I hear the sirens calling
As the rain is gently falling

I’m a negative creep

It’s 20 years since the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. But you will probably know that already because there have been several “Nevermind at 20” commemorative articles in the press over the past few days. There’ll no doubt be more to come.

To coincide with the anniversary, Rock’s Back Pages have put out an E-book called The Nirvana Electric Omnibus, which is a compendium of Nirvana interviews, reviews and reports published between 1989 and 1994. So these are what-happened-at-the-time accounts from Nirvana’s active years, not looking-back-long-after-the-event overviews. I’ve got two pieces in there – a review of “Bleach” and an interview with the band from late 1990, both originally written for Melody Maker – and the other contributors include Everett True, Keith Cameron, John Robb, Simon Reynolds and David Stubbs. You can download the book by following these links to Amazon UK or Amazon US. That’s assuming you’ve some money left after ordering your 2011 Super Deluxe Edition of “Nevermind”, a five-disc box-set released next week and a snip at £75/$110 or thereabouts.

Yesterday, with the spirit of “Nevermind At 20” upon me, I felt the need to get fully Nirvana-ed up and played the band’s three studio albums in succession. First “Bleach”, then “Nevermind”, then “In Utero”. It took some doing – I had to have a daytime telly break between each one – but the exercise confirmed what I think I’ve always thought. For all the fuss about it, “Nevermind” ain’t that great. Apart from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are” and a couple of others, it’s an over-burdened beast, lead-footed and sometimes desperate for breath, like an old packhorse struggling through mud. It lacks the raw exhileration of “Bleach” and the absorbing contortions of “In Utero”. It’s nowhere near as good as either of those albums and it’s also nowhere near as good as Soundgarden’s “Badmotorfinger”, which came out a week or two after “Nevermind”. I played “Badmotorfinger” yesterday too. That’s still a scorcher, a real high-noon-in-the-desert record.

Many of the “Nevermind” anniversary articles talk about how the album changed popular culture for a generation/the whole wide world and everything in it/the known and unknown universe. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Pffffft. Of course it’s true that Nirvana had a huge impact on the mainstream rock scene – which is actually only a small part of the cosmos – but this was first and foremost because of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and its memorable video. The success of the parent album, a record not universally applauded by the critics at the time of its release, naturally followed on from there. But I guess it’s inevitable the focus falls on “Nevermind”. Rock music is traditionally about albums, not singles or videos. Singles are for pop kids, not serious rockers. Plus it suits the record industry. You can’t make much of a box-set out of a single.

Incidentally, if you are thinking of getting the Super Deluxe Edition of “Nevermind”, please do so via these links – Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon Canada – because then I’ll earn a few quid commission. You really would have to be round the fucking twist, though.

4 Comments on “I’m a negative creep”

  1. Neil Mason says:

    it’s funny how hindsight affects judgement isn’t it? No doubt Nirvana were important, but grunge was just another genre in a long line. They weren’t Pixies were they? I think all this celebration stuff is propped up beyond record labels scrabbling for a buck, isn’t it about the nostalgia of those writing about music these days? Many of them would have grown up with Nirvana and therefore as a band they hold this kind of right of passage importance. That said, looking forward to the 30th anniversary of ‘Dare’ next year!

  2. Mondo says:

    I felt slightly short-changed by Nevermind a few tootable tunes and some slab-handed riffing. But smothered by the sort of shouty-biz that wouldn’t have made the flip-side of a Discharge single – so didn’t bother with In Utero. Perhaps I’ll lend an ear..

    Did you factor Unplugged in to programme of Grunge?

  3. Push says:

    @Neil: Ahhh, yes, “Dare”… That’s a good album. Martin Rushent was still working on it when he died, wasn’t he? I hope it gets to see the light of day.

    @Mondo: No, I decided to leave “Unplugged” out of it. It was the grunge, the whole grunge, and nothing but the grunge. And listening to three Nirvana albums in one day was quite enough, thank you.

  4. All good points. “Significance” doesn’t mean “quality”, as anyone who has listened to ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ will tell you (if you can find anyone who’s listened to it all the way through since 1979).

    Like the Sex Pistols and Bill Haley, Nirvana weren’t the greatest; they were the ones who kicked down the door.

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