Smells like…Nonsense (Or Verbal Diarrhea)


smells like teenNirvana is arguably one of history’s greatest and most influential bands. They took the 1990s by storm and sent the world of rock on its heels, forever changing both its sound and image. While it’s easy to lean back and sing the band’s praises, it’s important to realize that their most popular song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” is completely unintelligible. If I’m not mishearing the lyrics than I’m having trouble understanding vocalist Kurt Cobain at all.

With Cobain switching from singing quietly to loudly throughout the song and being backed by the heavy guitar chords and an almost overpowering bass line, it’s damn near impossible to catch what the lyrics are saying. Even the constant repeating chorus took me a solid dozen listens to finally hear it right. It’s so hard to understand that “Weird Al” Yankovic parodied it in his song, “Smells like Nirvana.” With lines such as “Now I’m mumblin’ and I’m screamin’ And I don’t know what I’m singin’ ” and “It’s unintelligible I just can’t get it through my skull,” Weird Al hits the nail on the head. Fun fact: Cobain heard the parody and loved it.

I’ve taken the time to listen carefully to the song and decide for myself what Cobain is actually saying. On the left are the actual lyrics, on the right in italics are what I hear.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Load up on guns, bring your friends         Load up on gums, breathe your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend                  Smallest girls into the tent
She’s over bored and self assured           She saw the Borg and sells her shirt
Oh no, I know a dirty word                      Oh no, I know a dirty brain

Hello, hello, hello, how low? [x3]
Hello, hello, hello!

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous      With the lads out, it’s a state dress
Here we are now, entertain us                   Here we are now, in containers
I feel stupid and contagious                      I’m with stupid, it’s contagious
Here we are now, entertain us                  Here we are now, in containers
A mulatto                                               I’m a lotto
An albino                                                I’m a bottle
A mosquito                                             I’m a skater
My libido                                                 And a beaner

Yay! [x3]

I’m worse at what I do best                          I wasn’t what I confessed
And for this gift I feel blessed                      A fool was killed for big breasts
Our little group has always been                  I’ve lead a group, It always bends
And always will until the end                       And always ran with taliban

Hello, hello, hello, how low? [x3]
Hello, hello, hello!

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous         With the lads out, it’s a state dress
Here we are now, entertain us                      Here we are now, in containers
I feel stupid and contagious                         I’m with stupid, it’s contagious
Here we are now, entertain us                      Here we are now, in containers
A mulatto                                                   I’m a lotto
An albino                                                   I’m a bottle
A mosquito                                                I’ll escape her
My libido                                                    Ate my cheeto
Yay! [x3]

And I forget just why I taste                          And I forget, just what are tanks?
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile            Some yak gas, and eggs that  smile
I found it hard, it’s hard to find                      I found his heart, his heart is mine
Oh well, whatever, never mind                      A well, whatever, never mind (hey, I got that last line!)
————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
So that’s pretty much what I hear whenever I listen to that song. I’d feel bad about mishearing that much of the song, but lets be honest, it’s a hard song to understand.

Written by Jacob Conflitti


About the author

A soon to be UofM grad hoping to break into the world of writing, although his poor grasp of grammar does not help.