Nirvana’s Nevermind came out in 1991, which makes the record 21 years old. Apart from the chronically overplayed “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I doubt that any songs on the record are still embedded in the public consciousness. This said, it’s 2015: how does it hold up?
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the first track on the record, should be a write-off. In the past 20 years, the angst-ridden anthem went from an overnight hit to a cultural behemoth in no time at all. Even your grandmother and your sister’s tone-deaf two-year-old know “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the song used to advertise hamburgers at one point or another; I can’t begin to imagine how many times Kurt Cobain has rolled over in his grave by now.
Name another song on Nevermind. I dare you. “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are” don’t count.
As instrumental as the record was in providing exposure for Seattle’s grunge scene (and it didn’t even really do that much; name another grunge band), I think it’s safe to say that had Kurt Cobain not been so spectacularly romanticised by the Lisa Simpsons of the world, Nevermind would have come and gone with the same impact that In Utero did.
Seriously, name one song off of In Utero.
Speaking of “In Bloom”, this track epitomizes non-“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana: loud distorted guitars! Add more crash cymbals! Quick, isolate the bass and kit for dramatic effect, and while we’re at it, Kurt can brush his shoulder-length dirty blonde hair from his eyes while he half-moans words into the microphone with all the enthusiasm of a twelve-year-old made to volunteer his summer at a retirement centre as punishment for failing both math and English for the second consecutive year.
There are 13 songs on Nevermind: “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “In Bloom,” and “Generic Grunge Song” numbers four through 13.
Let’s talk about Nirvana’s saving grace. No, it’s not Kurt Cobain. It’s Dave Grohl. (I’m only going to mention Krist Novoselic to articulate my surprise at finding out he’s actually still alive, applaud his dignified resignation into relative obscurity, and point out the fact that he now looks like a New York Times Sunday edition caricature of a psychiatrist, which I find endlessly appropriate given the circumstances.)
Barring Kurt Cobain for what should be an obvious reason, Dave Grohl is the only member of Nirvana to still have a career in music. There’s a reason for that. First off, I think it’s very telling that Grohl is known more for his role in Foo Fighters and Them Crooked Vultures than he is for his role in Nirvana, a band in which he had little creative input. And secondly, Grohl is actually a nice guy; just about everything I’ve heard him say indicates that he’s not afraid to let you know you’re in the wrong, but as long as you’re not hurting anyone he’s content to let you keep on truckin’. Dave Grohl is that cool uncle we all wish we could have. And he makes halfway decent music as well.
Unless you’re new to being a teenager and want to let everyone know you’re edgy and full of angst, there’s absolutely no reason why you should listen to Nirvana’s Nevermind in its entirety other than to remind yourself that no matter how much of a stand against capitalism and corporate America you think your favourite grunge band embodies, someone somewhere has been paid to allow the cover image of that same record to be plastered on a shirt that sells for $22.50 at Hot Topic. Kurt Cobain, eat your heart out.