“Smells Like Teen Spirit” In A Different Key Proves Nirvana Could Have Been A Mega Pop Band
Nirvana. It’s probably pretty bloody fair to say we all know the story. It’s probably even fairer to say they weren’t exactly known for their chipper and cheerful pop songs. Well, a horrifying remix of seminal track Smells Like Teen Spirit imagines what they’d sound like if they took more of a Weezer or Ash approach to song writing.
Look, I’m not going to pretend I haven’t heard a fourteen year old kid say, “Old music is gay. My Dad listens to this song that just says ‘rape me’ over and over again. How shit’s that?” in my recent lifetime.
Apart from fighting every urge in my body to slap the kid across the head and tell him to take it back, I was forced to realise that some people live under rocks. If you, for some bizarre reason, have never heard of Nirvana, here’s the lowdown. They’re awesome. They ended tragically. Their music is part of rock n roll folklore.
As mentioned above, they weren’t known for writing jangly pop songs. Instead, they were better known for their dark and often heavy pop songs, and even that’s got more to do with their record labels than their members. One belief is that at one point the label even reproduced an album to keep it in the mainstream and avoid the sound Kurt Cobain wanted as it would have alienated casual fans (and record sales).
Cobain, as far as rumours go, hated the publicity and wanted the band to be seen as an underground favourite like The Melvins, the Meat Puppets or Mudhoney. Perhaps he should have called his band Mirvana…
Anyway, there are different theories about the band’s sound – some saying Kurt knew what he was doing, some saying he just lucked into success. Doesn’t really matter. Why we’re here is this rejigged version of their best-known song.
Smells Like Teen Spirit is literally seminal. Written after Kurt saw some graffiti his wife Courtney Love had written on his wall which read, Kurt smells like teen spirit, it was easily the band’s biggest hit. Despite its simplicity it brings fans from all genres together to say, ‘yep, that’s a f***ing tune!’
I don’t know how I feel about this new version. At first I thought oh, that’s interesting, but now I’m not so sure it should have been done – hell, I’m a traditionalist, what can I say?
Anyway, have a listen to the original, enjoy the hell out of it and then compare with the new remix – with its change of key (something my musical fiancée explained to me but I still don’t really get).
For me, what this version shows is that Nirvana was different to the pack. They could easily have fit in with the radio bands of their era like Everclear or Fuel but they always had that darker, edgier sound exemplified by their albums as a whole.
Do yourself a favour, get some of their albums and play them in their entirety. That’s how they should be listened to.