If my eyes could show my soul,everyone would cry when they saw me smile ~ Kurt Cobain
The album that would revolutionize the grunge movement was released 25 years ago today. Not many of us rushed out to buy it ... until we say THAT video.
While their first album Bleach was popular in the UK, in the US, the new grunge sound was just beginning to permeate the airwaves already thick with LA's hairbands. The previous week, Guns N Roses double album Use Your Illusion was released to phenomenal sales. Who was Nirvana? Flannel, heavy guitar sounds, and angst was ushered in by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl: Nirvana. MTV and VH1 played music videos and Smells Like Teen Spirit propelled the band into the mainstream. Ironic when you set out to be against it.
But why has the album been classified as the one to push grunge across the mainstream boundary? What about Pearl Jam's Ten or the Alice in Chain's Facelift? To most, it sounded like noise. To a music lover, it was filled with layers of varying music styles, perfect pitch, and poetic lyrics. Nirvana's Nevermind was the gateway album to all of grunge and to those bands who inspired the grunge movement as well. (See Mother Love Bone, and Green River)
Aside from the music, this shift from LA glam to Seattle grunge was also how many of our generation felt. GENERATION. This album represents a generation and a shift in music trends. We were in that middle and high school funk. We didn't want high bangs, we wanted docs and flannel and we were tired of everything having to be perfect. We wanted new music. Nevermind was like nothing we'd heard before.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Kurt Cobain's attempt at sounding like the Pixies and making fun of a 90's teen deodorant was the tipping point for grunge's birth into the mainstream. The video alone was novel, gone were the bikini clad models and welcomed were anarchist cheerleaders in black and dancing custodians at a dingy high school band assembly. The song is filled with chord progressions and nods to power chords of the 70's and 80's. Grohl's drumming and Novoselic's steady bass combine with Cobain's unique yet perfectly tuned voice.
And always will until the end
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
If this song didn't convince you of the gifted mind of Kurt Cobain, nothing ever will. The song is a message to the fans who have no clue what Nirvana were about. This song is driven by the progression of the harder chorus and softer vocals that would be a signature model for many of the band's songs.
The video is the first of many of the 90's to use the old is new again approach, making a parody of 60's music variety shows.
Come As You Are
An eerie song and music video that drew inspiration from the Nevermind cover.It's lyrics are contradictory (take your time, hurry up, choice is yours, don't be late) and it is more subdued than the first two tracks.
Grohl's machine gun drumming ten second into the song cement a hypnotizing beat along with Krist's bass and Kurt's repetitive lyrics. Repetitive to represent the mundane and ground hog day suburban life.
Subdued and poetic, angry and desperate. The song is a telling look into Kurt's mind.
I'm so happy 'cause today
I've found my friends ...
They're in my head
I'm so ugly, but that's okay, 'cause so are you ...
We've broken our mirrors [Alt: We broke our mirrors]
Sunday morning is everyday for all I care ...
And I'm not scared
Light my candles in a daze ...
'Cause I've found god
The thoughts of a suicidal person and finding god to get you through it.
A disturbing song that champions a woman who overcame her captor. Poetic again and not fitting fully into the grunge sound, however the soft and pop sound ironically detailed into the thoughts of the captor himself.
Talk about the perfect mosh pit song. While the lyrics seem nonsensical there is this...
Never met a wise man, if so it's a woman
Again, gifted lyrics even though lyrics were usually second in the production for Nirvana.
This song builds: spoken, shouting, yelling. It's also inspired by the bass line, which Kurt felt sounded like something from a cheesy lounge act. The song is also about a messy break up.
The irony is painful: I'd rather be dead than cool. The stardom that this album propelled them into was the exact opposite of what Kurt wanted.
On A Plain
I can totally hear early Foo in the "ohh ohh" ... which is fine since Kurt was okay with Dave's side project. It's a band staple and has every one of their signature sounds. It also offers a great transition into the final song of the album.
Something In The Way
This song is magic. It is simple. It mellows out the anger and angst. There is nothing but Kurts guitar and voice until the drums, bass, and cello are softly mixed in.
We may never have a moment like this again in our lives. We witnessed a musical transition in our generation. A musical revolution that happened at the same time when we transitioned from cassettes to CDs. A time when we used to go buy physical copies of music and play it from start to finish. Personally, I can remember who I was with and where I was when we first played this album. It was bold, different, and emotional. Music up to this point had been pop, sap, and a pancake make-up false facade.
Kurt, Krist, and Dave gave us a platform and a soundtrack for our generation. We could be ourselves, angry, frustrated, and confused. Nevermind gave us an outlet. Nirvana also opened a world of music to many that never would have heard of. Nirvana was put into our lexicon before the word grunge, so the two have become synonymous.