DGC Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I think the original reason I went out and bought Nevermind, the major label debut by Seattle grungesters Nirvana, was because I was curious. My family didn't have cable, so it wasn't like I could turn the TV on and see the video. I guess I could have turned on the radio... why I didn't, I don't know.

The first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blaring out of my speakers, I thought it was okay, but I didn't understand why people were going ga-ga over this band. I put the tape aside for a while... a week later, I found myself listening to it on a regular basis.

Of all the groups that came out of Seattle during the grunge fad, Kurt Cobain and crew probably put out the best album of the whole scene in Nevermind. Wrapping up anger, angst and strung-out energy into one distortion-laden package, they created an album that is already being touted as a classic.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

No doubt about it, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a song that defined the whole scene. Part nonsensical ("A mulatto / An albino / A mosquito / My libido"), part crunch provided by Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl -- all honesty. Nirvana captured the moment so well in these four minutes in a way that I don't think any other band ever came close to.

If this were the only shining moment on Nevermind, it would still be worthy of praise. But Nirvana follow that up with a slew of songs that hold their own just as well. "Come As You Are" shows that Cobain and crew don't always need the guitars cranked up to get your attention -- a fact they prove later on the album with the acoustic numbers "Polly" and "Something In The Way." (In a sense, the acoustic setting of "Polly" helps to hammer home the sinister theme of the song.)

Nirvana also shows on Nevermind that they know the importance of the occasional harmony vocals ("In Bloom", "On A Plain"), as well as when to just throw caution to the wind and charge full throttle into the abyss ("Bloom", "Territorial Pissings"). Fact is, there is not one bad moment on this album. Cobain and crew's songwriting was at its peak with this album - and, in a sense, that also proved to be their downfall. As a band, Nirvana was expected to create albums that were on par with Nevermind; as an anti-hero, Cobain unexpectedly struck a vein of disenfranchised members of Generation X who now looked to him as a role model, a role he was never comfortable with.

The only drawback -- if there is one -- to Nevermind is that you have to be patient with the shifts in styles that Nirvana undertake from song to song. Going from the surprise poppiness of "Lounge Act" to the orgasmic release of "Stay Away," or from the rumblings of "Lithium" to the gentleness of "Polly," sometimes it feels like you can never get settled into the album. (And, I'm sorry, but I have to cringe every time I hear in "Come As You Are": "And I swear that I don't have a gun." After the suicide of Cobain, those lyrics are a bit ironic -- and painful -- to listen to.)

Nevermind is the masterpiece of the grunge era of rock - and just may be compared in the same breath to albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in about ten years. Whatever the case, it's worth your attention now.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.