Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Come as You Are" (1992)

47. Nirvana, "Come as You Are" (April 18, 1992, #32)

Yeah, yeah, R.I.P., Kurt Cobain, 1967-1994. Get that out of the way. No, this is not the song that tore down the wall and liberated a generation. That was "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which you can remember by its vastly more iconic title. But I think that this, the second go at the top 40 and also from the Nevermind album, is probably the better song. It has the gloomy moodiness Cobain is famous for, much of it compressed into the canny, lilting melody he has concocted, which enables just the bass and a simple drum pattern and his voice to carry a lot of it, certainly all the way to the chorus, where things are suitably filled out with escalating tensions and big guitar chords and hard hit drums and so forth. What is he going on about? Something about a gun? Memory? "Memoria"? There are many syllables in the verses, almost chanted—"Come As you are As you were As I want you to be As a friend As a friend As on old enemy"—but it's also kind of hard to make out the words as he's singing. It is the point with so many Nirvana songs, the voice straining against the notes straining against the words and the tension obscured and resulting frisson, followed by release. This is one of the finest they ever did. It just soars, floats off like a hot-air balloon and twirls in kodachrome daylight, and it's so beautiful for a moment it's almost overwhelming. It was fun watching that horse get out of the barn, but gosh dang, the songs were always there too, and there are now far too few of them. If I may register that tiny and perhaps insensitive note of complaint on the matter.

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