While we start wrapping up our grunge appreciation run for the Throwback series, it could hardly be complete without taking a look back at some of the genre's most definitive records. We've already taken it back to the works of late legends with Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice In Chains, but now we're at the genre's shining star: Nirvana.
When you start a band, your dream is to become as iconic as Nirvana. Their impact on music is nearly unfathomable, being a well-known name across the world. That's not without reason. Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide was the first major loss grunge experienced, the realities or stardom and fame really setting in. He didn't leave without a well-defined and forward thinking legacy, however. Nirvana's sophomore album is undoubtedly their most universally recognized, and for good reason: Nirvana defined human anxieties in Nevermind, bringing our deepest angers and loneliest memories to a new light.
The way Nevermind deals with its emotions is simple: it bares it all. There is no holding back on this record, and that makes its message all the more real, if not a bit overstated. You really come to understand the anger Cobain carried within him through songs like 'Breed,' its unrestrained attitude and dissatisfaction with the state of a relationship really manifesting itself as something more than just a man with an attitude. It's aggressiveness really shapes the anger Cobain has, and will not stop for anything. 'Stay Away' has a similar attitude about it, its straightforward delivery and raw vocals proving to be a powerful statement. The classic 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' also uses its aggression to incite real emotions, it's lyrics calling for revolution with its powerful and angsty chants. Though nearly nonsensical, 'Territorial Pissings' also gets the message across with its violent nature.
Ideas of depression are tragically expressed on the album. When Cobain sings of depression, he sometimes has a positive tone in the songs, as if he's masking all his sadness by building a happy facade around himself. That becomes very clear in 'Lithium,' where his lyrics of depression are met by upbeat tones. The song is clearly not an incredibly happy one, but it does have a sort of bittersweetness to it. Depression is expressed in pure somberness in closing track 'Something In The Way,' as Cobain sings wearily of being homeless and being without anyone there for him.
The music on this record is constantly changing, making its messages all the more adept. 'In Bloom' has a more classic grunge sound, but its mocking nature separates it from other tracks. The vibe of 'Come As You Are' is also a more "safe" grunge song, but its such an iconic sound that it ends up becoming a defining moment for the tone. Things do get interesting elsewhere on the record, though, like on 'Lounge Act,' where the song exhibits an almost western vibe. 'Drain You' has an epic bridge with very interesting sounding guitar that adds some color to the record.
Nirvana defined human anxieties in Nevermind, bringing ideas of anger and depression to an accessible and understandable light. It's clear to see why this album remains so iconic to this day: it captures the very ideas of the most terrorizing human emotions and expresses them for all to relate to. It's pure at heart and while it may seem rough on the outside, it's one of the first examples of a perfect capturing of emotions.
Favorite Tracks: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Something In The Way, Lithium
Least Favorite Track: Territorial Pissings
Rating: 84 / 100
Stream or buy Nevermind on Apple Music: