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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 013

Match 013:

Alice In Chains "Brother" (1992)
Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)
Pearl Jam "Animal" (1992)
Soundgarden "Beyond The Wheel" (1988)

"Brother" yields to us the first guest appearance on any of these songs, as Ann Wilson of Heart does backing vocals.  (Heart are not just an influence of Jerry Cantrell but a Seattle band themselves.)  The song is a laid back acoustic head-nodder with a few tricks up its sleeve: the drums do little more than keep the groove, but are mixed in such a way that they give the song guts and the choruses have belt-along power that creeps in thanks in no small part to Mz. Wilson.  Even though only two years had gone by since "Facelift", it's not readily apparent that this is the same band.

Well, here we are now.  (Entertain us.)  This is by far the most popular, ubiquitous, inescapable song in the entire list: "Smells Like Teen Spirit".  How in the hell do you listen to something like this objectively after being bombarded with it for 25 years?  Hell, "Nevermind" was the first album I ever bought back in 1992, and it was in no small part due to this song.  Which I never.  Need.  To hear.  AGAIN.  It's the reason songs with quiet verses and loud chorused became a thing.  Think about that.  Songs like that existed before, but after this?  They were all jocking "Teen Spirit".

But the idea is to compare it to the songs at hand as fairly as possible; to try and shed the baggage or pre-conceived notions and judge it on its merits.  The guitar parts are more shrill than I remember them being, especially during the pre-chorus.  "Smells Like Teen Spirit" definitely escapes the box that Kurt Cobain said Sup Pop Records was forcing them into while writing "Bleach".  It feels like it has a purpose in spite of the cryptic, seemingly dadaist lyrics.  It's trying to kick in a door; it's trying to get at something, and maybe the inarticulation of the lyrics is an illustration of how his generation is trying to say so much at once that they wind up not saying much at all.

Whoa.  Did I just go full-on Rolling Stone?  Fuck me.

Anyway, the song is catchy, rocks enough I guess and makes you bob your head.  I really can't get back to what I loved about it as a ten year old because I'm just not that kid anymore.  It's one of those songs I've heard so many times that I can never a) Take it seriously again and b) Can't sit through it without either changing the channel in boredom or cringing a bit.  All in all it's a well put together song, so it has that going for it.

"Animal" on the other hand is a song that I'll still crank whenever I hear it on the radio.  It still gets me amped and still sounds like what a real rock song should sound like.  It has guts, it has fire, it has wild-ass guitar leads, the drums mean business and Eddie Vedder sounds like he's losing his mind.  Great stuff.

"Beyond The Wheel" is a bit of a drone for the first quarter, but then Chris Cornell comes in and peels the fucking paint off your walls with his voice.  But after the song gets your attention, it kinda just...spins its wheels.  (Boo!)  Really, it doesn't go anywhere else.  It had one kinda cool riff with a bit of a vamp in an odd time signature but after the second go-around, you kinda feel like there could have been more to this as the third verse (fourth, actually; the first was so droney and forgettable you've already forgotten it by this point) does the same thing but with less intense vocals.  It's alright, but still not quite on the level of the other three songs.  "Badmotorfinger" can't get here soon enough.

"Animal": 4
"Brother": 3
"Smells Like Teen Spirit": 2
"Beyond The Wheel": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 47
Alice In Chains: 35
Nirvana: 27
Soundgarden: 21

Match 014 tomorrow!

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