Thursday, 7 May 2009

Icons #8 Nevermind

Nevermind was released in late 1991.  The first time it hit my radar was during my trip to Oz.

Smells Like Teen Spirit was on the radio constantly.  It was huge, but the radio DJ's in Australia seemed baffled by it but it killed poodle rock for well over ten years and created a new genre over night.

Teen Spirit isn't even that original, it totally rips of a Pixie's song, but it had something that nothing else had at the time.  A brutal energy, a monster of a riff and an honesty lacking in everything else at the time.  I'll be honest I didn't get it.  I was into Zep, Queen and U2 at the time.  I was just discovering the Mondays, James and the Stuffies, I wasn't ready for Nirvana.  One year later I was.  

It's one of those albums where I can remember where I was when I bought it.  A lovely record store in Cheshunt just North of London.  Must have been September/October 1992 and my music collection was growing cooler all the time.  

Cobain and co had produced something special.  They changed music for a generation, and their influence is everywhere.  

Nevermind sometimes gets a bit lost in the mix these days.  Purists will talk about Bleach.  Others will talk about Unplugged, how Nirvana songs sound better stripped back.  Some love In Utero and crawl over the meaning of an album created so close to Cobain's suicide.  But for me the defining album is Nevermind because it opened up my record collection to so many other bands.  There's no way I'd have Copper Blue without it, no Pixies, no Sonic Youth and it's doubtful we'd have Biffy Clyro now, we certainly wouldn't have the Foo's.

Cobain felt it was over produced after Bleach and hated the fact that they'd signed to Geffen.  But it meant the album got listened to and promoted properly.  Is it over produced?  Maybe it just turned out how Butch Vig (producer) wanted it to more than Nirvana had imagined it.  It sounds polished but it still led the way for the Grunge movement.  

Many of the tracks use the quiet/loud mantra but all of them have one thing in common.  Melody.  It just shines through all the songs.  That was Cobain's genius really, to release songs that had this inner beauty to them.  Sure you had to work for it sometimes, but it's always there.

That's why Unplugged worked so well.  Not because the songs sound better stripped back but because the melodies that shine through on that album were there all along.  

The slower songs on Nevermind just ache.  Something in the Way and Polly don't screw around with their subject matter but the sound of Cobain's voice breaking over the words is just amazing to listen to nearly twenty years later.  The heavier stuff still has an amazing energy.  Sure Teen Spirit is a great song but In Bloom, Come as You Are and Territorial Pissings have just as much verve and bile to them.

It's hard to listen to and not think about what happened three years later.  It's hard to not be pissed at someone for throwing away their talent like he did.  But if you can get past that, Nevermind is still a treat of an album.  Almost 'old school' heavy, but accessible and brilliant, bitter and angry.  The fact that anyone with a reasonably decent taste in music will recognise the first five songs says a lot.

Nevermind rocked in '91.  Still does now.  Fact.

'Love myself better than you.'

Tonight's post is dedicated to @worldofdub.