For today’s Flashback Friday, we’re going back to check out an album that helped define an emerging genre known as “Grunge Rock.” Grunge is a sound that mixes hard rock and heavy metal with punk music. The genre is synonymous with Seattle band Nirvana, a three-piece group that all but invented this new sound. Son put on your flannels and ripped jeans as we take a trip back to 1991 to take a look at Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Nothing drives home the “grungy” sounds of Nirvana’s music more so than the voice of Kurt Cobain (RIP). His raspy sounding voice has a way of conveying so much emotion on all these tracks. Whether the emotion is the screaming teenage angst of the hit track “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, or the creepy feeling he creates with the lingering vocals on “Polly”, his voice provides a very distinct feel for each song on the album. Another thing that impresses me is the lyrics, which convey a very dark message on some songs. In my eyes, Kurt Cobain is like a punk rock Edgar Allen Poe.
The sound they create with just three members is impressive, to say the least. Kurt Cobain’s guitar style is very minimalist, but effective in putting together that sort of Punk/Metal sound Nirvana is known for. The driving riff on “Come as You Are” reminds me of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, looming in the background of the entire song. He utilizes slashing power chords to do the job of both a rhythm and lead guitarist. One of the other founding members, Chris Novoselic, holds down a very tight and sometimes complex baseline that brings their sound together, most noticeably on “Lithium”. Interestingly enough this is the first album they had featuring new drummer Dave Grohl, now the frontman for The Foo Fighters. Grohl is absolutely electric behind the kit. His pounding drumming style is the heartbeat that makes these songs “head-banging” music. The way these three came together musically is what allowed the alternative rock genre to enter the mainstream during the 90s.
The X-factor in this album for me is that it conveys the mad-genius of late band leader Kurt Cobain. This was the group’s first full-length studio album, running about 20 minutes with 12 tracks, and each one came from the mind of Cobain. As far as a first tries go (now having sold over 10 million copies in the US), I’d say this was a pretty good one. I know it’s hard to understand exactly what he’s saying, but if you pay attention it’s a lot more thought-provoking than the screaming would suggest.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Lithium”, “Come as You Are”, and “Polly”
This album does run a little short at only 20 minutes, but you’re getting a good value in nearly every one of them. For this one, I’m gonna have to go with…
That’s it for this week. Come as you are next week for another Flashback Friday.