10 Acts That Owe Nirvana a Round
Pretty much every band whose members were born in the ‘80s and attended high school in the ’90s were affected by Nirvana. As rock historians commonly note, Nirvana put a cap on the “hair metal” era of Poison, Def Leppard and Warrant, and in doing so, they ushered in a new generation of rock bands rooted in punk, metal, glam and folk. Critics called it grunge, and it was good. Twenty years later, the crunchy sound Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic helped create is one again back in vogue. As such, this list of 10 Acts That Owe Nirvana a Round could easily be about 10,000 bands longer. Here’s hoping Dave and Krist are thirsty…
Formed in the late '00s, Yuck are an example of a band that was way too young in the sweet-spot of the '90s to have really appreciated the alt-rock movement. They probably absorbed the great music of that era after they were old enough to learn guitar, and it's amazing to hear how expertly these whippersnappers picked up on the sounds of Pavement and Nirvana. Now that frontman Daniel Blumberg has left the group, it'll be interesting to see whether they flounder or experience a Foo Fighters-like rebirth.
Sub Pop, the record label that famously launched Nirvana, also inked this Portland, Ore., post-punk band, which has taken the art of breakneck guitars and learned lyrics to new heights in the past decade. Also, they're a trio, though we suggest you grab their 2006 opus ‘The Body, the Blood, the Machine’ to see why they really made this list. We’re gonna go listen to it again right now.
Lead Tick John McCauley makes no bones about his obsession with Nirvana. In fact, we recently had a chance to ask him about his favorite band at the 2013 Mountain Jam festival, where he and the boys covered 'Breed.' They've tackled lots of other Nirvana tunes as the tribute act Deervana, whose awesome videos are all over YouTube. One of the less grainy ones is below.
You can’t leave Foo Fighters off a list like this -- just like you can’t leave off Hole (see below). True, Dave Grohl was a member of Nirvana, but rather than disqualify him, that puts him in a unique position. His legacy with the band centers on his hard-hitting drums and high-harmony background vocals -- plus the B-side ‘Marigold,' his lone songwriting contribution -- but in his subsequent vocal and guitar work, you can hear Cobain’s influence echoing through. It’s as if Grohl’s taken up the torch -- but taped some really loud firecrackers to it.
We can't forget Ben Kweller, because when this fresh-faced rocker rocks hard -- which he does on most of his records, at least once or twice -- his guitars echo down the Nirvana wing of the House of Chords, which is like the House of Lords, only way cooler.
The So So Glos
One of Brooklyn’s latest and greatest arrivals to the punky post-'90s party, this band rocketed onto the public radar with this year's ‘Blowout,’ an album whose very first number begins with a little kid talking about Kurt Cobain committing suicide. Although the So So Glos skew closer to the punk rock sound of the Germs -- whose guitarist Pat Smear often sat in with Nirvana -- stuff like this would seem passe these days had grunge never happened.
It all started with a t-shirt. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was known to wear a shirt promoting Daniel Johnston's ‘Hi, How Are You' album, and given his star power at the time, people started discovering the enigmatic Johnston, whose childlike songs tip toward greatness. If you haven’t seen the heart-wrenching documentary ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston,’ do yourself a favor and check it out. It’ll probably make you cry, but you’ll feel better afterward.
Kurt was never shy about praising the Pixies, and we've called out Nirvana for half-swiping their ‘U-Mass’ riff for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ The Pixies disbanded in 1993, in the middle of Nirvanamania, and have since re-formed a few times (including this year). Their staying power is at least partially due to young folks discovering the band through their Nirvana worship -- not the other way around. Given that the chain of influence runs both ways here, we suggest Frank Black and Dave Grohl simply meet at a bar and go whiskey for whiskey.
Well, hidey-frickin’-ho, you say -- Courtney Love's band has made the list. Well, it makes sense, doesn't it? Some would argue that the Queen of Sleaze owes her entire career to Kurt Cobain, and conspiracy theorists even suggest she was behind his death. We won't go that far, but we hear in Hole's best tunes more than a little Kurt. Let's just leave it at that.
The Bad Plus
If you're new to the Bad Plus, we’d suggest starting with their first record, ‘These Are the Vistas,’ and moving on from there. Technically, they belong in the jazz section of the Virgin Megastore in your mind, but the trio -- piano, upright bass, drums -- has made it part of their schtick to "cover" widely known rock songs like the Pixies' ‘Velouria’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,' which shows up on that aforementioned debut. We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest half their fan base found them via that Nirvana hat-tip.