Artist – Nirvana
Album – Nevermind
Year – 1991
Genre – Grunge
Despite what many people think, the eighties weren’t ALL bad. There was a lot of great music in that decade, but it almost seemed to be overshadowed by the excess and decadence that was a huge part of the culture of the time. The eighties mentality seemed very fake and, though not always the case, songs seemed to be written only as a cash in and didn’t really take the time to explore emotion at its deepest. However, at the end of the decade, the veil began to tear, and the artificial reality of the songwriting started to fade away. The nineties began and some of the best songwriting was now coming out of kids’ garages with bands that were loud, dirty, and very passionate. The grunge movement had started whether the world was ready or not, and in one of those garages was the trio of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novaselic, and Dave Grohl. Nirvana ushered in an end to the age of glitz and glamour, and thrust the world into an era of grit and grime. The music was raw, and the emotion was real. Breed is one of the most aggressive songs on the Nevermind album, but it is also one of the most powerful on many levels. Let’s take a look.
Breed begins with one of the most hard-hitting and distorted riffs you’ll hear in a Nirvana song, and that’s saying something. When the bass adds itself into the mix, the track gets even dirtier. By the time the opening drum roll finishes and the song kicks in, it’s just downright heavy. The music in this song is relatively simple, like many Nirvana songs, but it’s an extremely well crafted riff and the music fits the message Cobain and Co. are sending perfectly.
The verses in this track show Cobain at his most desperate and primal. Each scream of “I don’t care,” “I don’t mind,” “Get away,” and “I’m afraid,” seem to get more intense as he moves along. The words in the verses are almost cryptic, and can be interpreted in immeasurable ways (provided you can understand them). I suggest looking them up as it’s most certainly a song that should be personal to each listener. I personally find the entire song to be about loneliness, desperation, and the fear that comes with both meeting and potentially losing a partner in a breakup. The verse deals with the desperation part of the equation, with Cobain almost pleading that he doesn’t mind or care about anything his partner has done in the past, and that he’s afraid to lose them. Cobain sings it like he’s lost all control. He’s almost vomiting the words out, as if it’s all he can do. The honesty is almost scary, and I think it’s intended to be that way. On top of all this, the guitar is absolutely punishing, and Cobain slams on every strum. We have the perfect storm between the music and the words.
The chorus is also very cryptic in nature, but it’s so moving when you think a bit deeper. Let’s pull it apart a bit:
“Even if you have
Even if you need”
Cobain’s sadness and desperation build to the point where he’s willing to give up anything for the one he loves. Even if she has a dark secret or needs anything at all, all he wants his for her to love him and he will love her in return.
“I don’t mean to stare
We don’t have to breed”
He sacrifices any physical aspects of a relationship just to be around her. This also a clever line as it also seems to describe a common occurrence when meeting someone new. Conclusions are often made in situations such as this, especially in our generation.
“We can plant a house,
We can build a tree”
He wants to have a future with her and live the life that all couples dream of by potentially living together.
“I don’t even care.
We could have all three
I think this section deals with her responding, but she’s either sarcastic or apathetic, and certainly not appreciative of him or feelings he’s expressed to her.
The verse and chorus repeat again. During this whole time, the guitar matches with the words note for note and the bass playing is superb. The drums in the song aren’t particularly earth-shattering, but they do a great job at keeping pace with Cobain’s rage with some bite of their own. The music takes the message that the words express and add to it, creating an audible combination of sadness and anger. The guitar solo lets Cobain cleanse himself further, and each strum pushes the instrument to its limits. With one last scream, Cobain repeats the chorus and the track comes to a close, and the built up pressure finally settles with a sigh.
Kurt Cobain always said that music always came before lyrics, but this song proves that both can work together to express emotion so passionately and honestly that the likes of it will rarely be seen again. Though there are many interpretations, I think the lyrics through this whole song are a cry for help and a saddened plea to a loved one. When compliments and apologies fail and your love is on the line, desperation and uninhibited pain break through. That is what this whole song is attempting to express through every fiber of itself; we need love and affection, and often in our darkest hours, we will give up anything to get it. Cobain’s songwriting and lyric writing are incredibly polished underneath the dirt of the distortion, and the supposed anger of the song is actually hiding something much more sensitive.
Breed is a great rock track, period. It’s hard and fast with a great catchy riff and pounding bass and drums. If you appreciate these things, you should take a look at this song. But if you also appreciate lyrics that provide a different experience for everyone, whether that be angry or moving or maybe something else entirely, then Breed is most certainly for you. It’s not a love song, but it is a song about love and what it can do to us if we let it. Nirvana brought back true emotion, and they brought back real passion for writing and playing music. I think we all can appreciate that.
What do you think? What does the song say to you? Have you felt this way before, or gone through a similar experience? Let me know below!