The Bands Kurt Cobain Loved

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

Contributor
on 09.27.11 in Lists

“Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.” In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It’s because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

The Punk Influencers

In an interview in 1980, John Lydon was asked to name his favorite new bands. His answer, polemic and angry, was to call rock "dismal," with the exception of just one band: The Raincoats, an all-girl post-punk group with a very unique sound.

The Raincoats were formed when Ana da Silva and Gina Birch, two art school students from London, picked up a few secondhand instruments, bonded over Patti Smith and formed a band of their own. After a year of playing local spots, they recorded their 1979 debut for pioneering U.K. label Rough Trade. Since then, that album has gained something along the lines of cult status. Kurt Cobain famously wrote about his sheepish quest to acquire a new copy in the liner notes of Incestiside, and later used his influence to have all three of the group's records reissued by major label behemoth, Geffen.

All the praise is well-deserved: The Raincoats have been held in high regard for more than 30 years for their DIY attitude and the ability to develop a unique and radical voice out of — or, some would say, in spite of — their amateurism.

The sound on this album has no timestamp — it's punk, folk-punk or post-punk, sure, but it's also none of the above. The recording of this album included the group's four original members: Birch on vocals/bass, Da Silva on vocals/guitar, Vicky Aspinall on violin and Palmolive, former member of the Slits, on drums. Thanks largely to Palmolive, Raincoats is a very rhythmic affair, especially on "Fairytale in The Supermarket" and "Black and White," where each of Birch's and Da Silva's vocal howls is complimented by either a pound of the bass or a snare roll. Aspinall provides a violin sound way out of the comfort zone of her classical training, mixing it with Da Silva's clean guitar riffs. On "No Side to Fall In," the violin is more like a fiddle, playing somewhere between country and folk.

Although the whole album is a classic, standouts "In Love" and "Fairytale in The Supermarket" are practically required listening. Raincoats remains as it was when it was first released: effortlessly intimate and creative.

Nevermind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols

Despite the various members' attempts to tarnish its memory with everything from half-assed reunion tours, professions of love for American AOR bands and appearances in commercials for British butter companies, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols continues to conjure the heady days of a genre-defining zeitgeist that was sonically corrosive and improbably influential. While the Sex Pistols' role in the cultural landscape that was late '70s Britain under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been well documented (especially in director Julien Temple's documentary, The Filth and the Fury), the band's only true long-form musical document still remains resonant three decades after its release.

Remember how the Rolling Stones and the Beatles began their careers revamping American R&B and reselling it to the colonies over here? The Sex Pistols' aural synergy was derived from such American antecedents as '50s-styled gutter glam (cf. New York Dolls, the outfit that Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren represented for a brief time); the stripped-down musicianship of the New York scene (cf. the Ramones); and crass controversy (cf. Alice Cooper), all imbued with the subtlety of a caged wolverine being poked with a stick. Armed with limited singing ability and caustic lyrics, John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon articulated fearless contempt as the rest of the band — guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock (who would be replaced by John "Sid Vicious" Beverley) — shored him up with a rock noise that was cocky, rough-hewn, and at times shambolic.

By virtue of being uncompromising in its attack (sonically, lyrically), "God Save The Queen" might be the most effective protest song ever written about inefficient governments. "Bodies," the harrowing song centered around a girl who had an abortion is still chilling years later, with Rotten dropping such quaint bon mots as "bloody fucking mess" and "I'm not an animal," while the band churns urgently behind him. Equal parts timeless and time-lapsed, Never Mind The Bollocks remains a blueprint for disenfranchised rockers whose heart and souls identify more with Johnny Thunders and the protagonist character Howard Beale from the 1976 film Network ("I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!") than whoever is playing the Quaker Oats stage at this summer's Warped Tour.

Listeners over the age of 40 like to mewl about the dearth of "real punk rock," decades after the Pistols' heyday. Listen to Bollocks now, and you'll clearly witness how prescient (accidentally or otherwise) the band were when it came to their own demise. Consider "Seventeen" with its "I'm a lazy sod" refrain; the "we don't care" nihilist battle cry of "Pretty Vacant"; and the entirety of "No Feelings" ("For nobody else, except for myself"). Factor in how culture has turned on itself with the internet delivering everything at your fingertips — if you only knew what you actually wanted — and voila! Welcome to the entitlement generation! Of course, said gen's parents probably weren't hip to the Pistols' burn-the-village m.o., choosing to replace their mangled copies of Eagles Greatest Hits instead. (Bollocks was certified gold in America a decade after its release.) But you don't need a barge of unsold copies of Good Charlotte's last record dumped on your front porch to remind you that history belongs to those who dare.

After three lead singers, Black Flag leader Greg Ginn had finally found his ideal mouthpiece in Henry Rollins, a troubled D.C. teen who barked like Popeye's drill sergeant. The new lineup banged out Damaged, one of hardcore's first albums and an all-time punk classic. All exultant rage and self-lacerating angst, this savage, apopletic screed is so completely overwhelming that it's hard to imagine ever listening to anything else. The caustic bass shreds the very air, the drums slap like a back-alley beat-down, and Ginn's guitar, a nasty, reckless roar of speed and distortion (check "Depression"), tests the limits of musicality; Rollins rampages through the chaos with a heart full of napalm. "Rise Above" is the definitive hardcore anthem, but most songs are first-person portraits of confused, desperate characters just about to explode; paradoxically, that's when Damaged is at its most triumphal. When Rollins howls "I want to live!/ I wish I was dead!" there's nothing more life-affirming.

The Northwest Peers

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

The beat music that longs for the '60s before drugs, and love before wisdom, is nonetheless radical — for their amped-up second album, Beat Happening take the Replacements 'line about music having too many notes literally. The absence of bass ingeniously emphasizes a powerful floor tom while the guitar distortion clears the head for straight talk and suggestive nonsense. Calvin's voice looms like a rockabilly ghoul, while Heather's skips rope. His "Indian Summer" became the oft-covered classic, but her "In Between" was the key song — a kind of bed-bouncing, punk rock house music for the subconscious. Only Public Enemy presented as great a challenge in 1988, or stands up so well.

CD Version of the First Two Records

Bikini Kill

Over The Edge

Wipers

The Indie Standard-Bearers

The short-lived, hormone-crazed Edinburgh indie-pop band the Vaselines are mostly famous by association: Kurt Cobain loved them so much that Nirvana covered three of their songs. Kurt had excellent taste. The first disc of this retrospective compiles their complete studio recordings — two hilariously catchy, horny EPs and the gnarlier (and probably even catchier) Dum-Dum album, all of them as casual as a drunken one-night stand. Francis McKee and Eugene Kelly sing like they're trying to get through their repertoire as briskly as possible so they can get back to the bedroom (exception: their cover of Divine's "You Think You're a Man," where the joke is that it goes on five times as long as it has to); their songs are trivial, waiflike, only barely there, except for the fact that they're usually hilarious and impossible to forget. The second disc — demos and live material — is strictly for fanatics, but the first disc doesn't make it hard to become one of those.

712

Shonen Knife

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

The Guilty Pleasures

Radio Hits Of the \'70s

Various

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

Get The Knack

The Knack

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

Boston

Boston

Rocks

Aerosmith

The Best Of The Cowsills

Cowsills

A Kind Of Hush

The Carpenters

The Classics

Past Lives

Black Sabbath

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

"Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath." In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy — especially at the time — was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It's because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.

(Sources cited: Come As You Are by Michael Azerrad; Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross; Journals by Kurt Cobain)

Led Zeppelin III

Led Zeppelin

Bayou Country

Creedence Clearwater Revival

White Light / White Heat

The Velvet Underground

Billion Dollar Babies

Alice Cooper