Grunge rock group Nirvana is considered to be one of the most iconic rock groups of all time. From 1987 to 1994, lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain, bass guitarist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl made the headlines countless times both for catchy singles and for wild antics. Despite this success, the group released only three studio albums and several other compilations during their career, which was tragically cut short by Cobain’s death in 1994. However, the group remains popular to this day and still has legions of new fans. As such, I find it only fitting to rank their albums from worst to best. Without further ado, here are the best Nirvana albums from worst to best, ranked!
3. Bleach (1989)
As Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach is less refined than the group’s later works and the sound is one example. More metal-inspired than Nevermind and In Utero, Bleach features tracks such as “Negative Creep”, “Blew” and “Floyd the Barber”, which exemplify the coarse sound perfectly.
While it isn’t as lyrically robust as the band’s subsequent works, it’s still an electrifying mix of exhilarating and ethereal toons that any Nirvana fan will want to jam out to at least five times. (To be fair, that applies to every song of theirs, but you get the point.)
2. In Utero (1993)
The third and final studio album by the group, In Utero is known to many Nirvana fans as the darker followup to the more commercially friendly Nevermind. Indeed, the LP lives up to its reputation with tracks such as “Scentless Apprentice”, “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and “Milk It”, which all eschew the clean, soothing sound of Nevermind‘s hardest tracks.
In Utero is barely edged out by its predecessor for having slightly fewer memorable songs. (To be fair, when the previous album contains what is the band’s overplayed anthem, that’s inevitable, but still.) This doesn’t detract from the quality of it however and it shines as an example of Nirvana at their lyrical best.
1. Nevermind (1991)
The album that catapulted the group into the spotlight, Nevermind is Nirvana’s magnum opus and it’s not very hard to see why. Discounting the overrated, yet still solid signature track “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Nevermind not only contains hit singles such as “Come As You Are”, “In Bloom” and “Lithium”, but also melodic, introspective tunes such as “Polly” and “Something in the Way”. Of course, the album wouldn’t be complete without a few headbangers, so “On a Plane” and “Territorial Pissings” do the trick just fine.
Popularity does not detract from quality and nothing could be truer in the case of Nevermind. It might have the smoother sound, it might not be as abrasive as In Utero, but it has the catchiest songs and a consistent sound. Overall, it’s the group’s best work.
While technically not LP studio albums of original material, I find it only fair to rank Nirvana’s albums Incesticide and Unplugged. They were just as much a part of the group and deserve proper recognition. So without further ado, here are the two additional albums ranked!
2. Incesticide (1992)
Released between Nevermind and In Utero, Incesticide contains some of the group’s harsher tracks such as “Aneurysm”, while also containing lighter work such as “Been a Son”. Because it’s partially compilation album and doesn’t fully contain new work, I can’t rank it the same way I’d rank a full LP. But for what it is, Incesticide represents different sides of Nirvana and they are all welcome ones.
1. MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
This posthumous release outclasses Incesticide for a simple reason. While Incesticide featured the sides of Nirvana we already were aware of, Unplugged introduced us to Nirvana’s calmer, more thoughtful side to a degree we hadn’t previously seen. Unlike most groups at the time, Nirvana played few of their top hits, only choosing “Come As You Are” and eschewing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Instead, the group largely focused on covers, such as “Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” by The Vaselines, “Lake of Fire” by the Meat Puppets and “Plateau”, also by the Meat Puppets. The result? Ironically electrifying.
Unplugged simultaneously showcases a new side of Nirvana and gives us a fresh spin on both their own work and the works of others. As such, it’s the ancillary Nirvana album to have.