If any rock genre could be defined as the 90’s sound, it’s grunge. Nihilistic, counter-cultural and effortlessly cool. Grunge was the new Punk, and it took America by storm.
Many Bands make up the Grunge genre, but no one quite did it like Nirvana. Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl made the world stop and listen with their iconic 1991 LP Nevermind. In just 13 songs, and 49 minutes of run-time, Nevermind perfectly captured the angst and rebellion of the disillusioned American youth.
Nevermind opens with the quintessential Grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, with its addictively catchy guitar riffs, nonsensical chorus and sense of melancholic chaos, this track is definitely the highlight of the album.
In Bloom follows, with a hint of stoner-rock in the rhythmic guitar playing in the opening instrumental. The lyrics take us into the mind of a troubled individual who feels like everything one does is in vain, never understanding the deeper meaning of life. Nirvana really had their finger on the pulse of suburban American youth with Nevermind, and this song goes a long way to cement that.
Come as you are is arguably the strongest song on the album, once again Cobain leads the line with aggressive, yet sensitive guitar strumming, which borrows heavily from Killing Joke’s 1985 song “Eighties“. Lyrically this is a fascinating song, with each line of dialogue contradicting itself, Cobain described the song as “About people, and what they’re expected to act like.”
Where the previous song is sensitive in its nature, Breed is a totally different song, a fast-paced headbanger of a song. Much like the lyrics to Come as you are this song contradicts what comes directly before it, beautifully portraying the Grunge zeitgeist in the process.
Lithium is the typical melancholic rock song, in which Kurt Cobain’s heartfelt poetry meets with his equally poignant angst. The transition between the dreary verse and the angry chorus is sudden, but Nirvana just seem to pull it off, making it look easy.
Polly rounds off the first side of the record, it follows the same audio tropes as the rest of the album, but its slow pace puts the vocals and lyrics of Cobain under the microscope, and he doesn’t disappoint. His southern-accented vocals synchronise perfectly with the brooding orchestra that is the Nirvana sound.
The second half of the album is mainly filler tracks, which is normal for a Rock record. Territorial Pissings, Drain You, and Lounge Act do a great job of keeping the listener interested whilst gently slowing the pace of the album.
Nevermind seemingly ends with the heart-breaking, almost solo-track that is Something in the Way, which details Cobain’s battle with depression and homelessness. You can hear the pain in Kurt’s’ voice when he sings “Something in the Way”, the lyrics derive from Kurt’s belief that whenever he tried to make himself happy, there would always be something stopping him.
Overall, Nevermind is just one of those records that will always be a part of my personal soundtrack, although Grunge is beyond my time, it’s still a fantastic part of music history to go back to and reconnect with. The mixture of dissonant power chords with “pop” hooks makes it the most accessible album for anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan of Grunge.
Nevermind will go down in history as the definitive Grunge soundtrack.
Written by Sam Revivo – Music Editor of Plugged