Album : Nevermind – Nirvana
Review : NME, 21 September 1991
Author : Steve Lamacq
Nirvana do here what Sonic Youth did so emphatically with ‘Goo’ last year – making the move from cult indie to major label with not as much as a hiccup. In fact, just as the Sonics impressed and outstripped the sceptics’ expectations, Nirvana have made an LP which is not only better than anything they’ve done before, it’ll stand up as a new reference point for the future post-hardcore generation.
For starters, this makes a refreshing change from the recent crop of groups – both British and American – who’ve used the Dinosaur Jr/Husker Du sound as their base starting point. Nirvana’s rawk, instead, draws upon their roots in Sub Pop grunge, but also takes in chunks of heavy ’70s bass/guitars and ideology.
Normally, this would spell the sort of appalling disaster you’d usually associate with ITV’s autumn schedules, but Nirvana, in their defence, have attacked rock and changed the format. This is monstrous in the sense of a good drama series, rather than a cheap US thriller. While various American grunge bands seem content to slosh around in their respective hardcore genres – albeit with some success and lucidity – Nirvana have opted out of the underground without wimping out of the creative process.
‘Nevermind’ is a record for people who’d like to like Metallica, but can’t stomach their lack of melody; while on the other hand it takes some of the Pixies‘ nous with tunes, and gives the idea new muscle. A shock to the system. Tracks like the excellent ‘In Bloom’ and best of the lot, ‘Come As You Are’, show a dexterity that combines both a tension and a laid-back vibe that work off each other to produce some cool, constructed twists and turns.
‘Come As You Are’ has something eerie about it, while opening track (and forthcoming single) ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ has a ‘Goo’ey feeling inherent in its lurching structure. At other times, the threesome lean into thrashier territory with the berserk ‘Territorial Pissings’ and screaming-pop of ‘Breed’.
This is the natural progression from their debut LP ‘Bleach’, exploring different avenues. They are less specific lyrically than SY, sometimes annoyingly so, but yet they still produce these vivid moods with ‘Drain You’, ‘Polly’ and the closing, quieter ‘Something In The Way’.
‘Nevermind’ is the big American alternative record of the autumn. But better still, it’ll last well into next year.
JC adds : For a man who would become, thanks to his BBC Radio 1 Evening Session shows, so closely associated with the rise of Britpop just a few years later, credit has to go to Steve Lamacq for such a concise and well-thought review of an album that nobody could have predicted, at the time of its release, would later become so omnipresent. His prediction that the impact of Nevermind would last a year or so was likely what everyone thought, not least the trio of musicians who made the album.