Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you"

#9 Nervermind, Nirvana, DGC Records, 1991

Nevermind is essential for me on so many levels, not the least of which is its visual realization of money-chasing underwater baby nudity. Like so many who were coming of age in the early '90s, this record was an icon of cultural galvanization that proclaimed that the days of Vanilla Ice and Hair Metal are over (or, if you're Sean B and we're talking about Hair Metal, temporarily suspended). I remember seeing the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in '92 and being absolutely blown away at its raw power. The song still has that effect on me - it is really, when I think back, the soundtrack to my high school experience. The song ranked #2 on my Top 200 as listed in 2004, and I wouldn't put it too much lower than that now. But Nevermind is hardly a footnote to Track 1. Butch Vig's engineering, the hallmark of that other essential high school record Siamese Dream, channels the untamed fury of Bleach into a sound that is about as antagonistic as you can be and still have "radio-friendly" music. On the subdued side, "Polly" and "Something in the Way" are sing-a-long classics, presenting themselves as easy fodder for the "I just learned how to play guitar" crew while still preserving punk integrity. Speaking of punk, the pounding energy of "Breed," "Territorial Pissings," and "Stay Away" are some of my favorite moments on the record. Though they weren't on the radio, they got the constant rewind treatment in my four-door Toyota hatchback with the Tie Fighter-patterned ceiling while I drove to and from school, work, and friends' homes. More important still, Nevermind features some of the best rock drumming of all time in the unstoppable machinations of Dave Grohl's humble role as vehicle for the great Drum God the sky. More than any other record, I hold this one as most influential on my own style of drumming. While I might rank 1993's In Utero critically as a better record than Nevermind, it has never struck the same chord in me as its predecessor. And the Unplugged record, which did receive a lot of attention from me in high school and early college, has not weathered well in my estimation as a whole past that point. Nevermind was, and continues to be, one of the most powerfully nostalgic records I own. Oh, and it still kicks ass like nobody's business.


Lucky Strikes said...

That's what I'm talking about, baby! It's about time Nirvana showed up on your list...I've been waiting weeks to see this naked baby. What a great album. Wasn't the 90's "grunge" age one of the best times in history? Nice pick.

Sean B said...

Very good record, though I would argue that Nevermind sits on Siamese Dream's lap.

Also, I think its an Urban(e) legend that 80s metal died when Nirvana popped on the scene. I remember GnFnR's Use Your Illusion albums being much huger at the time. In fact, the more I think about it, I believe that the band that had the most underrated effect on the transition from (hair) metal to alterna-music was not Nirvana, but Alice In Chains. I can't say I'm a fan, but I remember AIC being pitched (and played) as an old-fashioned metal outfit, and then -bing- there they were on the Singles soundtrack along with everybody else. Picking up fans from the old genre and transforming them into fans of a new, more alterna genre. Hmm.. Soundgarden is probably part of this, too.