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Old 10-12-2011, 05:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Nirvana- Nevermind- 1991


Nirvana Nevermind- 1991
RMR Album Rating- 7


Contrary to popular belief, Nirvana didn’t want to be the poster boys for grunge music.

In fact, after their debut album “Bleach,” they were actually trying to move away from the grunge sound and create something a little more mainstream, so they certainly succeed with “Nevermind,” through which much of the world heard a slightly toned down version of grunge music for the first time.

Nirvana’s grunge movement, with help from the other 3 major bands of grunge (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains) can be thought of as a cleansing period in rock music. It’s pretty interesting if you think about it, but every time Rock music gets a little too big for itself, a movement of music comes around and cleans it up and resets it. This first happened in the late 70’s when the punk bands first came on to the scene. As much as I hate to admit it, some progressive rock bands had just become way too overblown. So, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones can in and straightened things out. The same thing occurred in the 80’s. AOR and hair-metal bands were filling stadiums, and they had just become way too over the top, so Nirvana and the other grunge bands came in and brought some equilibrium and sensibility back to rock fans. As an example of this, I vividly remember the first time I saw the video for “Smells like Teen Spirit” on MTV. It came on right after the video for Motely Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.” Although “Home Sweet Home” was originally released in 1985, they were airing the video because the Crue had just released their “Decade of Decadence” compilation album. Anyway, they followed Motley’s video with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and the contrast was bitingly apparent. The Crue looked more like comic book characters than rock stars. Conversely, Nirvana just looked real, and more importantly, they sounded real.

The sound of the whole album is pretty consistent, and every song pretty much follows the same pattern, with the exception of the mostly acoustic “Polly,” which closes out the first half of the album. The best description of “Nevermind’s” sound is an album that it is “doused in mud” and “soaked in bleach,” and I think this is a fitting description, being that it’s a line from “Come as You Are,” which was one of the biggest singles from the album. Plus, describing “Nevermind’s” sound in this way seems fitting because the sound of the album is definitely dirty and grungy, but at the same time, the album is cleansing (or bleaching) the rest of the rock world from the comic book rock that had dominated the 80’s, so the juxtaposition is just perfect.

As for the songs, all the big hitters are on the first half of the album. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” Come as You Are,” and “Lithium” were all released as massively successful singles, and they all had videos in heavy rotation on MTV. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the first and the biggest of the four singles, but it’s kind of ironic that the song that brought grunge to the mainstream and cleansed rock of overblown AOR and hair-metal bands borrowed its main riff from Boston— the king of AOR bands. Cobain has even stated that “Smells like Teen Spirit’s” main riff was a play on Boston’s “More than a Feeling” (a song that he loved). The riffs are not exactly the same, but they are very similar. The original Boston riff starts at 42-seconds in “More Than a Feeling,” and Nirvana’s grungier version of the riff starts at 8 seconds in “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit." Either way, all four of those lead singles are great, and they will be forever synonymous with grunge music.

Although the second half of the album doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the first half, it has some great songs as well. It opens with “Territorial Pissings,” which is one of heaviest songs on the album. There’s also “Drain You” and “I’m on a Plain,” which are my two favorite songs from the album. Cobain wrote “Drain You” about his girlfriend Toby Veil. I love the opening lyrics of “One baby to another says/ I’m lucky to have met you/ I don’t care what you think/ unless it is about me/ it is now my duty to completely drain you.” Cobain’s and Veil’s relationship was coming to an end, and I think the lyrics illustrate a bitter sweet acceptance of this; their relationship started out well, but now it is just completely draining them. “I’m on a Plain,” is extremely catchy, but its drug inspired lyrics are some of Cobain’s most telling and sad, as the song opens with Cobain singing that “I’ll start this off without any words/ I got so high I scratched ’till I bled/ I love myself better than you/ I know it’s wrong so what should I do?”. I take the “you” in the song to be Heroin. It is very similar to Izzy Stradlin’s song “I Think About You” from GNR’s “Appetite for Destruction,” where it seems like a love song on the surface, but the “you” in the song (the object of Stradlin’s love) is actually heroin. To close out on the topic of songs, they’re all good; they’re all catchy, and they completely set the stage for the outpour of grunge and alternative rock that immersed the music scene throughout the 90’s.

I started out by saying that Nirvana didn’t want to be the poster boys for grunge, but they certainly brought it to the mainstream, and the impact and change that they brought on to the music scene was one of the biggest in all of rock’s history— in that it completely changed the direction and sound of rock music, and bands very rarely do that.
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Old 10-12-2011, 05:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm glad you didn't give this album a 9 or a 10, and I'd like to say a good write-up. Albeit, I vastly disagree with the point saying that the album stays consistent. The first half of the album sounds very different than he second. In essence, the first half was an attempt to be really polished with catchy sing-a-long choruses, and the second was an attempt at doing sort of the doomy/punky/sludgy hybrid that typifies 'grunge', and populated pretty much the entirety of Bleach.

I rarely EVER complain about lacking 'consistency', but I feel the problem with this is that it's not an artistic choice, but it feels there's a few songs that they wanted to try to push for hits, and polished up, and the rest they left their raw state. It's like getting a mix tape of 5 Michael Jackson songs, then 5 Sex Pistols songs. As if, they ran out of budget halfway through, and realized that they hype from the videos would sell it well enough to push it out as-is...

Otherwise, it's a decent album. Not legendary as said to be, but better than average. Plagued massively by incompleteness...
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Great point...

And, I guess I agree with you regarding the first and second halves of the album sounding different. All the singles were on side-1, and it definitely has a more glossy and polished sound to it, as you point out.

I guess what I meant was that the song structures (rather than the sound) are pretty consistent throughout the whole album, which I think they are. Side-2 just doesn't have the gloss that Side-1 has.

It kind of reminds me of "Appetite for Destruction" in terms of album halves. The first half of Appetite has "Jungle," "Nightrain," "Brownstone," and "Paradise City." All the singles, with the exception of "Child," which was on the second side. Side-2 of "Appetite" has a different feel to it (just like "Nevermind"), but the song structures are pretty much the same, and I've actually grown to like side-2 of "Appetite" better than side-1.
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Old 11-22-2011, 11:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 11-22-2011, 05:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think your review is spot on and honest. I must admit that I did not listen to Nevermind until about 5 years ago when I started expanding my music tastes. The music appealed to me very much. However, as stated by others, the first half of the album is more polished than the second half. I remember hearing these polished songs and then all of a sudden hitting a wave of "rough" sounding music. I still enjoyed it though. I would have to say that my favorite song on the album is Lithium, just listened to it so much!
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Old 11-23-2011, 06:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Nevermind is very vocal driven, the songs are simple so kurt's presence are the main appeal of the album.

take lithium & Come as you are And In bloom..

those songs are pure kurt, they become catchy not so much for the rhythm just by his charismatic presence, by the feeling portrayed in the songs.. a deep self-destructive poet rockstar fitting for the Generation X underachievers.. so in a way, Kurt came first, and the songs came 2nd, especially so in this album, yet, you got songs like "Drain you" & "Lounge Act" (both my favs)wich seemed to be another aspect of Kurt just like "About a girl" Was in bleach, i personally picked those 2 you may think otherwise, it showed the band had depth. that all songs are not gonna be another "Teen Spirit"
Overall the album is consistent yet with subtle differences among the songs.. the guitar riffs are extremely simple, the chord progressions striped down basic "Verse 4 notes" & "Chorus 2 notes" (for the most part) the drums are Powerhouse Drums, the bass almost unnoticed.
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I just listened to this again today. Man, you can really tell how the first half of the album is a Pixies rip-off and then the second half is a Melvins rip-off.
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Old 11-23-2011, 11:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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i don't like it as much as Bleach

and that's mostly because Bleach sounds like a Melvins album
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Old 11-24-2011, 01:09 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I just listened to this again today. Man, you can really tell how the first half of the album is a Pixies rip-off and then the second half is a Melvins rip-off.
I never really thought that to be honest. I always thought kurt cobain was full of crap in a lot of ways. Especially when he made comparisons between his music and the pixies. I understand some matters of dynamics but the connection I thought wasn't really there as much as kurt professed. I am in no way an anti kurt cobain person in fact I have found a huge amount of good music through him but I don't really think he always knew what he was talking about.

Btw this is all based on the assumption that you have heard about the influence kurt cobain professed about his love for the pixies.
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Old 11-24-2011, 01:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I watched that "Last 48 Hours of Kurt Cobain" programme and lost quite a bit of interest in Nirvana. Kurt was an insanely confused individual who seemed completely unaware of his contradictions.

It is a shame what happened because he was actually a decent song writer and had a fantastic voice.
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