Redress – I’ve not listened to Nevermind in a few years…I need to go back and listen to it again – is it as good as I remember it being?
To start these musical redresses, I thought the best place to start would be at the beginning – after all, the beginning usually explains where you’ve ended up….
In 1995, I liked music, but it wasn’t the most important thing in my life. I was more obsessed with video games at the time. I had started listening to indie guitar bands like Oasis, but music hadn’t really grabbed me yet…there was something missing.
Then my uncle gave me a cassette with Unplugged in New York and Nevermind on it. I listened to Unplugged first and thought it was OK, if nothing special. I then listened to Nevermind and it blew me away. Right there and then, my life was changed. I ditched the likes of Oasis and Blur, got into heavy metal, grunge, punk, alternative rock and never looked back. While my class mates were enjoying the Spice Girls, I was asking my uncle to tape me Soundgarden, Aerosmith, Slayer and whatever bands I thought sounded cool in Kerrang!!!! I was obsessed with Nirvana for years after hearing Nevermind and I’d argue the only band who competed with them for my attention as a teenager was The Offspring.
Fast forward to 2018 and things have changed. I’ve mellowed a lot and can enjoy more genres of music now. I still love Nirvana, but if I listen to them, I always put on Bleach or Incesticide. Not the album that started my musical journey, but their debut and their B-Side collection. Have I burned out on Nevermind, having listened to it so many times? Or do I just need to revisit Nevermind again and see if my love for it returns?
Smells Like Teen Spirit (5/5) is still one of my favourite songs to this day and is one of the best album openers I can think of. Despite it being 26 years old, it still sounds fresh and vibrant, with an edge that many bands have tried to copy and failed. There are so many pluses for me here – the iconic opening riff, Dave Grohl’s brilliant drumming (he was hired after debut album Bleach as Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were looking for a ‘big drum’ sound and I would say this song is one of the best examples of that), the lurching bass under the verses, the energetic solo, the feedback at the end…I think Smells Like Teen Spirit is amazing, though I dare say the demo version on the With The Lights Out collection is even better.
By contrast, I’ve never been too keen on In Bloom (3/5). The song just seems to drift along, with no real highs. It’s a surprisingly long song too. However, I will give In Bloom credit for two things. Firstly, I’ve always liked the guitar solo, it’s got a good melody which I prefer over flashy lead playing. Secondly, In Bloom is a great bridge between Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come As You Are. Listening to Nevermind again has made me realize how good the track listing is – the pacing is brilliant and the albums flows very well.
Come As You Are (4/5) is best known for the chorus laden main riff (which Cobain kinda stole from Killing Joke’s ‘Eighties.’) It’s probably the catchiest song on the album and the ‘quiet-loud’ contrast is excellent. I love the heavy outro section too.
Breed (3.5/5) is a good punk song and I absolutely love the fuzzy guitar tone on this track. When I first heard it in 1995, I was blown away – there was a venom and bite to Breed that made me realize that Oasis weren’t going to cut it any more.
Lithium (3/5) reminds me of In Bloom – it’s not a song I’m keen on. I’d argue it’s a song that hasn’t aged well, with the chorus sounding somewhat leaden to me. However, like In Bloom, Lithium has some redeeming features. such as the quiet guitar riff that plays during the verse and the angry interlude. I’ll go back to my track listing argument too – I think Lithium is placed perfectly between Breed and Polly. Lithium is still heavy, but it slows the pace from Breed, seguing nicely into Polly.
Polly (3.5/5) is a complete comedown for the first half of the album. I’ve always thought of it as a catchy but haunting song and it’s simple acoustic playing adds a bit of variety to the album. Upon listening to Nevermind again, I realize that I do like the variety in the songs. It’s not just lots of fast, heavy songs with an acoustic song thrown in, there are genuine changes between the tracks’ mood, weight and tempo.
Territorial Pissings (3/5) is just a blast of brash noise. Bar it’s odd opening sample, there isn’t much to take in here. Again, it’s a track that’s in the perfect place on the album – it picks up the pace after the sombre Polly, with the intention to wake you up for the next set of tracks.
Drain You (3/5) is an odd one. I love the intro, but get kinda bored by the time the slow interlude rolls around. I think it’s a good song on an album of great ones, a song that gets overshadowed by the likes of Teen Spirit and Come As You Are.
Lounge Act (4/5) is a bit of a personal favourite. I love the bass intro and the paranoia projected by the lyrics and singing, leading to the awesome screamed verse near the end. Legend has it that Kurt Cobain wanted Lounge Act to be the first single off Nevermind and if it had been any other song off the album bar Smells Like Teen Spirit, I’d have agreed with him.
Stay Away (3/5) is a decent punky sing-a-long, but it’s not one that sticks in my head after it’s over. It’s also the track I always forget about on Nevermind, which isn’t a good sign when I’ve been listening to the album for over twenty years!
On A Plain (4/5) is another personal favourite. Sure, it’s not the most spectacular song on the album, but I find Cobain’s cheerful singing endearing and I love the lyrics. On A Plain always reminds me of spring 1995, when I first heard Nevermind. I was coming to the end of my first year in high school and was at the point where I was…kinda enjoying school. I had got used to the new building and school day structure, started to make some friends and was enjoying being out playing football and hanging around. Whenever I hear On A Plain, I think of sunny fields, football and trying to make sure I didn’t miss the bus home….
The final song on Nevermind (I’m not counting Endless Nameless as it wasn’t on my original cassette copy and I think it’s terrible!) Something In The Way (4/5) is, in my opinion, a very underrated song. My favourite thing about it is the haunting groove the cellos add to the chorus, it’s very eerie, but very catchy too. Something In The Way might be one of the best closing tracks of any album, I can’t think of any other contenders right now….
Overall – 3.66/5.00
Verdict – I’m glad I listened to Nevermind again – I had forgotten what a good album it is. Sure, it’s been surpassed by other albums, but Nevermind still holds up after over twenty years of listening. Going back, I realized that there isn’t a bad song on Nevermind, plus the track listing makes great use of each track.
Also, without Nevermind, there isn’t any other music for me. I found myself wondering where I would be without Nevermind….probably listening to the likes of Oasis and The Stereophonics and never quite feeling satisfied with what was on offer. If writing this blog post has taught me anything, it’s not to dismiss Nevermind again – not only is it a good album, but it has shaped so many of my opinions on music, that I can’t possibly ignore it.
Unless it’s Endless Nameless…then I can happily ignore that track 🙂
What do you think of Nevermind? Let me know in the comments section…