Sunday, October 14, 2018

Certain Songs #1342: Nirvana – “Sliver” | Medialoper

Album: Incesticide
Year: 1990

Recorded swiftly in a couple of sessions in July 1990 with Mudhoney’s Dan Peters on the drums, “Sliver” showed such a quantum leap over nearly all of the songs on Bleach, and totally pointed towards the noise-filled pop songs that would make Kurt Cobain into a household name.

That said, “Sliver” is a bit of an anomaly in Nirvana’s catalog: instead of the impressionistic lyrics that characterized the vast majority of his work, “Sliver” describes a specific incident.

Over an instantly-catchy Novoselic bassline, Kurt remembers a bit of his childhood:

Mom and Dad went to a show
Dropped me off at Grandpa Joe’s
I kicked and screamed
Said, “Please, don’t go!”

But, of course, they do. That’s the entire point: to have some time away from him. And so as their car squeals away in a cloud of feedback, little Kurt has a request.

Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!
Grandma take me home!

It’s sad, it’s pleading, it’s heartbreaking. And it’s also catchy as fuck, Kurt modulating perfectly between the inner child traumatized because his parents left him with his grandparents and the adult looking back almost shaking his head in disbelief he even still remember it.

Had to eat my dinner there
Mashed potatoes and stuff like that
I couldn’t chew my meat too good

There’s also a lot of the quiet loud quiet going on in “Sliver,” — while Novoselic’s bass is remarkably consistent throughout, Cobain’s guitar alternates between hitting Townshend-like chords and sustained noise-riffing, mostly on the chorus.

In the meantime, little Kurt is becoming a bit of an annoyance to his grandparents.

Said, “Why don’t you stop your crying
Go outside and ride your bike”
That’s what I did
I killed my toe!

But a stubbed toe is the worst that happens in “Sliver,” which is why I think that it’s among the most beloved Nirvana songs: it actually has a happy ending.

After dinner I had ice cream
I fell asleep and watched TV
I woke up in my mothers arms!

And that happy ending is amplified by a nice piece of vocal overdubbing: as Kurt screams “arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmsss!” the “Grandma take me home” chorus starts up before he’s finished, and it’s an insanely great moment, followed by an extra long chanting of the chorus finally resolving with “Wanna be alone” as the song slams to an end.

I didn’t hear “Sliver” of course, until Incesticide came out in 1992, but unlike most of the other originals on that odds-and-sods holding action, it definitely held its own with the songs on Nevermind, which was still in incredibly heavy rotation at that point.


“Sliver” performed live in Seattle, 1991

“Sliver” performed live at the Reading Festival, 1992

“Sliver” performed live in Seattle, 1993

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page


No comments: