Some call Kurt Cobain the John Lennon of Generation X, and musically inclined people wouldn’t disagree. They both had a problem with authority but were very gracious to their fans. They both spit nonsense and genius, interlaced perfectly. They both played with the idea of sonic resonance as music and ambient noise, feedback, and chaos as part of the musical methodology. So it was one genius (Lennon) who helped drive another genius (Cobain) to find his own niche, and he did. Problem is, since the disbandment of Nirvana and the suicide of Kurt Cobain, a bunch of other artists have since taken to wearing their Nirvana inspiration on their sleeve. As you will see in some cases below, it can work, and in other cases, it fails. It all falls down to who is trying too hard and who has that same genuine pathos as Kurt (and Nirvana as a whole) did.
Here are six songs you MIGHT think are Nirvana songs but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Vines: Get Free
As far as sound-alike bands go Nirvana wise, The Vines nailed it with Get free, their very first single. From the repeated GET FREE hook shouted over and over to the raucous guitar that clambers over the whole song, it is chaotic noise made anthemic by a band who tried the Nirvana sound and wouldn’t you know, it kind of fit them well. I mean, listen to that scream he has and close your eyes and it is VERY Kurt Cobain (think a song like Tourettes).
Sadly, the lead singer of this band was diagnosed with schizophrenia and the whole band just kind of faded into the background as a result to the news.
Which kinda sucks cuz the Vines not only sound like Nirvana, but sound like GOOD Nirvana, which is rare.
Now on the other end of the spectrum…
Seether: Remedy (and Every Song Ever by Them)
I will make it clear, I respect what Seether does, and the lead singer does emulate the FUCK out of Kurt Cobain (and makes no attempt to hide that, which is okay) but the problem is, here it feels contrived. While The Vines just feel like they are making riotous punk metal, Seether feels like they sat down in the studio and TRIED to make Nirvana songs, which in turn, is a bit try-hard for my liking.
Now granted, lead singer’s rasp in JUST LIKE KURT’S, and they have played some Nirvana covers where, if you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t even know the difference. But reality is, there needs to be some originality injected into the band because even if they have that Nirvana sound, they do not wear it nearly as well as Nirvana, and Nirvana weren’t even trying to be Nirvana.
They just WERE.
Jez Dior: Heroin
What, you didn’t think any hip hop would make the list? Then you tripping. Kurt Cobain's inspiration is spread far and wide like summertime pollen, and anyone growing up in the nineties were affected by that. Even rapper Jez Dior (who is the shit and more of you need to know about his music). Dude even calls his music “Grunge Rap” and blames it all on the fact that his Dad raised him listening to Nirvana and his Mom raised him listening to hip hop, so his music is an amalgamation of being raised that way.
The song Heroin nails that mix perfectly, even using that chord progression at the intro that is VERY similar to a particular Nirvana song I won’t mention because I love Jez’s music and don’t want dude getting sued.
Also, I won’t lie, it is nice to see Cobain’s reach is as far as Pennywise's is (this joke is only funny if you see the new It and see Pennywise reach his arm 100 feet out of the sewer, spoiler alert).
Also, calling the song Heroin was a clear shout-out to Kurt, too, let’s keep this shit real. The man had a problem.
Hayden: When This is Over
I have been in love with this band (singer, songwriter) for YEARS now. I actually discovered Hayden’s music randomly at the end of the 90’s and have been listening since for the exact reason listed here.
Nirvana had many sounds, but two that stood out were the overly mellow, acoustic joints and the songs that rocked so hard they cracked the foundation of your house.
While most bands and acts listed above have taken from Nirvana’s “HARD” sound, Hayden did the opposite. He focused more on the acoustic, indie sound Nirvana had with songs like Polly. The end result is a band that sings incredibly dark songs that sound like haunted lullabies that will totally remind you of the feeling you got when you listened to songs like Something in the Way by Nirvana.
Side note, this song features both sounds with a slow, depressing build up to a scream chorus that will give you chills when you realize it is about the TRUE news story of the mother who tied her kids to their car seats and drove them into a river to drown back in the 90’s.
Careful, it is devastating stuff, just like Kurt’s sad music was.
It is well-known that when Silverchair won a radio contest in the 90’s and became famous (in their fucking teens by the way) that they admitted Nirvana was a huge inspiration. And though you can hear that sound in the first album a lot, with the song Freak later on in their career, they nailed the sound both lyrically and sonically.
That opening line is SO Kurt I bet even Kurt laughed from beyond the grave when he first heard it.
You want proof:
No more maybe’s, baby's got rabies.
There ya go. Nirvana songs often blurred the absurd and surreal with the tense and real, and that surreality is on display in Freak big time.
The crunching, simple chords don’t hurt to sell that sound, either.
Kid Cudi: Troubled Boy
What, you thought no hip hop would be on the...oh, I already said that. Well, truth is, Kid Cudi is much more than a hip hop artist, and this song is not hip hop. Dude makes EVERY kind of music, and makes it well. And Cudi himself makes no allusions to how much he was inspired by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.
Though there are some GREAT examples of that sound on his WZRD side project album with producer Dot Da Genius, I believe when WE hear that inspiration most is on the song Troubled Boy off his Satellite Flight album (though Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven has some Nirvana-esque songs as well).
But Troubled Boy just captures the genuine pathos of a lonely man who feels unwanted by the world and goes into his music to both escape AND hide away from the very world that he feels so unwelcomed in. It also falls back on that sparse, haunting Nirvana sound (acoustic, Kurt by himself) that seemed to often be the polar opposite of the spastic, caffeinated music we were used to by the band. A great track, but as depressing as some of Nirvana’s best, which is why it makes the list.
Okay, so what did we miss? Inevitably we missed some other Nirvana sound-alikes. Hit us up in the comments and let us know. Maybe we will write a follow-up based on YOUR suggestions!