Review Summary: The grunge album that changed the world forever. An inspired release that will be forever endeared by many.
Kurt Cobain was a huge inspiration, not just to myself, but millions of teenagers and the like during the grunge explosion in the early 90's. The man wasn't exceptionally superb or virtuosic in the sense of being a "great" guitarist or even a competent singer. But the passion and emotion he encapsulated in the group was beyond anything that anyone could ever imagine. Essentially, Nevermind is considered their most mainstream and accessible release. Their debut Bleach was heavy and dark, whereas their final release In Utero was also dark but more expansive in terms of sound and ideas. Here on Nevermind, where the band broke into the mainstream and audiences embraced them in America and around the world, Kurt and Co. introduced a sound that was copied by many groups and inspired several artists both in the present time and the future. Musically, everything here is pretty typical of the grunge sound - distorted guitars, power chords, simple progressions and of course, Dave Grohl's signature drumming which was powerful and sonically monolithic (mostly because he just pounded his kit as hard as he could).
But what makes Nevermind a classic? Smells Like Teen Spirit (probably Nirvana's most well known track) begins with the timeless chords that ring true to the grunge sound. As the track begins and develops, the listener is treated to Kurt's signature droll tone and his wonderfully drug-induced vocal ability. Yes, the man wasn't a particularly soulful or melodic/trained vocalist but his voice and delivery of his lyrics resonates to this day. The opening track is a song which is essentially about deodorant (Teen Spirit was an odour-preventer in the USA at the time) yet it is more than that. It is about sex basically (my libido -yeahhh). The other singles from the album, In Bloom and Come As You Are, are two of the greatest grunge tunes of all time, particularly the latter. The lush tone of Kurt's guitar, which mixes a deep chorus effect with both a mix of heavy distortion and in stark contrast a watery, clean tone, makes the opening and staple riff of Come As You Are fantastic. Lyrically, the song is superb - thematically speaking, I believe it is about going on a date with a lady whom Kurt fancied/fancies and he is explaining that she should just be herself (that's what I've interpreted from the song anyhow). In Bloom is also a great number, featuring thick bass tones and a truly superb chorus.
The rest of the album tends to follow suit but the real gem in my opinion is the closer of the album, Something In the Way. It is an Incredibly sombre number, featuring a very simplistic set of just two chords for the verse. The atmosphere is amazing - Kurt's vocals resonate with me so much here and he sounds so broken and desolate. It really hits home when he goes into the chorus, repeating the song title and humming after the lines. I prefer the acoustic version featured on MTV unplugged and it is probably my most favoured song out of Nirvana's catalogue of hits. There are plenty of other superb tracks on offer here - Lithium is a wonderful song with great guitar and introspective lyrics dealing with religion and what I believe is depression. The angriest song here is definitely Territorial Pissings. Kurt sounds demonically possessed when he screams.
Other tracks here are of a high quality - in all honesty, there really isn't any weakness present on the album. Overall, Nevermind may have changed the world (and heightened the chances that Kurt would not be able to deal with fame and fortune) yet it is so much more than just a classic grunge album. It was one of the first albums that I ever owned. The first song I learnt on guitar was Come As You Are. It inspired a generation of angsty teenagers whom raged at their parents because they smoked cannabis and drank far too much alcohol. It is profound in it's attempt to convey a sense of not just angst but also personal difficulties and beliefs. Whilst in my opinion it isn't their best album it is still a classic - and one that is utterly timeless. Nevermind the bollocks - nevermind the suicide. Kurt changed the world - and will always be remembered as the guy who couldn't do any pinch harmonics on his instrument but could make a change in how people viewed heavy rock music with his attitude.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Come As You Are
Something In the Way