Regardless of personal feelings about the band, there is no denying the impact the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind had on the hard rock community. That album changed the way music was heard. It pushed the boundaries of what was expected from a hard rock record. Nevermind changed the entire landscape of rock music and countless bands would follow hoping to emulate that sound and that market share. Nirvana would become known as leaders in the “grunge” revolution, but I think what gets lost in the re-telling of the story is how fantastic of an album Nevermind really is.
Sure, Nirvana is often referred to as the band that killed hair metal, or the band that launched grunge, or the band that started the wave of “feeling sorry for myself” rock music, but beyond that, Nirvana released an album that touched the senses in a way not many before had. Take a look at the gigantic first single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The first time you heard the choppy guitar riff followed by the crashing drums of Dave Grohl that sounded like a fireworks display grand finale, you had to hear more. And more importantly, you had to own this album. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was something different, as was the entire Nevermind album.
Over the course of the last twenty years, we’ve all been caught up in the death of Kurt Cobain, the speculation of what could have been had he not committed suicide. We’ve been fascinated with the conspiracy theory of whether he was murdered. We’ve been entrenched in looking for long last demos and unreleased material. What we’ve forgotten though is the complex brilliance of Nevermind. As a young man listening to Nevermind for the first time, I connected with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” On A Plane,” and “Territorial Pissings”. Finally! A platform where I could shout about the bad things in life and release my pain through primal screaming thinly veiled as rock music. It was an amazing experience.
Don’t get me wrong. The hair metal of the time was exceptional music in its own right. Singing about women and sex and booze and partying had its place, but finally having an outlet to unleash my inner anger without having to burp, grunt, and growl incomprehensibly (ala Death/Doom Metal), added to my already growing feeling of invincibility and immortality. If I were to hear Nevermind for the first time today, I would certainly like it, but I can’t guarantee that I would embrace it the same way I did in my late teens. Nevermind was a calling to all the youth of the nation that it was ok to explode from time to time and that life wasn’t always about the party. Nevermind was a reminder that there is anger inside of us all and that occasionally, that anger needs to be released, vented, and distributed into the world.
There aren’t many albums that affect me the way Nevermind did. The pure unique sound and style, the band’s desire to be decidedly different, their willingness to embrace their independence is something that I was enamored with. Nirvana was truly unique, and my first exposure to Nevermind cemented me as a fan and secured my love for the band. It’s a shame that we never got to see a deeper body of work, but I will always appreciate what we do have and will never forget how groundbreaking Nevermind was and how it shook the rock world to its core, slapping rock music in the face, and waking up the sleeping masses. Yes, we had to endure several copycats and a lot of not so great bands, not to mention endless songs about hating yourself and hating life, but it was all worth it. There are few albums as grand as Nevermind.