As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy
Take your time, hurry up
Choice is yours, don't be late
Take a rest as a friend
As an old memoria
This album marks the debut of Dave Grohl on drums, having replaced Chad Channing a year earlier; he would serve as the longest-staying and ultimately final drummer in the band's lifetime. However, Channing did record for 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 and 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", as well as the acoustic balladry of "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 Grohl, Andy Wallace was chosen to mix the album because the band enjoyed the "heaviness" of his work with Slayer. Wallace's 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 of his end product and commented that he made it sound more like "a Mötley Crüe record" than a punk record.
An unexpected worldwide success upon release, Nevermind brought grunge and Alternative Rock as a whole to the mainstream in a way that only the Sex Pistols had done before with Punk Rock; 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, and other tracks like "In Bloom", "Come As You Are" and "Lithium" became immediate hits and eventual classics as well.
To music historians, Nevermind was a key album in rock history. Along with the Lollapalooza tour, it shattered the hegemony of 1980s Synth-Pop and Hair Metal (and, to a lesser extent, teen pop and dance music), transforming alternative rock from an underground cult movement at best into to a household phenomenon. Nevermind specifically has the additional distinction of popularizing grunge in much the same way. Many alternative rock groups of The '90s like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, and many others owe their mainstream success to Nirvana.
Sociologists also credit the release and smash success of Nevermind as a turning point in Western culture, being seen as the point where The '90s culturally began. Its direct middle finger to The '80s galvanized Generation X and spurned on a more abrasive, cynical, and sarcastic direction for popular social attitudes throughout the remainder of the 1990s. This was perhaps most prominently symbolized at the start of 1992, when Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson's highly-anticipated and heavily-hyped album Dangerous off the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200.
The album sold over 10 million copies in the United States, and was eventually certified Diamond by the RIAA. Also peaking at #5 on the Official Charts Company album chart, it went six-times Platinum in the United Kingdom. It also went Diamond in Canada, quintuple-Platinum in Australia, seven-times Platinum in New Zealand, and double-Platinum in Germany. Today, Nevermind is believed to have sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" would peak at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #7 on the UK Pop chart. All four singles were Top 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart ("Teen Spirit" topped the Alt Rock chart), with "Come As You Are" also being a hit on the Hot 100 (#33).
However, the success, as massive as it was, became an albatross around Nirvana's neck, happening way too suddenly and dramatically for their liking. The group's later output desperately tried to refrain from too-commercial sounds and subject matter, and Cobain's struggles with reconciling with his sudden popularity became a major contributor to his suicide within three years after this album's release.
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. The album was remastered and re-issued for its 20th anniversary in September 2011. This included a two-disc deluxe edition, with the first disc including several B-sides, and the second disc featuring rehearsals and session recordings. A "Super Deluxe" edition added two more CD's; Disc 3 features remixes, while Disc 4 is a recording of Nirvana's Live at the Paramount, a concert the band performed on October 31, 1991, in Seattle. "Super Deluxe" also included a DVD of Live at the Paramount.
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (5:01)
- "In Bloom" (4:14)
- "Come as You Are" (3:39)
- "Breed" (3:03)
- "Lithium" (4:17)
- "Polly" (2:57)
- "Territorial Pissings" (2:22)
- "Drain You" (3:43)
- "Lounge Act" (2:36)
- "Stay Away" (3:32)
- "On a Plain" (3:16)
- "Something in the Way" (3:52)
- "Endless, Nameless" (6:44)note
- Chad Channing - cymbals on "Polly"
- Kurt Cobain - lead vocals, guitar
- Dave Grohl - drums, vocals
- Krist Novoselic - bass, vocals
I'm so happy, 'cause today I found my tropes; they're in this list:
- Accentuate the Negative: It's not a joyful album.
- Affectionate Parody: A year after the album's release, the cover was parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic for his album Off the Deep End, while "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was satirized as "Smells Like Nirvana".
- Album Title Drop:
- From "Smells Like Teen Spirit":I find it hard, it's hard to find.
Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind.
- There's also a "drop" of the album cover in "Come As You Are", as it shows similar footage of a baby swimming underwater, and a dollar bill in the water. It's unknown if this is from the photo shoot of the album cover.
- From "Smells Like Teen Spirit":
- All There in the Manual: Reading Kurt's journals will show you the lyrics to some of the songs, along with their rough drafts, which should aid in the interpretations of the Indecipherable Lyrics.
- Alternative Rock: A cornerstone of the genre.
- Animal Assassin/What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "Something in the Way":It's okay to eat fish 'cause it don't have any feelings
- Anaphora: A downplayed example from "In Bloom", since the line is only actually repeated twice:
- He's the one who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
- A symploce shows up in the chorus of "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
- 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.
- The chorus for "In Bloom":
- Break-Up Song: "Lounge Act". In Kurt's diary, it's revealed he wrote for ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail, of Bikini Kill, and because of that he refused to play the song when Courtney was around.
- Broken Record
- From "Breed", the screamed chorus of "She said!"
- From "Smells Like Teen Spirit", there's the transitional "Hello, hello, hello, how low?" and the concluding "A denial".
- 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).
- Cone of Shame: Among the things in the background of the music video for "Come As You Are" is a dog wandering around in one of these.
- 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.
- Creepy Monotone: Kurt sings the verses of "Something In The Way" in this fashion.
- 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!"
- Downer Ending: Not that the album is upbeat in the first place, but "Something in the Way" is a particularly sombre ending.
- Duct Tape for Everything: This album's version of "Polly" was recorded on a cheap thrift store guitar; Cobain had to use duct tape to keep the tuning keys in place.
- Epic Rocking: "Endless, Nameless" is 6 minutes and 43 seconds long.
- Epiphora: A symploce example in the chorus of "Lithium":I like it, I'm not gonna crackI miss you, I'm not gonna crackI love you, I'm not gonna crackI killed you, I'm not gonna crack
- 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.
- Flipping the Bird: Kurt Cobain does this on the back cover photo.
- 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."
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: "Memoria" in "Come as You Are" is Latin, Spanish, and Italian for "memory" (and "memória" is Portuguese); it's not clear which language Kurt meant it to be, if any. "Memoria" can also be used in English to mean "the discipline of memory and recall, one of classical rhetoric's five canons".
- 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 spouted off after each other and Cobain shouting "stay away!"
- Hidden Track: "Endless, Nameless". Due to a mastering error, 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.
- 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
The choice is yours
Don't be late
- Indecipherable Lyrics:
- 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:
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit", in particular, became famous for its mumbling verses and barely-decipherable chorus. Lampshaded in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Smells Like Nirvana":What is this song all about?
Can't figure any lyrics out
How do the words to it go?
I wish you'd tell me, I don't know
- In the Style of...: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was Cobain's deliberate attempt to write a Pixies song.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Endless, Nameless" is just Kurt screaming and loud noises — culminating in him breaking his guitar.
- Longest Song Goes First: Asides from "Endless, Nameless" (which has a length of 6:44 and isn't present in all releases), the album's longest song is the opening track, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", at 5:01.
- Loudness War: The 2011 "20th Anniversary" edition of this album has been cited as one of the worst masterings of the past 20 years. If it says "Remaster", "20th Anniversary", or "2011" anywhere on it, stay away. The 30th anniversary edition of the album, however, features a new remaster which preserves the dynamics of the original mix.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Drain You", "Territorial Pissings".
- 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 teenage girl and raped her.
- "Drain You", a hard rock with lyrics that are either about Puppy Love or a parasitic relationship.
- Metal Scream: Each song contains at least one, except for "Something in the Way" and "Polly".
- Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Referenced in the first verse of "Lithium."
- 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. In contrast to Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, which spaced the expression.
- Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Many songs rely on this mumbling instead of singing or screaming, such as in the chorus of "Polly" and the verses of "Something In the Way".
- Precision F-Strike: There are quick ones in "Lounge Act" and "Stay Away."
- 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 screamingnote , or just assumed it was more Word Salad Lyrics.
- Refrain from Assuming: "Come As You Are" is not called "Don't Have a Gun" or "Memoria". Likewise, "Smells Like Teen Sprit" is not called "Entertain Us", "Hello", or "How Low", and "Lithium" is not called "I'm So Happy" or "Yeah!"
- 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 videos 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).
- The title is partly an homage to the Sex Pistols' sole album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
- The music video of "In Bloom" has the band imitate The Beatles as they appeared in the Ed Sullivan Show, complete with archive footage from American Band Stand intercutting their performance and a TV presenter announcing them as "fine young men and decent folks from Seattle."
- 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. On the other hand, Kurt wouldn't have intended this to be insulting in any case, given his thoughts on homosexuality.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Polly" (aside from the Lyrical Dissonance) and "Something in the Way", which are both played acoustically.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Come as You Are":When I swear that I don't have a gun
No, I don't have a gun
- Take That, Audience!: For all the retrospective lamentation of the band becoming mainstream, Cobain seemed to know from the start that it was going to happen. And he made a point of expressing his disdain of certain kinds of people in the coming Periphery Demographic. For example, the chorus of "In Bloom":He's the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he knows not what it means.
- Tempting Apple: Mentioned in "Drain You":With eyes so dilated,
I've become your pupil
You've taught me everything
Without a poison apple.
- Title-Only Chorus: Both "Stay Away" (aside from the last chorus adding a "GOD IS GAY!") and "Something in the Way".
- True Companions: The line "our little group has always been and always will until the end." in "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
- 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
- Kurt Cobain shows off his talents as a lyricist with the first two lines of "Polly".
- 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...