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Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

December 9, 2013

[Album 267/1001]220px-NirvanaNevermindalbumcover

“It’s hard to bargle nawdle zouss
With all these marbles in my mouth”
– Weird Al, Smells Like Nirvana

As this was one of my first three compact discs (along with The Tragically Hip EP & the aforementioned Weird Al’s UHF soundtrack), Nevermind will forever be an important part of my musical experience.  However, as I mentioned in my MTV Unplugged review, I distanced myself from Nirvana for years.  In this case, I went so far as to remove the album packaging from its jewel case to make room for another album whose case had cracked.

I’m pleased to report I invested in the 2CD deluxe anniversary edition a couple years ago and it’s good to be back!

Entire books could be (and likely have been) dedicated to this record.  Nirvana’s brief career has been thoroughly documented so there’s not much new to add here.

Therefore instead of attempting a dissertation, my personal ranking of the 12 Nevermind tracks.  With the usual ‘list subject to change daily’ disclaimer of course!

12. Stay Away – If any of the tracks could be considered ‘filler,’ this is the one.  It hints at the more aggressive/less melodic sound the band would pursue at times on In Utero.

11. Territorial Pissings – I remember it being strange hearing The Youngbloods’ Get Together as I didn’t realize Krist Novoselic had borrowed the opening lyric!  I do like loud/screaming Nirvana; it’s just that the two noisiest tracks here aren’t as memorable as the rest.

10. Something in the Way (including secret track: Endless, Nameless) – I quite like the ‘yeahs’ in the chorus, the cello is a nice touch.  The cassette doesn’t have the secret track so for the complete picture, go for the CD (not sure if it appears on the LP).

9. Polly – The kind of song that gives me confidence in my drumming ability, three cymbal hits!  Which means the bottom third of the countdown is comprised of the two noisy tunes and the two acoustic numbers.  The top eight? The sounds are somewhere in between.

8. Come As You Are – Speaking of confidence building, the opening riff was a great/easy way to play an identifiable song for friends!  Although a bit eerie in hindsight, the vocal overlap of “No I don’t have a gun” after the solo is terrific.

7. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Kurt Cobain called it a Pixies rip-off.  It’s hard to consider it any less than an essential part of music history.  Overplayed?  Perhaps, but the song is still as great as its lyrics are incoherent.

6. Lounge Act – *Weak Seinfeld impression* What’s the deal with bassists being the unsung heros?  John Entwistle of The Who.  Simon Gallup of The Cure.  Krist Novoselic of Nirvana.  His bass drives Lounge Act.

5. On a Plain – Messy intro, nice harmony outro, solid song in between.

4. Breed – In the Nevermind track-listing, Breed had the thankless task of following three absolute anthems.  It made for a strong opener to the Live at Reading collection and holds up nicely here.

3. In Bloom – There’s a reason Dave Grohl is the drummer of my supergroup: rock solid timing, always the right fills.  He does a fine job as a guitarist/lead singer these days, it’s just a pity he doesn’t play drums as often!

2. Drain You – Though the middle/solo section of this (and In Bloom for that matter) doesn’t have much in the way of direction, all is more than forgiven thanks to the strength of the rest of the song.  Best opening on the record.

1. Lithium – My high school favourite is still #1.  The quiet verse/loud chorus template has never worked better.


From → 1990s

  1. This is more a Mrs. LeBrain album. I haven’t played it in over 20 years.

    • It holds up well – sounds like the early 90s (which I don’t believe was your favourite era) but if you can ignore all the hype about the band, there are some excellent songs here.
      And for me, great songs win every time!

      • Can’t argue with that! I’m sure the Mrs. will be playing it for me real soon. I bought her the box set version!

  2. Ovidiu Boar permalink

    Nice review. I think ‘Nevermind’ is a great, great album with every single song a gem, but these days I find Nirvana a bit overrated when it comes to their influence. I grew up believing that rock music had reached its absolute nadir in the 80’s and it was only along with Nirvana that it became listenable again. But things are never really that black and white – there were plenty of talented rock bands throughout the 80’s and the 90’s, especially in the underground scene (the incredible Pixies, for example).

    It’s just that Nirvana managed to become “mainstream” by scoring an excellent strike of hit singles. Kudos to them for being able to do that, but they were far from alone in producing original, quality rock music at the time.

    • From what I gather, Kurt felt a lot of guilt about Nirvana hitting it big when he thought other artists (Pixies, Meat Puppets) were more deserving.

      My fundamental musical belief is that a truly excellent song should work with just vocals + acoustic guitar. With their unplugged show, I think Nirvana proved many of their songs would qualify as excellent.

      I’d be interested in hearing some stripped down versions of Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr/Pixies tunes to see how they compare with the distorted originals.

      • Ovidiu Boar permalink

        That sort of makes Kurt cool, I think!

        I don’t know about the others, but Pixies released an acoustic concert in 2006 (‘Live in Newport’ from the same year) on DVD, which although doesn’t add much to their legacy, nor can you compare it with Nirvana’s one (released when they were in their prime), is still pretty nice to hear if you’re a big fan.

      • I’m relatively new to the Pixies (heard & enjoyed Doolittle and Bossanova earlier this year, Surfer Rosa is also on the 1001). It was Weezer’s cover of “Velouria” that led me to a Pixies tribute album – so it was neat this year finally hearing Pixies songs performed by the Pixies!

  3. My favorite song on that album kept changing over the years, but for now it’s Lounge act. I love the build-up in intensity, which leads to the last part that Cobain sings/screams. Totally agree with you regarding the “No, I don’t have a gun” part at the end of Come as you are. This is one original song that I like better than the unplugged version.

    • Good call on Lounge Act – I think if I had made a list in the 90s and compared it to today’s, that’s a tune that would have moved way up in my rankings – an underrated gem!

  4. Like you, I distanced myself from Nirvana for a while and have recently started to get back into them again. This music holds up really, really well. Shockingly so. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has been overplayed, but it’s still a damn fine track.

    And, as you noted, “Come As You Are” has a super-easy to play riff…the only one I can play on guitar!

    • I think a switch went for me when ‘you know you’re right’ was finally released in the early 2000s. As far as unreleased tracks go, not too shabby at all!

      Smells like teen spirit was a great one for learning power chords as well. So simple but so effective.

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