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.
mp3 : Nirvana – Come As You Are
mp3 : Nirvana – In Bloom
mp3 : Nirvana – Something In The Way
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.
4 thoughts on “ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (18/22)”
Ghod, how I hated this return to 1971 sludge!!! This record damaged music like Reagan damaged America. We’re talking serious, permanent damage we’re still feeling today.
Couldn’t agree less, my friend PPM. Due to having inadvertently become an adult and working like a dog on Wall St. from 1988 to 1991, I fell out of the music scene completely. My favorite groups had either disbanded (Clash, Jam, Buzzcocks, Attractions, Magazine, Smiths) or were now releasing boring records (Stranglers, XTC, REM, Bunnymen). Even worse, hair metal catastrophes like Metallica, Guns n Roses and Warrant ruled the US charts. I moved to Los Angeles in spring of 1991 and soon thereafter heard ‘Sounds Like Teen Spirit’. I thought it was the Pixies with a guest singer, which shows you how out of touch I’d become. I loved Nevermind. It was a punk record, no mistake, and effectively chased useless music like Bon Jovi and Loverboy off the air. The sound was immediate, guitar-based, straightforward and unlike everything that had been plaguing music since the end of the post-punk era. Nevermind was the kick in the ass rock desperately needed and I was glad for it.
Okay, so I’ll grant you wiping hair metal from the earth was not in and of itself such a bad thing. But then came Pearl Jam.
JTFL you have a great point, like it or not, Nevermind cleared the boards in the US for a good while. It allowed bands I preferred – Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, for example, a chance at the brass ring. It energized music labels to go after something new for the first time in over a decade.
But it being a surprise that Nevermind would do this or or have lasting power, I find a bit suspect. I remember attending their in store at Tower Records a week after the album’s release. It was a record company free for all. The PR people were so plentiful it felt like a Rolling Stones event. There was much calculation in maintaining a high profile for NIrvana on radio, in record stores and in the press. It was much less organic a rise than legend may have it – at least the way I see it.