No Recess: The Heaviest Nirvana Mixtape

PopMatters takes to the deck to bring you the heaviest Nirvana mixtape. Titled No Recess, this compilation pulls the most visceral and raucous songs from Nirvana's lauded discography and arranges them into a sequence that makes complete head-banging sense.

The "definitive" word on Nirvana has been written ad nauseam ever since Kurt Cobain ended his own life in harrowing style. We've been inundated with countless books (even Cobain's personal diaries have been pillaged); been sold every out-of-tune song that Nirvana ever recorded as a demo; force-fed every non-essential fact surrounding this important band and every crackpot conspiracy relating to Cobain's death to demystifying effect. But Cobain's personal struggles and reluctant stardom as well as Nirvana's impact on a generation and pop-culture in general aside, it all comes back to the music -- which is ultimately what we are left with.

Detailed discussions -- and heated arguments -- have also taken place over the years as to the bands that inspired Cobain and eventually led to Nirvana's commercial and critical success. We've heard about the Beatles until we were blue in the face; an obvious comparison, especially when you listen to songs like "About a Girl", "Dumb" and "Pennyroyal Tea". But delve past the rest of the clear sonic signifiers (Sonic Youth, Kiss, the Pixies, Led Zeppelin, the Vaselines, David Bowie, Devo, Meat Puppets, etc.) and heavier, more menacing influences (Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, Celtic Frost, Black Flag, The Melvins, Flipper, Mudhoney, Earth, etc.) linger around Nirvana's core.

For this piece, PopMatters finally champions the sonically heavier side of Nirvana's music. And while it would be easy (worthless) to just slap down 10 picks from Nirvana's sludgy debut Bleach (an album that could accurately be described as a tribute to metal's mongrel sons the Melvins), we have instead compiled 10 tracks from Nirvana's small yet monumentally impactful discography to form the heaviest Nirvana mixtape. If there are songs missing from No Recess that you think deserved to make the cut ("Radio Friendly Unit Shifter", "Big Cheese", "You Know You're Right", "Paper Cuts", "Dive", etc.), we suggest that you make your own version and share the tracklist below. At the end of the article, we have provided handy playlists from Spotify and Rdio for your listening pleasure.

No Recess - Side A:

1. "Negative Creep"
Bleach, 1989

Opening No Recess with one of the most violent song of Nirvana's back catalogue, "Negative Creep", seemed like the logical idea. From the chugging riffs that rampage ahead at whiplash pace to Cobain's self-deprecating yet threatening lyrics delivered with desperation, "Negative Creep" is metal to the bone. Originally found on Nirvana's 1989 debut Bleach, "Negative Creep's" brutish tempos stand out like a middle finger amongst the rest of the syrupy sludge. While the disturbing line, "Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more," repeated by Cobain like a murderous mantra, remains etched in your mind long after the song burns out and fades away.

2. "Scentless Apprentice"
In Utero, 1993

In the same sequencing position for No Recess as it is on Nirvana's cantankerous swansong In Utero, "Scentless Apprentice" is an indictment of Nirvana at their ground-shaking best. Inspired by the Patrick Süskind novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Cobain weaves the twisted tale (A perfumer's apprentice born without body odour who kills virgin women to take their scent to create the "ultimate perfume") around his percussive riffs that bolster the Bonham-esque thump of Dave Grohl's beats and Krist Novoselic's thunderous low-end. "Scentless Apprentice" is all about sheer rhythmic force and lyrical unease, and its inclusion here is essential.

3. "Aneurysm"
Incesticide, 1992

The rawest recorded version of "Aneurysm" taken from the B-sides compilation Incesticide finds a home at the midpoint of Side A. Often interpreted as an ode to heroin masquerading as an obsessive love song, Cobain's sexually charged lyrics and stark vocals add ambiguity to the quiet/loud dynamics of the music. With a rousing intro and enough restraint during the verses to set up the chorus highlighted by Cobain's pained plea of "Beat me outta me / Beat me outta me," and later, "She keeps it pumpin' straight to my heart," Aneurysm is a startling glimpse at addiction's lethal grip.

4. "Tourette's"
In Utero, 1993

How do you follow up a worldwide smash hit? Well, if you are Nirvana, you backlash by forcing a difficult and often scathing invective upon your fans. In Utero's skewed art-punk, "Tourette's", baffled those expecting a huge sing-along like Nevermind's "Drain You". Instead Nirvana created a challenging, noisy outpour of aggression that grinds to a halt before you can gauge what just occurred. Vocally, Cobain turns feral for "Tourette's" and his screeching voice is key to the bedlam of this track, especially when this power trio rage on to the end with a frenetic energy often aped but rarely attained.

5. "Floyd the Barber"
Bleach, 1989

Following the spastic "Tourette's", Side A finishes with the sludge trudge of "Floyd the Barber". Owing an incalculable debt to the Melvins -- who besides the Beatles were the biggest influence on Cobain's creative development -- "Floyd the Barber", which features the Melvins' own Dale Crover on drums, is another intense inclusion off Bleach. At face value the song appears to be about being sexually violated and butchered in a barber's chair, but, as is the case with most Nirvana songs, there is probably a more cerebral meaning attached. Either way, "Floyd the Barber's" gruesome lyrics are matched blow for blow by Novoselic's bowel-crushing bass-lines and Crover's cast-iron beats.

Next Page

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.