Review Summary: The soundtrack of a generation.1994
Pedro held his mother's hand as they navigated the aisles of the large chain record store. A trip like this was a rare treat, and while not as instantly interesting and gratifying as the zoo or the playground, stores in general held a sort of fascination for him. Here, even though he did not know most of the artists (the only 'grown-up' band he really listened to were the Beatles), he becamed entranced by the album covers and posters scattered around. He had always been drawn to cool concept art, to the point where, when he was going through his badge collecting phase when he was three or four, he always made sure to pick up as many pins with cool drawings of snakes and hearts and pumpkins as he did Snoopy or Smiley ones.
He therefore entertained himself by looking at the covers, as he and his Mum searched around for a suitable replacement for a record they were returning. Suddenly, they came across a likely candidate, high up on a shelf, standing out from the lot. His Mum pointed out that the 'Mandatory Buy!' sticker on the cover must mean it was good, and even at his young age, Pedro could see the logic behind that. Plus, the cover looked pretty interesting - a naked baby swimming after a money bill (you could see his boy bits and everything!), with the back depicting a monkey with a flamethrower in front of a wall of fire. He turned the record around in his hands a few times, then nodded to his Mum. A few minutes later, they were exiting the store, Pedro clutching his first 'grown-up' record ever, and anxious to get home and hear what it sounded like.
Little did he know, it would change his life.
Over the next few weeks and months, he played that record many times. The band, called Nirvana, were like nothing he had heard before. He had heard of heavy metal, but these guys were not as noisy as he thought most bands of that genre would be. The singer yelled a lot, but the songs were kind of nice - even his parents liked them. He argued with his Dad all the time about how Smells Like Teen Spirit
was much better than Come As You Are
, which his Dad favoured, but Pedro thought was a little boring and not noisy enough. He also did not like Polly
, even though everyone else did, because it was a ballad, and ballads were for girls. He liked everything else on the album though, even if he was a little puzzled by the fact that the band had only put a little bit of each lyric on the booklet, instead of writing them all down. When Nirvana came to his town and his Dad said he was too little to go, he was gutted; months later, when that opportunity slipped away forever, he would come to resent his father even more. By the beginning of the following year, he was writing in his English paper about how the person he would most like to meet was Kurt Cobain.
As time passed, he got to know other bands, was given a few more 'big person' records, and eventually started being able to name acts and songs that he liked. But that record, his first, remained at the forefront of his expanding collection - past those early days, into his radio-pop phase, and through to the hard rock and metal years, there it stood, ready for another spin they both knew would eventually come. Even as it got overlooked in favour of other Nirvana records. Even as Pedro convinced himself he was 'past the age' to like Nirvana, then backtracked on that decision. Even as he grew up and moved out and left his hard copy of his very first album behind. It remained there, as a steadfast reminder of why and how its owner had come to really
like music in the first place.
As it still does today.
Pedro pressed 'Play' on his mp3 player and waited to see if anything had changed. He knew he was going into this album with his mind 90% made up, and that he could never be partial towards it. But he was certainly going to try.
He could just see his fellow Sputniker's comments now. 'Like we needed another 5 review of this'. 'Album is overrated'. 'LOL u so mainstream'. Plus, to his dismay, another user had done this album just a few days previously, effectively stealing his thunder. He did not care, though. It was his party, and he would do what he wanted. He had realized months ago, when he was trying to decide what to review for his milestone 300th review, that he had to talk about this one
, the one that had started it all. And though it might be one of his most predictable reviews to date, he was determined to follow through with his plan.
As the album thumped along, in its pleasant familiarity, he also began to realize that he still could not see what everyone was on about. He still could not quite understand the claims that the album was 'overrated' or 'not that good'. Overplayed, sure. But overrated? Not really. There still was not a single weaker song to be found in it, even twenty-three years after its release, nineteen after he had purchased it, and eighteen after the grunge scene had died. Teen Spirit
might have been overplayed to death, but it was still as much of a beast as ever. In Bloom
was, if possible, even better, its qualities overshadowed by its unfortunate position on the tracklist, in between two more widely-known neighbours. Territorial Pissings
was as frantically satisfying as it had always been, Something In The Way
still as haunting (and still not a Beatles cover), and even the songs which annoyed him at ten years of age - Come As You Are
- still did, and for pretty much the same reasons. Nothing had changed, except his age.
Except it had
. His ear now trained by years of critical listens to hundreds of albums, Pedro began to pick up on the odd flaw here and there that he had never noticed before. The build-up to Breed
, for example, took too long to get going, and the last chorus of Stay Away
was not really necessary. Come As You Are
still sounded like a more commercial, inferior re-tread of Smells
, right down to the solo, and Polly
was stil miles beneath its fast, (New Wave)
version. With a hint of trepidation, Pedro realized the album was no longer a perfect 5 to him
. If confronted with the question, the musical critic in him would have to admit that it was now more like a 4.8, or even 4.5. However, he reasoned, the importance of this album (both to him and to an entire generation of rocker kids) more than justified that extra couple of decimal points - which meant the album retained, not only its rating, but its place in his heart.
Pedro opened up his browser, typed in the address for Sputnikmusic, and got ready to upload his piece. He realized this was not so much a review as a justification for his love for the album; once again, however, he could not care less. He would take whatever was thrown at him. Because the most important mission of all - to realize if and how much he still liked his very first album - had been more than accomplished,
He filled in the recommended albums, pressed 'Submit', and braced himself for impact.
Little Pedro's Recommended Tracks
All of them, but especially Smells Like Teen Spirit, and maybe not Polly or those ones near the end.
Adult Pedro's Recommended Tracks
Smells Like Teen Spirit
On A Plain