Nirvana – ‘Sliver’. Record of the Day

Sliver was Nirvana’s second single, and apart from being a joyous two-minute blast of exuberant grunge fun, it’s also a landmark recording for the band.

Released on Sub Pop in 1990, Sliver bridges the gap between the (largely) aggressive punk of debut album Bleach and the souped-up pop of Nevermind. It was their first release after Chad Channing was removed as drummer. It saw Nirvana using the loud/quiet dynamics that would later become synonymous with the band and it saw Kurt using past experience as a source for his lyrics. It’s the simple story of a young kid, dropped off with his grandparents and missing his mom, delivered in the first person by an adult with a vicious set of vocal chords.  Kurt later described it as “the most ridiculous pop song that I had ever written”.

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Sliver was recorded in a hurry. Producer Jack Endino was in the studio working on an album with TAD and agreed to lay the track down while they were on a lunch break. The TAD boys let Nirvana use their equipment on the strict understanding that they didn’t damage anything; they already had a reputation. Mudhoney’s Dan Peters was on drums for the session and his easy style and trademark rolls were perfect for the explosively melodic, three-chord outburst of Sliver.

This was the first Nirvana record I ever heard. I didn’t know what to make of it initially, but it grew on me quickly. To start with I preferred the B-side, Dive, which gives me one of the very few things I have in common with Courtney Love. Sliver was the first Nirvana record she bought and she also rated Dive higher – “It is so sexy, and sexual, and strange, and haunting, I thought it was genius”.

Sliver turned out to be Dan Peters’ one and only song with Nirvana before he was passive-aggressively ousted in favour of Dave Grohl. After a short spell with Screaming Trees, he returned to his spiritual home when Mudhoney came out of hiatus. Nirvana, meanwhile, having found their definitive line-up, perfected the formula they’d toyed with on Sliver and spearheaded a revolution with their abrasive, uplifting and ferociously delivered, power chord pop.

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Nick Perry

Nick writes fact, fiction and opinion in various places including
his music blog His musical tastes cover indie, grunge, golden-era hip hop, punk, funk, psychedelia and a big portion of distortion. You can and should follow him on Twitter @NoiseCrumbs.

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