Nevermind

Reappraising a seminal moment in music history, Alternative Rock/Grunge band Nirvana’s album, “Nevermind” receives a 30th Anniversary reissue.

Active for only a seven-year span between 1988-1994, the trio of lead singer Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl found themselves at the forefront of the US Pacific Northwest’s early 90s Grunge scene.

Climbing their way through their local underground music pits, they recorded their raw, bludgeoning DIY debut, “Bleach” with Sub Pop, an independent record label credited with recording and marketing the Rock style they coined “Grunge.”

Other notable releases from the label are Pearl Jam’s “Ten” (1991), Alice in Chains’ “Dirt” (1992), Stone Temple Pilots’ “Core” (1992) and Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” (1994).

Nirvana’s success with “Nevermind,” however, was lightning in a bottle down to the iconic, controversial album cover. Unexpected to the band and everyone else, following its debut on Sept. 24, 1991, “Nevermind” reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and would go on to become one of the greatest-selling albums of all time with over 30 million copies sold worldwide.

“Nevermind” though, was a slight departure from the untamed sludge of “Bleach” (1989). With a more polished, radio-friendly sound, Cobain’s lyrics were mined from personal journals and combined Pop hooks with dissonant guitar riffs on classics like, “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “Stay Away.”

The opening blood-pumping guitar riff of lead single, “Smells like Teen Spirit” and its often misquoted sing-along chorus, “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous, Here we are now, entertain us. I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us” are unavoidable.

In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain offered said about the song, “I was trying to write the ultimate Pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard (them) for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.” It’s easy to be overlooked by casual listeners because Nirvana’s style is deceptively simplistic. This use of dynamics — modulating between soft, catchy runs and frantic, spastic scenes — is spread throughout the album. Reference the bare, surreal “Polly” and the heavily sedated “Something in the Way.”   

Released on Nov. 12, “Nevermind (30th Anniversary Super Deluxe),” lists the original 12-track album, paired with “Endless, Nameless” (a hidden track on later pressings). Also included are four live recordings, each with set lists around 15-songs: “Live in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1991),” “Live in Del Mar, CA 1991),” “Live in Melbourne, Australia for Triple J, 1992)”  and “Live in Tokyo, Japan (1992).”

The entry from Japan is significant because it was their final Japanese tour and was taken from their show, headlined by the Smashing Pumpkins at Nakano Sunplaza, Tokyo. On the surface, the project can be taken as another exhaustive cash-grab perpetuated by a record company.

Less cynically, the offering is an astonishing live catalog of a band with humble beginnings, taking their art across the far reaches of the world, before they were painted by a hue of tragedy. Cobain would commit suicide in April 1994 due to personal issues and  grappling with stardom.

There are other official live albums that superbly capture their essence, like “Live at Reading” and “Live at the Paramount,” but the solid set in Del Mar and “Live in Tokyo, Japan (1992)” are just as good at conveying Nirvana’s raucous aura.

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