In 1991, I was living in a one-man bachelor pad in Cricklewood, London. I was a staff writer for the U.K. music paper Melody Maker. During any given week, I would either be drunk in America, drunk on a plane to America or writing up my experiences, drunk in America.
I’d been at Melody Maker for a couple of years, and already had one notable story to my credit. It was my two-part cover article on Seattle label Sub Pop Records in February 1989 that was credited with breaking “grunge” – Nirvana, Tad, Mudhoney, Soundgarden – to the world. (I remain unconvinced. Wouldn’t I be, like, a multi-millionaire if that was the case, instead of a student struggling to support three kids and a wife on a research grant?)
At the start of the ’90s, I was closely associated with music coming from the Pacific Northwest of America, be it grunge (Seattle) or Riot Grrrl and the International Pop Underground (Olympia), and wrote countless articles around it. One such article was a review of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that appeared in i>Melody Maker, Nov. 9, 1991, a couple of weeks before its official U.K. release date.
I thought it might be interesting to go back through this review, and pick it apart in an attempt to explain what was going through my head as I wrote it. First, we’ll have the review and then, the breakdown.
“Pull up a chair, there won’t be a warmer sound for years,” I wrote in Melody Maker. “Heck, I know this is a week early and everything, but I couldn’t resist. I rushed out and bought this on import like it was the very first time.
“The part I like best for tonight occurs third time through when Kurt sings, ‘I found it hard/ So hard to find/ Oh well/ Whatever…never mind’ and nearly gives up, sounding all bruised and little-boy hurt, like a favourite toy truck battered and chipped, hidden ‘neath your brother’s bed. He’s this close to chucking it all in, but then the inexhaustible chorus breaks through, the bravado guitars rush in, and you start wondering if the world’s turned mad, that people like Axl Rose and Perry Farrell and Motley Crüe can dig something as poppy, as puritanical, as passionate as this. The metal world must be yearning for credibility real bad if they’re willing to embrace such avowed anti-rockers.
“Single of the year, in case you were wondering how to fill in those Readers’ Polls.”
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