Thursday, October 21, 2004

Nevermind Nirvana

Release Date: 24 Sep., 1991
Review Written: Feb. 10, 2004
Rating: 10

Not only known for its stunning and entirely different music (more on that later), Nevermind was also known for the photographs harbored inside of its jewel case. On the cover a naked infant is chasing a dollar bill attached to a fishhook. On the back is a lemur strapped with dynamite. When the case is opened the first image that greets us is Kur(d)t Cobain and Co. standing. Kurt (the “d” is implied from here on out) is giving us the finger while sporting a Johnny Rotten sneer and James Dean leather.

To me, these are rock star posturings. Even Kid Rock throws up the bird inside his liner notes (granted Nirvana definitely beat him to the punch.) And yes, Kurt, we get the metaphor on the cover: chasing the Mighty Dollar will only drown you AND if you happen to reach it, you’re sure to be placed in a net, gutted, and fried. The baby was a nice touch.

The real interesting bits are the other photos. Open that booklet once past the finger and you have, left to right, Kurt, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic. Now, look at their eyes. These are not the jaded and embittered old men that they would have you believe they are. No, these are young sons: rebels, yes, but not without cause. These boys look confident and happy. And if I were any one of them, I would be happy too.

This album blew me away when I first heard it in 1994. That’s right, 1994 – three years after it was released. In fact, I only embraced Nirvana after Kurt’s drug-fueled suicide. In 1994, I was eleven – innocent, clean, and virginal. When I bought Nevermind, I hid it from my mom for 3 months. It was just too much: these songs did not hold anything back: it sounded like ‘grunge’ but it was pure punk rock.

10 years later, this album hits me in the exact same spot. I have become jaded and embittered, much like Kurt fulfilled his self-prophecy, but this album is still innocent, clean, and virginal. The albums begins by, at once, acknowledging it’s roots and giving a big fuck you to everything that came before it. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, bastardized by pop culture (Moulin Rouge, The Bad Plus), retains it’s anthemic spitting pomp of “here we are, now entertain us.” This is youthful hubris at it’s best: ignorant, demanding, and pissed off. “Lithium” is an ode to depression. The AIDS of my generation is deified and embraced, not reviled. My favorite track as a young buck, and my favorite now, is “Territorial Pissings.” Through the lyrics and pure violence of the music, this track condemns everything from sexism to the government to cultural perspective. Pissings offers up a myriad of problems, but never any answers. And maybe that is the beauty of Nevermind: it unites a generation of the curious with its bleating questions. We all end up in the same place, with the same thing on our mind, but no idea what to do about it.


Blogger Scott said...

Yes. Glad to see that you recognize this as a great album. I remember getting a tape of the demo tracks back in '90 and being blown away by them.

6:36 PM  

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