Countless bands have been saddled with Nirvana comparisons since "Smells Like Teen Spirit" took over MTV, but it’s usually a losing proposition (even for the successful ones like Bush). But narrow the focus down to Nirvana’s low-budget 1989 debut, and then you might actually have an attainable baseline. Because while there will never be another Nirvana, there very well could be another Bleach.
Recently, a cluster of newer acts have hit that mark, whether purposely or not, inviting comparisons to the album’s Melvins-inspired sludge punk and twisted metal melodies. We’ve rounded up eight emerging bands that have all drawn comparisons to Bleach, whether in online pieces, label press releases or discussions of influences. This isn’t exactly a trend, but it is a testament to the broad and enduring influence of Nirvana, even on their least celebrated album. Check out our picks for Negative Creeps below:
These Irish noisemakers were hit with Bleach mentions early on, achieving the scrapes and dead-eyed stare of "Paper Cuts" piled on top of relentless, thrashing grooves in the vein of "School." But it turns out Bleach is their least favorite Nirvana album, and Girl Band's recent output has correspondingly favored a dissonant post-punk template.
Most Bleached Song: "You're A Dog," which features all kinds of murk, mumbled lyrics and mind-rotting feedback.
They're a power trio signed to Sub Pop and hailing from Olympia, Wash., but even without the surface similarities, Strange Wilds would have a tough time avoiding Bleach parallels. The guttural riffs, furious basement drums and warbling bass lines recall Seattle’s proto-grunge landscape, and when that all coalesces for a shrieked, overdriven chorus, the Nirvana factor cannot be ignored.
Most Bleached Song: "Standing," which takes the noodly strut of "Love Buzz" and throws in some bile.
Here’s another Sub Pop band channeling ghosts of grunge past. Take Bleach's most manic moments, throw them in a blender with razor wire and that’s what Metz’s self-titled debut sounded like, totally eschewing the "quiet" part of Nirvana’s quiet/loud interplay. Album two should build on that in May 2015.
Most Bleached Song: "Rats," which takes all the propulsion of "Negative Creep" or "Downer" and compresses it into a merciless blast of fuzz.
With songs like "Floyd the Barber" and "Swap Meet," Bleach had some darkly funny moments. Likewise, this British band manages to bring a cheeky surf rock sensibility to their goth-tinged fury. The former Metz tourmates may not be grunge, but like Kurt Cobain, the Wytches take something sugary and make it sound absolutely gnarled.
Most Bleached Song: "Gravedweller," a twangier and angrier "Love Buzz."
God Damn are one of several bands on this list zeroing in on Seattle from across the Atlantic, but one of the few that surpass Bleach in terms of heaviness — no small feat since it was Nirvana’s heaviest effort. The duo’s muddy, muscular assaults blur the line between alt and metal much like Alice in Chains once did, and Thom Edward's scream does Kurt proud.
Most Bleached Song: "Dangle Like Skeletons," which starts as a dreary ballad but builds into an epic dirge, like a lost Bleach version of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night."
Gloomy Toronto band HSY bury melodies under such a maelstrom that it almost seems they're ashamed of them. Their entire self-titled EP recalls Nirvana’s debut, and that early Seattle scene more generally, because of its commingling of dissonance, tunefulness, and hugeness.
Most Bleached Song: "Waffles," or as it could also be known, "Mr. Moustache Scoffs."
Pulling the Bleach card on Purling Hiss is a stretch, but seeing as how somebody already did it, we can rationalize the decision. At the very least, Mike Polizze’s project echoes the melodic simplicity underpinning Bleach's scuzz and sludge. But if anything, their ramshackle sound has more in common with Cobain at his most DIY.
Most Bleached Song: "Lolita," which skews closer to "About A Girl" than anything else on this list.
While they're by no means a new band, Torche achieved a new level of notoriety following 2012’s excellent Harmonicraft, in which they perfected their strange blend of power pop hooks and subterranean heaviness. As Rolling Stone noted, they’re the latest keepers of a doom pop tradition that began with Nirvana’s very first LP track, "Blew."
Most Bleached Song: "In Pieces," which builds on the slow grind of "Sifting" with a low end that plummets to the Earth's core.