Nirvana - Bleach
Album Comparisons: Bleach
Of all my favorite bands from back in the day, Nirvana probably qualifies as the one whose style would be most compromised by today's hyper compressed mixing and mastering practices. How would a band known for its sudden dynamic shifts (songs like "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" coming particularly to mind here) fare in a day and age where all dynamic expressiveness is squashed in order to make things as loud as possible? So when I heard of the Bleach remaster, I was understandably extremely wary of what would happen with the album, particularly given the wretchedly abysmal treatment given to the 2004 With the Lights Out box set. How does the remaster compare to the original Sub Pop CD release?

Blew

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Blew

2009 remaster

Blew

Floyd the Barber

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Floyd the Barber

2009 remaster

Floyd the Barber

About a Girl

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

About a Girl

2009 remaster

About a Girl

School

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

School

2009 remaster

School

Love Buzz

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Love Buzz

2009 remaster

Love Buzz

Paper Cuts

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Paper Cuts

2009 remaster

Paper Cuts

Negative Creep

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Negative Creep

2009 remaster

Negative Creep

Scoff

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Scoff

2009 remaster

Scoff

Swap Meet

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Swap Meet

2009 remaster

Swap Meet

Mr. Moustache

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Mr. Moustache

2009 remaster

Mr. Moustache

Sifting

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Sifting

2009 remaster

Sifting

Big Cheese

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Big Cheese

2009 remaster

Big Cheese

Downer

1990 original Sub Pop CD release

Downer

2009 remaster

Downer

Big Cheese (detail)

2009 remaster

Big Cheese (detail)
And the winner is: 1990 original CD release. Although the remaster is very listenable, there was no legitimate reason to boost the volume this much, or indeed at all. The high end suffers when compared to the original CD release, and clipping is rampant throughout (see the "Big Cheese" detail above), though actual audible static-like distortion seems to be absent. Ultimately, Bleach is another example of an album that didn't need remastering, particularly given the fact that the levels on the earlier CD were already maximized.