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Music: Nevermind

Nevermind was Nirvana's second and best selling album, released on 24 September 1991 and becoming an unexpected world wide success. Nevermind broke alternative rock to the mainstream in a way that only the Sex Pistols had done before. Even the band members were shocked to discover they had become rock superstars in only a few months. The album opener "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became an anthem for a new generation of disgruntled teens. Other classics like "Come As You Are" and "Lithium" became hits as well.

The album was recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, between 1990-1991, with Butch Vig serving as producer. It saw the development of the band's sound away from the monochromatic grunge of Bleach into more diverse styles such as the Hardcore Punk fury of "Territorial Pissings" and "Breed", and even taking a step into acoustic ballads with "Polly" and "Something in the Way". Vig had to trick Cobain on several occasions to accept studio embellishments he otherwise was averse to, such as persuading him to double-track his vocals on "In Bloom" by reminding him that John Lennon did so, and repeatedly claiming he needed new takes to achieve the multiple guitar overdubs of "On a Plain". According to Grohl, Andy Wallace was chosen to mix the album because the band enjoyed the "heaviness" of his work with Slayer, and his contribution to the album's sound played a part in its success as he improved on the overly gritty, low-budget sound of their debut, though Cobain later expressed some Creator Backlash about the polish and commented that Wallace "made it sound like a Mötley Crüe record."

To music historians Nevermind was a key album in rock history, breaking the hegemony of 1980s Synth Pop and Hair Metal (and to a lesser extent, Teen Pop and Dance Music) and the birth of the grunge movement. Many alternative rock groups of The Nineties like Pearl Jam, REM, Alice in Chains, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, and many others owe their mainstream success to Nirvana. The success became an albatross around Nirvana's neck however, since their success happened way too sudden and big. The group's later output desperately tried to refrain from too commercial sound and subject matter.


"Smells Like Trope Spirit"

  • Accentuate the Negative: It's not a joyful album.
  • Album Title Drop: From "Smells Like Teen Spirit": the line "Oh well, whatever, nevermind."
  • Alternative Rock: A cornerstone of the genre.
  • Animal Assassin: "It's okay to kill fish 'cause it don't have any feelings" in "Something In The Way".
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The chorus for "In Bloom":
    "He's the one
    Who likes all the pretty songs
    And he likes to sing along
    And he likes to shoot his gun."
    • Lithium:
    "I like it. I'm not gonna crack.
    I miss you. I'm not gonna crack.
    I love you.I'm not gonna crack.
    I killed you. I'm not gonna crack."
  • Breaking the Fellowship: Subverted by the line "our little group has always been and always will until the end." in "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
  • Broken Record
    • From "Breed", the screamed chorus of "She said!"
    • From "Smells Like Teen Spirit", there's the concluding "A denial" and the transitional "Hello, hello, hello, how low?"
  • Concept Album: It was meant to be one. All the songs on Nevermind tend to follow the general themes of teenage sexuality, loneliness, the madness that results from rejection, or an obsession over a girl (usually assumed to be Cobain's ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail); the album was even intended to have been split into a "Boy" side and a "Girl" side (for the curious, songs like "Polly" would have been on the boy side, and songs like "In Bloom" would have been on the girl side).
  • Contemptible Cover: The image is iconic, but the baby's visible penis might make things awkward (even the now-grown kid stated he feels like "the world's biggest porn star").
  • Crapsack World: Another theme of the album.
  • Creator Backlash: At first Cobain enjoyed the mainstream success of the album, but the group's later output desparately tried to avoid the slick commercial sound of "Nevermind". He was particularly dismissive of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in later years; the song title "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" is meant to describe the song.
  • Cuddle Bug: In an example that if it wasn't love could be Cradling Your Kill, "It's my now my duty to completely drain you!"
  • Epic Rocking: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" may be just barely over five minutes long, but it's longer than most of the tracks on the album, so it counts. "Endless, Nameless", however, is a straighter example, at 6:43.
  • Freudian Threat: In an act of Bowdlerisation some advertisements of the album cover airbrushed the baby's penis away for prudish reasons. DGC Records also considered censoring the cover, but only relented when Kurt threatened that the only concession he'd make is placing a sticker over the penis reading "If you are offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."
  • Greatest Hits Album: In a sense it is! Cobain once said that if he were smart he would have just spread some of the catchiest "Nevermind" songs on several albums instead of just one.
  • Grunge: The album (and especially the opening track) popularized the movement.
  • Hearing Voices: "I'm so happy, 'cause today I found my friends/they're in my head" in "Lithium".
    • "Stay Away" also comes across as this, with various phrases being spout of after each other and Cobain shouting "stay away!"
  • Hidden Track: "Endless, Nameless". Due to a mistake, the first pressings of the album lacked it, a situation that was rectified after Cobain angrily complained to the record company. "Endless, Nameless" has been on every copy of Nevermind since, and it remains unlisted on the back cover.
  • Homage:
    • The cover of "Nevermind" was parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic on his album Off The Deep End, while "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was satirized as "Smells Like Nirvana".
  • Humans Are Bastards: Most people described on this album are not exactly the greatest examples of our species.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: The lyrics in "Come As You Are".
    "Take your time
    Hurry up
    The choice is yours
    Don't be late"
  • In The Style Of: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was Cobain's deliberate attempt to write a Pixies song.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Drain You".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Polly".
  • Metal Scream: Each song contains at least one, except for "Something In The Way" and "Polly".
  • Mondegreen: Although Nirvana has never been very good about printing their lyrics, this album still suffers from Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory because the album sleeve only prints snippets of lyrics from different songs in one block of text, therefore making many people mishear lines or misinterpret the songs' meanings. Lampshaded by Kurt:
    "Why in the hell do journalists insist on coming up with a second rate Freudian evaluation on my lyrics when 90% of the time they've transcribed the lyrics incorrectly?"
    • All There in the Manual: Reading Kurt's journals will show you the lyrics to some of his songs, along with their rough drafts, which should aid in the interpretations/mondegreens.
  • Money Fetish: The album cover is an allegorical representation of how everyone from birth has to get money to survive.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Lithium", "Lounge Act" and "Territorial Pissings".
  • Precision F-Strike: There's a quick one in "Lounge Act"
  • Rape as Drama: "Polly".
  • Record Producer: Butch Vig.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cobain screams "God is Gay" at the end of "Stay Away". They probably avoided controversy because nobody could understand what Cobain was screaming, or just assumed it was more Word Salad Lyrics.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: While Dave Grohl sings some backup, most are Kurt double tracking (which Butch only convinced him to do saying The Beatles had done it before).
  • Shout-Out: The title is a homage to the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind The Bollocks Heres The Sex Pistols.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: At the start of "Territorial Pissings" the refrain of The Youngbloods' hippie anthem' "Get Together" is sung by Krist Novoselic.
  • Straight Gay: In "Stay Away" Cobain screams that "God is gay", but that's all we ever hear about this. One could interpret it more innocently, as if God is just happy in an old-fashioned way.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Polly" (aside from the Lyrical Dissonance) and "Something In the Way".
  • The Unintelligible: Kurt's Indecipherable Lyrics.
  • Wham Line
    • Kurt Cobain shows off his talents as a lyricist with the first two lines of "Polly".
    Polly wants a cracker
    Think I should get off her first
  • Women Are Wiser: "Never met a wise man/ if so it's a woman" in "Territorial Pissings".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Kurt himself lampshaded this in "On a Plain", with the line "What the hell am I trying to say?" Then again, it's a song about Writer's Block...


The Downward SpiralAlbums IndexTubular Bells
NirvanaMusic Of The 1990sPearl Jam

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