Music: Nevermind

Here we are now, entertain us!

Nevermind is the second studio album by Nirvana, released in 1991. It became 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 "In Bloom", "Come as You Are" and "Lithium" became hits as well. This album marks the debut of their latest drummer Dave Grohl, who replaced Chad Channing a year earlier. However, Channing did record one song that made it onto this album before he left, playing cymbals on "Polly".

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 Kurt 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 Dave 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, 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.

A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums TV documentary series. The album was also added to the National Recording Registry in 2004 for its cultural, historical and aesthetical value. In 2006 Time Magazine included the album in their list of 100 timeless and essential albums. And it was listed at nr. #17 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. A Big Name Fan was influential British radio DJ John Peel who, in 1997, placed it at nr. 6 in a list of his 20 personal favourite albums note  when asked by the newspaper "The Guardian".


Tracklist:

  1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (5:01)
  2. "In Bloom" (4:14)
  3. "Come As You Are" (3:39)
  4. "Breed" (3:03)
  5. "Lithium" (4:17)
  6. "Polly" (2:57)
  7. "Territorial Pissings" (2:22)
  8. "Drain You" (3:43)
  9. "Lounge Act" (2:36)
  10. "Stay Away" (3:32)
  11. "On A Plain" (3:16)
  12. "Something In The Way" (3:46)


Principal Members:

  • Chad Channing - cymbals
  • Kurt Cobain - lead vocals, guitar
  • Dave Grohl - drums, vocals
  • Krist Novoselic - bass, vocals


Tropes Like Teen Spirit

  • Accentuate the Negative: It's not a joyful album.
  • Album Title Drop: From "Smells Like Teen Spirit":
    Oh well, whatever, nevermind''.
  • Alternative Rock: A cornerstone of the genre.
  • Animal Assassin and What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "Something in The Way".
    It's okay to eat fish 'cause it don't have any feelings
  • Breakup Song: "Lounge Act". In Kurt's diary, it's revealed he wrote for ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail, of Bikini Kill, and because of that refuse to play the song when Courtney was around.
  • 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").
  • Corrupt the Cutie: One baby drains another baby in "Drain You", because he feels "it's his duty".
  • Crapsack World: Another theme of the album.
  • Cuddle Bug: "Drain You": 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.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: A rubber duck toy was mixed in the background of "Drain You"'s breakdown.
  • Foil: "Nevermind" came out shortly after Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion" albums, directly posing Nirvana's Three Chords and the Truth style against Axl Rose's mega-budgeted artistic pretensions. Many rock fans bought all three, leaving Nirvana to grapple with a Periphery Demographic for which it had never aimed.
  • 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 paedophile."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The music video of "Come As You Are" shows scenes of swimming sperm cells at various moments.
  • 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: "Lithium"
    I'm so happy, 'cause today I found my friends/they're in my head
    • "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:
    • "In Bloom", a sing-a-long song about ignorant people who sing along with songs without understanding the lyrics.
    • "Polly", an acoustic track about a man who kidnapped a woman and abuses her.
    • "Drain You", a hard rock with lyrics that are romantic if exaggerated.
  • 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".
  • Obsessive Love Letter: "Drain You", in a way.
    I don't care what you think unless it is about me!
  • One-Word Title: "Nevermind".
  • Precision F-Strike: There's a quick one in "Lounge Act"
  • Properly Paranoid: "Territorial Pissings":
    Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: "Polly". The band always kept this song on their playlist, destined to make everyone remind the tragic event that inspired it.
  • Record Producer: Butch Vig, in the album that made him famous.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Polly" was based on an article Kurt Cobain had read about a young woman who was kidnapped and raped, but was clever enough to play to her captor's sympathies well enough to be able to let go. Cobain claimed to have written it as a sign of admiration.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: In the music video's of "In Bloom" and "Lithium" such scenes take place.
  • 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:
  • Spoonerism: "Breed" features the line "We can plant a house, we can build a tree".
  • 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", which are both played acoustically.
  • 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: "Territorial Pissings"
    Never met a wise man/ if so it's a woman.
  • 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...