Music Review: Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

The Album the Whole World Heard

Today we look at Nirvana’s most popular and best selling album; Nevermind.

An album so famous that very few people haven’t heard at least one song from it in their lifetime and one that is often considered a gold standard for 90’s music.

If you read my Alice in Chains  reviews you would know that the Grunge genre came from Seattle, and that most of the major (and popular) Grunge bands came from there; it’s pretty much all covered in the Facelift review I did. I heavily doubt that I will need to explain anything about this band, and more specifically this album, as by this point you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who doesn’t know about this so lets get right into the review.

Starting off with unarguably their most famous song, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is the song that flooded the TV and Radio for months worldwide when it came out. However, I’m going to buck the trend here, and this may be a bit of a controversial viewpoint to hold, but personally I feel this is Nirvana’s worst song. From a vocal effort that can best be described as a lazy mumble for every part of the song that isn’t the chorus to the lazy, downright copy-pasted, instruments that play throughout the entire song (save for a few parts), I honestly am uncertain as to why this song is so popular. The song was even one that Kurt Cobain hated to the point of outright mockery and intentional laziness when preforming it live, additionally one that he sung under sufferance when he did do it. It’s a song that to me embodies a state of “overhype” almost perfectly, it isn’t an overly inventive song, and it is one of the few Nirvana songs that I always skip.

The 2nd song, on the other hand, is a great example of what a somewhat lazy sound can give. ‘In Bloom’ is one of my favourite songs from this album, like a lot of songs on this album the lyrics are somewhat nonsensical but it’s bearable. It even manages to perfectly transition between slow and dull to over the top and exciting which is something very few songs manage to pull off. It feels somewhat short despite the fact that it’s 4 minutes long, and oddly enough, actually feels like it takes less time than the next track even though it’s an entire minute shorter than this one. I don’t know how that works but I’m not going to complain about it.

‘Come as you are’ is one of the more calm tracks on this album and is able to provide us a little show of the slower side of Nirvana. The guitar solo that happens halfway through does feel slightly out of place here, in my opinion, but it does help the song to speed up a little bit towards the end. Something I’ve noticed with this album, which seems very strange to me, is that unlike a lot of music that I’ve heard the mixing is spot on. You can perfectly hear every member of the band’s contribution to the songs, it’s easily noticeable here where nothing feels left out or like it’s being overshadowed by the sounds of everything else.

The 4th song, ‘Breed,’ brings us back to the fast pacing and utter nonsense lyrics that the rest of this album has present. It’s too short to really leave any sort of impression other than irritation with its annoying and repetitive lyrics that are only entertaining the first time you hear them. It’s a song that I don’t really have a lot to say about because the song itself doesn’t really give much to hold an opinion on.

‘Lithium,’ on the other hand, is my personal song on this album and is one that I do have a great opinion of. It is slow for the most part but the parts where the speed increases a bit are just simply stellar. It has a semi-sad feeling to it and has a pretty powerful message in its lyrics as well, which is more than can be said for most of this album. I will say if there is some criticism to be made about this song, and one part that I dislike it is this; why is “Yeah” repeated 11 times per chorus? To me inserting the word ‘Yeah’ in random parts of a song signifies laziness and lack of creativity which is a real shame cause otherwise this is a great song.

‘Polly’ brings us right back to the lame. It’s honestly not even a bad song if you don’t mind acoustic songs, but apart from that, its Boring with a capital B. It is very calm and it is soothing, and oddly enough, I don’t often skip this one but I can’t recommend this and I wouldn’t say its one of the better songs Nirvana has made. I’m convinced it’s more of a comically placed song considering the one that comes directly afterwards.

‘Territorial Pissings’ is the fastest, shortest and most abrasive song on the whole album. The entire song is a chorus and doesn’t really calm down or get to a slow pace at any point. I find great enjoyment out of this song for some odd reason, and though it is short, and it ends very abruptly, it is definitely worth a listen. 

The 8th song, ‘Drain you,’ is the most rock sounding song to me and sounds the least like a song that should be on this album as well. It feels almost like it was made by another band and then re-recorded by Nirvana in. But apart from the alt-rock sound present here, there isn’t much else to day about such a bland and somewhat generic sounding song. 

‘Lounge Act’ is somewhat entertaining for about the first thirty seconds until it feels like the song goes on loop. It doesn’t really get much better from there, apart from becoming a little more intense, unfortunately, not in a good way either. This song could have been a little bit better in my opinion if it just had a slightly different chorus to go alongside the regular one because other than it being short it doesn’t really have a lot going for it.

‘Stay Away,’ the 10th song, is a basic embodiment of annoyingly catchy, although oddly enough, it kind of works in its favor here. It works on a very basic principal of repeating a word that rhymes a little bit too well with minimal effort involved concerning writing. Though it just looks I’ve written down how basic rhymes work, specifically what I’m talking about is how certain things are so over the top they are just plain irritating. This song, while entertaining, does tend to grind a bit on anyone after a bit.

The second to last song, ‘On A Plain’ brings the alt-rock sound back and has it tuned down a little bit. The mixing sounds a little bit worse here but it also feels like it was done intentionally. It feels almost like a random song from the 60’s at times to me, and oddly enough, it works really, really well. Its chorus is also catchy like it’s nobody’s business, and overall I don’t really see any flaws in this song. It’s quick, it has Kurt’s signature “Mumblilly Grumbilly Yelling” vocal style. Though a great song, it doesn’t really leave a lot in the way of a lasting impression. Although, I would rank this as being high on the list of their best work.

The final song, ‘Something in the Way/Endless, Nameless,’ is a drastic change from the rest of the album and is the only Nirvana song I would describe as being emotional. It as supposedly about a time when Kurt Cobain lived underneath a bridge but this has been disproved several times over the years. It’s a slow and deep song. It’s also Nirvana’s song I never skip. I’d say that this is Nirvana’s equivalent of ‘Would?’ and is a perfect way to end this iconic, and some would say; timeless, album. ‘Endless, Nameless,’ on the other hand………. Is uh, Nirvana’s equivalent of ‘(untitled) from Sap’ and is nothing we have to delve into at all as it adds nothing to this album apart from making ‘Something in the way’ a 20 minute long track that uses 1/3 of the storage space on the disk.

Overall I’d give this album a 6/10. I feel that while it is a decent album it is also highly overated. Perhaps it’s just the time I was born but I don’t see what all of the fuss is about. That isn’t hate directed at this album, as it is good it’s just farm from one of the greatest of all time in my opinion.

Some fun facts about this album

The album has sold 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling albums of all time

After Kurt Cobain’s death the sign for his hometown Aberdeen, Washington, added a smaller permanent sign reading “Welcome to Aberdeen, Come as you are”

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