It’s ironic that lately a lot of articles have been talking about NIRVANA‘s iconic “Nevermind” lately, rather than celebrating its anniversary or spending time to appreciate the music. The novelty now is that the iconic baby on the record’s album cover is suing the legendary grunge act for child pornography. The timing couldn’t have been worse, considering the album is now celebrating its 30th anniversary on September 24th, 2021.
In their short time of existence, NIRVANA only released three studio albums, of which “Nevermind” is perhaps the most iconic; the one that everyone knows! The album opens with the band’s most iconic song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Writing something about the song doesn’t quite do it justice, since even now, it’s a song that always pops up in lists of the best rock songs of our time. Additionally, it’s a kickass track to open the album with: energetic, aggressive, and straightforward. Moving on, “In Bloom” shows who NIRVANA really are. In the verses, there’s a very simple melody that is accompanied by a soothing bass and drums, while the chorus comes in full force.
The album’s second single, “Come As You Are,” is one of those guitar riffs that many starting guitarists around the world start their careers with. I think the simplicity surrounding many of their riffs and tracks is the key to NIRVANA‘s success. Most of their songs are fairly simple on many levels, but many of their simplest riffs/lyrics/melodies are definite hooks, which is why the songs are so easy and fun to sing along to. The album takes a different view with “Breed,” a more groovy track that has some elements of rock ‘n’ roll implanted alongside Cobain‘s incredible vocals. This may not be their most popular song, but it’s surely one of my favorites.
After the intensity of “Breed,” NIRVANA winds down with the enigmatic “Lithium.” Here, the minimal verses work together very well with the incredibly powerful chorus that just consists of “yeah yeah yeah”; a recipe for success, as it is easy to remember and easy to shout. “Polly” is yet another versatile song, an acoustic track that, if not for its lyrics, you’d expect would be more at home on a R.E.M. album due to its poppy nature. Interestingly enough, for a track that is so poppy and beautiful, the lyrics are grim – Cobain wrote “Polly” about an incident in Tacoma, Washington, involving the abduction and rape of a 14-year-old girl in August 1987. Somehow the song stands out on an album that mostly involves loudness with mainly distorted guitars.
“Territorial Pissings” was recorded right into the mixing deck during the album’s sessions and encompasses a two-and-a-half-minute punk attitude, where Cobain expresses his inability to relate to most other males. Hating macho man stereotypes, the track is a reference to how some masculine animals urinate to mark their territory. The beginning features Krist Novoselic singing part of the 1967 “Get Together” by THE YOUNGBLOODS. Are you surprised that it’s perhaps the angriest track on the album?
One of the many highlights on “Nevermind” is perhaps “Drain Me.” It opens with Cobain strumming an electric guitar pattern, before loud distortion and pounding drums kick in. The track has a somewhat poppy sound, yet it still is as heavy as NIRVANA songs usually come by. “Lounge Act” has always felt really different to me for some reason, even though it touches on the same usual themes that Cobain often wrote about. The track starts with a goofy bass intro, which is where the title also comes from, as NIRVANA thought that the bass intro sounded like something a cheesy lounge band would use.
We’re going back to the punk stratospheres with “Stay Away.” This song perhaps contains my favorite bass lines on this record, which elevate the track to the next level. “On a Plain” is incredibly catchy, where the vocals feel again a little bit poppy, but make no mistake, it still contains distorted guitars. One of NIRVANA‘s songs that always makes me tear up is “Something in the Way.” This specific song reminds me of the time I had with someone special, not long after that the relationship disappeared into thin air. This song is a statement that NIRVANA‘s tender moments are just as powerful as the hard and heavy tracks they often incorporated in every album. In reality, for most listeners, this is where the album ends, if not being for the hidden track “Endless, Nameless.” Can we all agree that hidden tracks were an art form that, unfortunately due to the digitalization of music, has disappeared from the world? Perhaps this is the most aggressive NIRVANA track in existence, with speakers being blown out by bass guitars, wild jamming together, and it even sounds like Cobain attempted some growling. In the end, he also smashes his guitar in the studio. If that is not a fitting ending to the rock album of the century, then I don’t know what is!
There are very few albums in existence that are perfect from start to finish. Nowadays, albums contain a couple of great songs, but then are filled up with songs that are okay and enjoyable, but don’t stand out that much. “Nevermind” is an excellent album from start to finish containing a lot of NIRVANA‘s most popular tracks and even the songs that are, perhaps, lesser-known to the wider public are still stellar. Out of their three studio albums, “Nevermind” forms not only the centerpiece but also the main attraction of their way-too-short career.
Written by Laureline Tilkin
- Smells Like Teen Spirit
- In Bloom
- Come As You Are
- Territorial Pissings
- Drain Me
- Lounge Act
- Stay Away
- On a Plain
- Something in the Way
- Endless, Nameless
Kurt Cobain – vocals/guitars
Dave Grohl – drums
Krist Novoselic – bass