By Myles Strait
The infamous Nirvana album “Nevermind” was and still currently is one of the most memorable albums of the 90’s. With notable tracks such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are”, the band served as a voice for a new generation of kids who felt like misfits in a world where they couldn’t be understood or given the freedom to express themselves.
“Nevermind” was Nirvana’s second studio album which was released on September 4, 1991 first debuting at No. 144 on the Billboard 200 and finally topping the charts at No. 1 on January 11, 1992. Although “Nevermind” is the album that allowed Nirvana’s career to fully blossom and gain a greater and diverse audience, it is known that Kurt Cobain showed some resistance to the pressures of fame and being categorized as “mainstream”.
Cobain’s influences of Sonic Youth, The Pixies,The Beatles (specifically John Lennon) and many other grunge bands were the foundation that which “Nevermind” was created upon. In fact, Kurt Cobain was such a fan of The Beatles and so heavily influenced by John Lennon that he insisted on double-tracking his vocals on the entire album to acquire the same feel as Lennon’s vocals, this was not only brilliant in terms of arrangement but it showed the dedication Cobain had to preserving the same techniques great vocalists have used over time and how that transcends from genre to genre.
Some of my favorite tracks on the album “Nevermind” include “Drain You”, “Lithium” and my all time favorite track “Something In The Way”, which was said to be written about Cobain’s time when he was homeless and slept under bridges. I think the features that draw me to the song “Something In The Way” are Cobain’s personal and despairing whisper-like vocals alongside the very natural grittiness of acoustic guitar and melodic violin. “Something In The Way” may not be an extremely popular and inspiring song, but nevertheless it possesses strong emotion and empathetic qualities that lots of Nirvana fans can enjoy.
Although the energy of this album is consistently raw and unrefined especially in a time where perfect production and mixing was imperative for popularity, Cobain still felt it was too polished for his taste and admitted to actually being embarrassed of the final outcome. However, I think the final mix of the album maintains a perfect balance of contrasting musical elements.
Nirvana is notorious for captivating listeners with their loud and soft characteristics, such as in the song “In Bloom” where there is the dynamic of the heavily distorted guitar riffs accompanied by Cobain’s soft, low-pitched vocals being guided by bass guitar within the first verse which then drives straight into the chorus consisting of roaring vocals and booming drums and guitar. Nirvana’s thought-provoking lyrics were always interesting in their unconventional qualities and were designed to encourage the listener to question their everyday bias and rationalities regarding issues such as gender equality, race,religion and politics, as most grunge bands do. I personally appreciate lyrics that are thought-provoking and encourage me to figure out where I stand in my beliefs and uncertainties of the world, which is just one of the many characteristics punk/grunge bands possess aside from musical ability. I think if a band or an artist is in a place in their career where they are given free reign to express themselves in all forms of the art and start a conversation than that’s their liberty to do so.
Nirvana’s Nevermind album had a significant impact culturally and musically. When the album was released in 1991 it changed the course of music history and without the existence of this album bands like Radiohead or White Stripes probably wouldn’t have existed. In 1991 the musical landscape was primarily mainstream rock such as Guns ‘n’ Roses and many other hair metal bands. REM set the stage by getting in the door with an album that would soon be MTV favorites which would later would help Nirvana be able to get their foot in the door as well. Nevermind’s songs were structured and recorded for the first time in a week. In the article “Nevermind at 25: how Nirvana’s 1991 album changed the cultural landscape” they talk about how the band toyed with dynamics to change the loudness of their music so that it would appeal to everyone. Nirvana was a small band that did not fit in with the musical landscape but showed other bands that they didn’t need a big record contract or the best equipment. It took music away from the big mainstream rock stages and took it back to the garage. One of the reasons Nevermind was so popular is because it helped misfits feel normal. This album set the way for future alternative bands that would become very successful in their art. Research done by spotify shows that this album is the third most streamed album ever. Not only did their music change the musical landscape but it also changed the fashion too, as plaid button-down shirts and heavily destructed jeans became in style. Even to this day the T-shirts that Nirvana wore are still popular even when most wearers would struggle to name a single Nirvana song. They also urged tolerance for minority groups which people loved and praised them for. In April 5th, 1994 Cobain killed himself at home after a long struggle with depression and drug abuse. His death added to the iconic image of Nirvana which continues decades later to still have one of the most played albums in the world. Nirvana’s Nevermind album changed the scene of music forever which made way for more grunge and alternative bands, fashion, and sadly became even more iconic with Cobain’s death at just 27 years old.
Miles Strait is a DMACC student. He wrote this review as part of an assignment in JOU110 Intro to Mass Media.