!).

  29. 59
    Tommy Mack on 11 Jan 2013 #

    sukrat @ 32: For me, it’s often the opposite of what you say: a new texture will grab my attention, but once that texture becomes familiar, it’s only the tracks with great hooks/interesting singing/something more subtle that stand out.

    If a raw punk/garage track comes up on random play, there’s always a real buzz to hearing the crunch of the guitars leap out, especially if it comes straight after something much more polished but listen to a Ramones album all the way through and by about track 6 or 7, it’s only the catchiest/funniest songs that stand out.

    Similarly I enjoy Skrillex for his bag of silly noises but I’m not sure I’ll still be listening to him in 20 years like I (occaisionally) still listen to old-school jungle now because I’m not sure there’s much more to Skrillex than silly noises (though I haven’t really listened to him enough to say fo sho)

  30. 60
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #58 thanks Swanstep, that’s illuminating and helpful. The Kraftwerk reference delivers some home truths to me. I suppose really the “excommunication” fear is the specific fear of being frozen out from this particular forum whilst NOT being excommunicated. I could go on and on because I like your church analogy so much – but that’s what it boils down to.

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