Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Favourite Albums: Number 2: Nirvana - Nevermind

In the 17 years since its release, I'd imagine more has been written about Nirvana, Nevermind and Kurt Cobain than any other combination of band, album and songwriter from the 1990s.

Many of these pieces focus on Cobain himself - his misery, his inability to deal with fame, and his suicide at the age of 27.

What is often overlooked is the music - a tragically small collection of just three studio albums, two live recordings and a rarities compilation.

As a teenage Britpop fan, I was fairly dismissive of Nirvana and their music, and the Grunge v Britpop debate, at least at my school, was akin to a modern retelling of the Mods v Rockers wars of the 1960s, albeit without the scooters, violence and Sting.

I only really gave Nirvana a chance in the few months between leaving school and starting university. And I was immediately enamoured.

As I'm sure is the case with many, perhaps even most, Nirvana fans, my introduction to the band was Nevermind. And the introduction to Nevermind is Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Again, many words have been used to describe the album's lead single - bombastic, thunderous, vitriolic.

But, above all else, Smells Like Teen Spirit is an extraordinary pop song.

Kurt Cobain was an exceptional writer of pop songs and pop hooks, and Nevermind is dripping in them. Smells Like Teen Spirit may be the best known - thanks also to Cobain's nihilistic roar and buzzsaw guitar and Dave Grohl's furious double drum detonations - but the opening half of the record would stand the test of time alongside any other single side of vinyl ever pressed.

In Bloom continues with the thunderous drums and dark imagery, before making way for the more sedate Come As You Are.

Though Nevermind is defined by the growl of its louder tracks, it is on the quieter songs that the other side of Kurt Cobain, as a crafter of mature and thought-provoking lyrics and melodies, shows itself. Polly, narrated by a kidnapper/torturer is a glimpse into its writer's dark side, while closing track Something In The Way puts into music the life of a heroin addict.

Metal, rock, pop - whatever Nevermind is, it stands as one of, if not THE defining album of the 1990s.
Rather than leave you with the obvious Smells Like Teen Spirit, here's the video for In Bloom:


Misssy M said...

One of my biggest regrets is this:

In the early nineties Nirvana played Edinburgh (The Venue, I think- can't remember). I went to see them. There was a rumour going around that they were going to play a small secret gig in a pub the next night- a really small pub (I forget the name). We went along at teatime to see if it were true, but after about 9.30 and with the pub still fairly empty, we figured it was a all a load of rubbish and we left to get home to Aberdeen.

Did they not just appear in that pub later that night and play? Did they?

Yes, they flippin' well did.

Gutted doesn't even cover it.

mirk said...

Great how one song can draw you in and keep you there :)

Things are weird tonight the blog I left a comment on before this was discussing Marillion whom I haven't heard spoken about for years.

Inchy said...

I've tried more times than I care to mention, but I just can't 'get' Nirvana. It just doesn't work for me.
I suspect that had he lived we wouldn't be talking about Kurt Cobain nowadays.

the tomahawk kid said...

Classic album.

I was in the process of moving up to the NE at the time and was travelling back and forth from Glasgow at the weekend.

My job at that time could get pretty stressful so this album used to get a good loud airing when travelling in order to de-stress!

Colin Campbell said...

I got to like them later in life and before Kurt died. Having lived in Seattle in the mid 1980s in between the decline of Boeing and the ascendancy of Microsoft I could identify with the despair that enshrined his music. A dull and depressing place at that time.

Anonymous said...

Download Nirvana's 1991 Studio Session with Craig Montgomery:

1.) "All Apologies" (1991 Demo)

2.) Token Eastern Song (1991 Demo)

3.) Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter (1991 Demo)

Notes: Songs feature Chris Novoselic playing second guitar, as heard on songs 1 & 2. And yes, you read right: these are from 1991 (1/1/91 to be exact). It's so sad that this awesome demo of All Apologies was never released on WTLO.