Saturday, September 24, 2011

20 years ago today....

Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind.

Take a second and think about that...I'll wait.

20 YEARS AGO TODAY, NIRVANA RELEASED THE MOST IMPORTANT ALBUM OF MY GENERATION, NEVERMIND!!!. I feel old just writing that. I feel really old when I hear any song from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc, etc, on the classic rock radio station.

This freaks me out. Not just because I know people who are under 20 and were not alive when this album came out, but because I see people/kids that worship this album/band. This leads to the question of "why"? Why is this one of those albums that is so important, kids are still listening to it 2 decades later. People talk about how it was new style of music that expressed the underachiever and "loser" POV. That it was a direct counter point to the big hair, excess bands of the 1980s.

There is some truth in all of this, but alot of falsehood too. Nirvana, sonically speaking, didn't do anything that bands like The Pixies, The Melvins, Sonic Youth, and The Lemonheads weren't already doing before them. And all of these bands were just playing music that was based on the punk rock/new wave and America hard core scene from the late 70s and early 80s. All of these bands, plus many more kept the "underground" scene in America going. As they toured, they inspired the local people to start their own bands, in their own scenes.So there was no real innovation in the sound of the band. The whole "grunge" thing was just the triumph of the Punk Rock ideal. DIY!

It is true that Nevermind doesn't sound polished. But that is only in comparison to what had ruled popular music before it. What rock'n roll was on top 40 radio was over excessive, over blowin rock artist. Groups that took 2 to 3 years to record an album to get it to sound perfect (I'm looking at you Axel Rose). But Nevermind only sounds unpolished when compared to those works. The producer Butch Vig was a successful, if small time music producer. When put against other "underground" rock artist, or more classic Americana recording, the shiny of Nevermind starts to show threw.

So if it wasn't a musical innovation, why is Nevermind not just the top rock album of the 1990s, but the top album of the 1990s. Well first, its a good record. It has alot of good songs, that are catchy, but not annoying. There is a darkness and edge that "keeps it real" but isn't so heavy as to be suicidal depressing. Nirvana and Nevermind, was a band of Kismet. They were the right people, in the right place, at the right time, with the right sound.

And the good thing about the success of Nevermind is that it helped bring other similar bands into the popular consciences. You might never have heard of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and The Smashing Pumpkins if not for the success of Nevermind. Of course that is a two edged sword. For ever good band that rose from wake of Nevermind's success, you had crappy copy cat artist like Bush and Silver Chair.

So it seems that the cultural importance of Nirvana's Nevermind is more important than the actual content or success of the album itself. Of course when the cultural metronome swings to far one way, it must swing to far the opposite way. This is how we ended up with the Boy Bands, Pop Princess, and Nu Metal that ruled the late 90s (but that is a topic for another day).

Of course I have had 20 years to think about all these opinions and sense I think music works in cycles maybe that maybe that means that the children that have been raise on Nirvana are about to break thru to popular culture. But for now I am just going to pull out my copy of Nevermind and rock it like I did in 1992. When I was 15 and just started driving, with the stereo rock'n loud.



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