Nirvana first appeared on my radar with Smells Like Teen Spirit from the incredibly successful Nevermind album. Nevermind is exceptional but while I continued to follow Nirvana in the Grohl era, I somehow missed their debut album "Bleach".
Interestingly, "Bleach" reportedly only cost $600 to make. Remember, this was in a period before prosumer tools were available to the masses at an affordable price. As I listen to "Bleach”, it is difficult to fathom this limited budget when compared directly to the quality of the album. Part of my reasoning for undertaking this review is I noticed a vinyl reissue was available and as I have never heard the album in its entirety, I wanted to give it a go and see if it would be a worthy addition to my Nirvana collection. While this review is based on the Deluxe Edition, the vinyl re-issues are available in both standard and deluxe editions.
Blew has a killer bass intro. I absolutely love the bass guitar and it is featured prominently throughout the entire song. Blew is an exceptional song that highlights the musical skill and sonic adventure Nirvana was capable of taking us on.
Floyd The Barber has an intense beat and rhythm that is extremely addictive. You'll excuse me if I don’t write more, my body is subconsciously convulsing to the beat. Exceptional!
About A Girl is a mellower song, but one I absolutely adore. I have surprisingly heard About A Girl numerous times and it is easily one of Nirvana's greatest recordings.
School has a killer guitar riff and beat. While I thoroughly enjoy this song, I find the lyrics to be a little mundane. However, the musicality is off the charts.
Love Buzz is GROOVY! Novoselic's bass work is pure perfection.
Paper Cuts is a B-side, but worthy of inclusion. However, I feel it is a little mismatched with the rest of the album as it sounds as though it was still in the demo phase at the time of recording.
Negative Creep is an all-time favourite of mine. I can't remember when I first heard it but I was always impressed with the hard hitting soundstage. Numerous songs of this nature can be musically crowded and end up sounding horrible, that is absolutely not the case here as there is plenty of air between the instrumental and vocal elements.
Scoff has an incredible drum and bass beat foundation. It doesn't get much better than this!
Swap Meet is another song that sounds like a demo. It isn't bad, just not fully realised in my opinion. That said, I really dig the rhythm.
Mr. Moustache has an incredible rhythm, but I dislike the lyrical delivery as it sounds disjointed to the musicality of the song.
Sifting has an impressively deep and dynamic drum beat. It is raw and is one song off "Bleach" that I feel is most transparent to the actual sound captured in the studio. It is an excellent song and while it is on the B-side of the album, it is anything but.
Big Cheese has a killer intro and overall composition.
Downer is the final track before the live recordings enter the mix. As the final studio recording, it is a B-side but, it ensures I remain interested in listening to the core album again, as well as continuing onto the live recordings captured at the Pine Street Theatre in 1990.
Intro (Live) should have been left off the album as the high-pitched distortion really takes you away from the musicality of the album.
School (Live) isn’t a bad performance. The correlation between the live and studio recording show a band that is well tuned to their unique sound and is confident with their abilities.
Floyd the Barber (Live) is full of energy and attitude, I love it!
Dive (Live) is a little rough around the edges, but the rhythm is there; as is Cobain's guttural lyrical style.
Love Buzz (Live) is, as mentioned earlier, Groovy! However, I must be honest and say I much prefer the studio recording of this song.
Spank Thru (Live) is another groove-filled track that didn’t make it to the studio album. It’s not bad, but I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t recorded and released on the core “Bleach” album.
Molly's Lips (Live) is a great cover song.
Sappy (Live) is an excellent live performance and worthy of inclusion.
Scoff (Live) is exceptional and reminds me just how good the studio recording is.
About A Girl (Live) is a sonically beautiful performance. Without a doubt, these live tracks are worth the extra investment.
Been A Son (Live) is a great live track. It has a wonderful rhythm and I feel it would have worked well as a studio recording for “Bleach”.
Blew (Live) brings us full circle in what can only be described as an incredible sonic journey.
The cover art is exceptional and I will be picking up the Deluxe Edition on vinyl when I get a chance. I will be sure to write a follow-up review detailing my thoughts on the vinyl pressing compared to that of the TIDAL Masters/MQA 24/96 kHz edition. Sonically, the TIDAL Masters/MQA edition was spot on with an excellent soundstage, dynamic range, and transparency to how I believe the original master recording would have sounded. Yes, I could happily live with the TIDAL Masters/MQA edition of "Bleach", but I would still like to have a complete physical collection of Nirvana's catalogue.
The Deluxe Edition of "Bleach" is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes). If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.