DGC Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


When grunge hit the air waves in 1991, I was only six years old and more concerned with watching cartoons on Saturday then keeping up with the explosion of alternative rock. As such, the hugely successful release of Nevermind passed me by. Flash forward to 2004, as the nineteen-year-old version of me decided to give a listen to what has been deemed one of the best and most influential rock releases of the 90's.

I can definitely see where the "influential" aspect comes in. In terms of style and songwriting, Nevermind is a definite foundation for most of the rock that would come out of the 90's. for better or worse. Loud, distorted guitars, raging, sometime screaming vocals, and lyrics that range from the pessimistic, to the positive, and to the apathetic. It is the latter that most impressed me. The words Cobain crafts perfectly encapsulate the Generation X mindset, of isolation, non-conformity, and yes, depression.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I've given you some good news, and here is some more. Nevermind at times is very, very good. There is some strong material, as evidenced by the classic single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." This song should be placed in the Smithsonian, as one of those tracks that defines a genre, combining all the elements of grunge into an effective, and indeed catchy piece of work. The band also finds success when they tone it down, as in the acoustic tracks "Polly" and the album closer, "Something In The Way." "Polly" is a song that captivated me from the first listen, for reasons I don't know. There is something haunting in the performance of Cobain that keeps me interested.

What about the rest of the material you ask? After the halfway point of the album, I started to lose interest. The legend of this album led me to believe I was in for a mind-blowing experience, but it was not too be. Simple put, most of the songs on Nevermind sound the same. Cobain was a very talented lyricist, but the same could not be said of his skill with a guitar. The rest of the band failed to impress, except for bassist Chris Novoselic, whose ability to shift from McCartney-esque melodic type playing to heavy metal-type playing gained my respect. Overall, unfortunately, these are simple songs the get by because of the solid leadership and words of Cobain, and the work of Novoselic.

Nevermind rocks like any other album, but not in the way it should. The whole idea of grunge was that it was "not clean." Distortion, sloppy guitar work, anger expressed through music. Here is the paradox of Nevermind; it is too well-produced. While there are some songs the band offers up to dispel this notion, such as "Territorial Pissings," the rest of the album sounds too much like what Nirvana did not want to be. There are some quite decent harmonies to be found, e.g. "In Bloom," and they sound nice, but they go against the notion of what Nevermind should sound like.

Nevermind is considered to have that "sacred cow" status of the great albums, which made it tough to review this album. I'm aware of what people think of it, and I know what this album did to the music industry, and realize its significance, but with the passing of time and the tragic death of Cobain, its actual quality may have been exaggerated.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B+



© 2004 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.