Various Artists

Smells Like Bleach: A Punk Tribute to Nirvana

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It's appropriate that the first ever Nirvana tribute album was recorded by a collection of punk bands whose combined record sales probably don't equal that of In Utero. After all, Nirvana's influences were largely D.I.Y., and the band always seemed to have a great deal more in common with Flipper than Pearl Jam. Smells Like Bleach succeeds in putting a straight-ahead punk spin on Nirvana's often more deliberate style of hardcore. Although, this album is not simply a Nirvana mix played in double time (even though most of the solos are sped up and improvised on) as one might expect. Songs like "Negative Creep" and "Scentless Apprentice" are actually played more slowly than the originals. Highlights are the hits "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which takes an instant turn from Boston to Green Day via Blanks 77 and immediately has you expecting a "Let's Go!" instead of an emotive silence, and "All Apologies," which is taken from near ballad in its original form to metal-punk ditty courtesy of DOA. Vice Squad's "Lithium," save for an interesting little percussion tweak, I.C.U's "Dive," and Dr. Know's "Aneurysm" all have the energy of great Nirvana tunes but don't stray a great mile from the original versions and in turn sound like well-intentioned but nonetheless redundant covers in the place of uncommon tributes. Even though Smells Like Bleach is not great, there is something very Nirvana about it. None of the songs are slickly produced, the pop-punkified "On a Plain" is mistakenly labeled "Serve the Servants" (which does not appear on the album), the beautiful tribute mission statement written by Dave Thompson comes from the mind of a moved fan -- not a drama-starved music journalist, and there is not a word scribed about any of the admiring bands, undoubtedly because "It's not about them." That's just the sort of process Nirvana would go through in making an album: screw it up, write it well, screw it up some more, and don't take any credit for it. The record makes you realize that part of the genius of Nirvana was that it was able to take the energy of punk, but slow it down so that the rest of society could catch up to it. Fanatics, however, are best served to take Smells Like Bleach for what it's worth and not view this as a butchering to the band's legacy, but rather an exhibit of appreciation for it in true punk style, with an unpolished beauty.

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