328. "Very Ape" by Nirvana

I give you Rolling Stone's 46th best Nirvana song!

It's part of a genre that was especially well-developed in 1990s heavy music: The 2-minute song.

I wrote plenty myself, some of which had nice little fanbases in my live playing days. There is nothing like the effect of a heavy song that ends after two minutes. Everyone knows the song shouldn't be over. It spites nature. Adding an abrupt end, such as the perfect one in "Very Ape," really accentuates the transgressive shock.

Plenty of punk songs in the '70s were two minutes long. It's not hard when you have a 1-4-5 chord progression and little incentive to get more out of your songwriting than a verse and a chorus, if that.

The heavy rock of the '90s, even rock as stripped-down as Nirvana's, tooled with much more thought-out musical developments, even in the abbreviated courses of their 2-minute mini-bursts.

"Very Ape" has a two-chord verse, but it compels the ear by being curiously syncopated ahead of the beat, while the drums pound out a pattern directly on the beat. There is a deft little instrumental build into the chorus, where everything just careens out of normalcy. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, complete.

The lyrics are full of some classic one liners that I keep memorized.

"I'm buried up to my neck in contradicitonary [sic] flies."

"I'm very ape and very nice."

The chorus lyrics are another large-scope life observation, similar to the four-line credo in the center of "Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter" on the same album (In Utero). Kurt Cobain seems to have been thinking about things in terms of life philosophy and hiding a bit of belief or mysticism within his usual shreds of lyrical anti-logic. His morality was the tough mindset of a minimalist artist who saw things in terms of the basics needed to construct his things. Leave it to a guy who made a three-note guitar melody as catchy as in 2-minute "Very Ape" to assemble a spiritual firmament this impactfully sparse:

"Out of the ground
Into the sky
Out of the sky
Into the dirt"