RETRO REVIEW: NIRVANA – ‘Nevermind’, not all was good in ’91

Nevermind is available  @ iTunes.

Nevermind

by Walter Price

 

In 1991 it wasn’t all bad in the rock world. Hair metal was losing steam and albums by Guns N’ Roses, Pixies, Primus, and Dinosaur Jr. were keeping things interesting. But there was a new wind blowin’. Something from the North West, something a bit…dirtier. Something that Mark Arm would go on to call, Grunge. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Green River were taking bits of punk, classic rock and flannels and choking the shit out of the glam heavy nonsense the 80’s had overdone.

None better than that little band who’s vocalist was, at first listen, unable to enunciate. Regardless of first impressions, Nirvana would soon be a household name. Rightfully so. But not before conventional media outlets and mags had a little fun at what could have been a passing fad. I think I remember MTV doing a man on the street bit asking random folks if they could understand lead singer Kurt Cobain. How neat. But I guess no one could know the impact this band and their 1991 album ‘Nevermind’ would have on us all.

I checked out some reviews from the year this seminal album was released and you may be surprised at the contrasting feelings this release was having on critics. Below are two of my faves. But it wasn’t all good in 1991…or was it.

 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

by David Brown

“The problem with current college-radio rock is that most so-called alternative bands desperately want to sound normal. On their collar-grabbing second album, Nevermind, and their first for a major label, the Seattle trio Nirvana never entertain that notion. The music — fuzz-blast guitars, throbbing bass — roars and spits with enough in-your-face bluster to make your compact disc skip; left-of-center rock rarely sounds as alive as the metallic punk of ”Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the album’s first single. Adding to the music’s edginess, though, are the lyrics. The characters in singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain’s songs all seem vaguely pathological-and oblivious to it. Cobain’s strange idea of a love song, ”Come as You Are,” has a refrain of ”And I swear that I don’t have a gun,” as if that’s supposed to be comforting; in other songs, he mutters lines like ”the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets.” Nirvana may not stand a chance of selling anywhere near as many records as Guns N’ Roses, but don’t tell Cobain; you never know how he’ll react. A-

ROLLING STONE

by Ira Robbins

“Led by singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, Nirvana is the latest underground bonus baby to test mainstream tolerance for alternative music. Given the small corner of public taste that nonmetal guitar rock now commands, the Washington State trio’s version of the truth is probably as credible as anyone’s. A dynamic mix of sizzling power chords, manic energy and sonic restraint, Nirvana erects sturdy melodic structures — sing-along hard rock as defined by groups like the Replacements, Pixies and Sonic Youth — but then at-tacks them with frenzied screaming and guitar havoc. When Cobain revs into high punk gear, shifting his versatile voice from quiet caress to raw-throated fury, the decisive control of bassist Chris Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl is all that keeps the songs from chaos. If Nirvana isn’t onto anything altogether new, Nevermind does possess the songs, character and confident spirit to be much more than a reformulation of college radio’s high-octane hits.

“Nirvana’s undistinguished 1989 debut, Bleach, relied on warmed-over Seventies metal riffs, but the thrashing Nevermind boasts an adrenalized pop heart and incomparably superior material, captured with roaring clarity by co-producer Butch Vig. Cued in with occasional (and presumably intentional) tape errors, most of the songs — like “On a Plain,” “Come as You Are” and “Territorial Pissings” — exemplify the band’s skill at inscribing subtlety onto dense, noisy rock. At the album’s stylistic extremes, “Something in the Way” floats a translucent cloud of acoustic guitar and cello, while “Breed” and “Stay Away” race flat-out, the latter ending in an awesome meltdown rumble.

“Too often, underground bands squander their spunk on records they’re not ready to make, then burn out their energy and inspiration with uphill touring. Nevermind finds Nirvana at the crossroads — scrappy garageland warriors setting their sights on a land of giants.”

 

NIRVANA – NEVERMIND

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