Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Number Ten: Nirvana's Nevermind (1991)

Why is Nevermind at the bottom of my list? It's a safe choice. I've seen it on lists in many publications. Half of these people haven't listened to it in 10 years, but it's the pick that gives you "cred." I come from the opposite angle. I didn't buy Nevermind when it came out. For me, Nevermind was the album that the assholes in high school listened to. I had my Velvet Underground, Smiths, and...Smashing Pumpkins.

I didn't give Nevermind a full listen to until sometime in '98. I was surprised by how catchy the songs were. Just like when I listened to London Calling and thought to myself, "this is punk?", I listened to Nevermind and thought, "this is grunge?" Of course, by now Grunge is next to meaningless. No other grunge band stood the test of time, or even the test of 5-years-later. The alternative-rock revolution is only the latest and weakest "Louder is Better" revolution that comes around every decade. Critics moan over it for a while and it ends up just sounding like rock has always sounded. It'll probably happen again. Or maybe rock is dead. Hard to tell.

Back to the album. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a great punk single. Cobain claimed that he didn't know it was a brand of deodorant at the time he chose the title. Who knows if it's true - I certainly knew it was a brand of deodorant. The song was released at just the time my peers and myself were starting to worry about whether or not we should be wearing deodorant. Of course, no one wanted to wear a deodorant specifically marketed for teenagers. Thus the terrific "cool by being uncool" title resonated strongly inside this Reagan baby. (What happened to that cool/uncool spirit? Even rap had its Flava Flav. Did rock die the moment it couldn't laugh at itself?)

The rest of the songs are great. To be honest I'd have to listen to the album again to tell you more about them. "Drain You" is my second favorite, but the others tend to blend together and it's hard to tell if I'm humming along to the Unplugged versions instead when they run through my head. Hence the #10 spot for an album that everyone else either leaves off or puts at #1. It's a great album, but it wasn't my album when it came out, and it changed MTV a lot more than it changed the artistic direction of pop music. And we all know how MTV turned out...


herr zrbo said...

At the time it seemed that 'grunge' was so significant. After all the hair metal bands of the late 80's and Paula Abdul pop of the time, Grunge felt more like a return-to-roots. I suppose punk was the same thing.. then it devolved into Motley Crue. And then the sound of Seattle devolved into late 90's "alternative" crap, hell that guy from Matchbox 20 is still putting out crap.

Now we've got all the "The" bands trying give music back some meaning. It's a vicious cycle. I couldn't care for most of the "The" bands, but I still love when old Pearl Jam comes on the radio. Maybe it's just nostalgia for whatever 'rebellious' music was popular in our youth. Maybe 10 years from now all these kids will be sitting around college saying "Wow man, they just don't make music like The Strokes/Hives/White Stripes anymore."

yoggoth said...

Don't put The White Stripes in the same categories as those other bands!

jason said...

I also couldn't get into Nirvana in their heyday, for the same reason you mentioned (I thought I was the only one!). It was only after he died that I learned he was an outcast in high school, and that the fact that the "bullies" were listening to his music caused him no end of suffering.

I definitely prefer Unplugged and In Utero to this one, though. The songs aren't quite as good, but they're more timeless somehow.

Little Earl said...

"He's the one
Who likes all the pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he don't know what it means"

Well here I was saying how we were going to list all these obscure albums that nobody's ever heard of, and yet we start out with one of the most famous albums ever. This one just barely missed the cut for me. It's a pretty hard album to dislike. But I honestly wonder why so many people think it's "that" great. I mean, not only does it top Best Albums of the '90s lists, but I've seen it make the top five of Best Albums of All Time lists! Come on, it's basically the same exact song in 12 variations. I don't know, most of my "all time favorite albums" at least have a little more musical diversity to them. I also don't care much for the drum sound (I think Dave Grohl plays the drums great, but they didn't produce him very well, Butch Vig my ass).

Gotta love "In Bloom," though.

ninquelote said...

Because you can buy an album (or CD or 8 track) and listen to it over and over, and your choices are so heavily influence by the area you grew up in, your friends at the time, and which band member you thought was the cutest (Paul 4ever), a favorite album, as opposed to a favorite movie, speaks more to me in terms of the all over feeling and memories associated with that album.

I think Nevermind does a good job at having that overall feeling.

I remember this album coming out when I was in Jr High. I didn't know what grunge was, I didn't have MTV, I sure as hell couldn't afford to buy any CD's. I had a taped copy (that's taped, not burned) that a friend of mine gave me, and I liked it. I wish I still had that tape because I still don't own the CD.