Kurt Cobain led the life of a classic rags-to-riches story. He was a young man from the small town of Aberdeen, Washington who worked his way to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll food chain with his band’s hit album “Nevermind.”
“Nevermind” was the record that propelled the Seattle grunge scene to the forefront of pop culture. It lent a voice to an embittered group of young people who suddenly hailed Cobain as the spokesman of a generation.
Now, 25 years after the album’s release, devoted fans and musicians continue to praise Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as one of the best rock albums of the 90s. Since then, rock has certainly come a long way. Grunge slowly disappeared over the years, making way for post-grunge and indie bands that now dominate the rock album charts.
“Nevermind” has come a long way, too. By today’s standards, it’s a relatively simple album with a single drum track, a bass track and a couple of power chord-filled guitar tracks.
However, that simplicity is what makes this album so timeless and iconic. The fact that it’s such a simple album makes it easy for future generations to get into. While we can never see Nirvana perform live ever again, the sheer madness of their live performances bleeds through the album, with each song contributing to an increasing sense of urgency built by the previous song.
The distorted four-chord riff of the opening track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of the most recognizable riffs in all of rock music history. It’s intense, energetic and catchy, and it captures the anguish of rebellious teenagers. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sounds like a song The Pixies could’ve made, incorporating the quiet-to-loud dynamic they helped to make popular. One could argue that the song more pop than grunge, but it’s still a great and explosive way to start the album.
The lyrics, written by Cobain, capture his personal frustration with the way things were following the Reagan years and his resentment toward people in general. He usually captured this frustration by screaming his lyrics, but every now and then, he’ll break out into a weary, childlike serenade like he does in “Lithium,” showcasing the versatile and raw nature of his voice. Because of Cobain’s tendency to waver between sarcasm, irony and fury, the album has a definitive punk soul, with a couple of variations that give each song a unique feel.
From the watery chorus pedal effects in “Come as You Are” to the acoustic bliss of “Something in the Way” to the absolute chaos of the hidden track “Endless, Nameless,” “Nevermind” features neat little surprises and nuances that keep it from being too redundant.
What ultimately makes this album so timeless is its ability to captivate and nearly terrify at the same time. Any thought of Nirvana is automatically going to bring thoughts of Cobain’s death, which even today mixes a bit of sadness with the enjoyment people get out of listening to this album. Despite being the most commercially accessible album of Nirvana’s short career, “Nevermind” exhibits some of the finest work of a band that took the world of rock music by storm and repainted it in their own frenzied image.