Two decades since its release, Nirvana’s Nevermind remains a seismic, paradigm-shifting work, an album that rendered the surrounding culture irrelevant and redrew the boundaries according to its own design. Today, we celebrate Nirvana’s groundbreaking work by looking back on its impact, rounding up the albums that influenced its creation and reassessing bands that got lost in its wake. This is the legacy of Nevermind.
At the start of the ’90s, I was closely associated with music coming from the Pacific Northwest of America, be it grunge (Seattle) or Riot Grrrl and the International Pop Underground (Olympia), and wrote countless articles around it. One such article was a review of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that appeared in i>Melody Maker, Nov. 9, 1991, a couple of weeks before its official U.K. release date.
I thought it might be interesting to go back through this review, and pick it apart in an attempt to explain what was going through my head as I wrote it. First, we’ll have the review and then, the breakdown.
“Our songs have the standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.” In that one pithy phrase, Kurt Cobain summarized not only the entire Nirvana aesthetic, but also his own wide-ranging, idiosyncratic tastes. Over the course of the last two decades, much attention has been given to Kurt Cobain the musician; but just as noteworthy – especially at the time – was Kurt Cobain the music fan. He was a tireless proselytizer, devoting more time in interviews to talking about his favorite bands than his own. It’s because of Kurt Cobain that many people first heard groups like Os Mutantes, the Raincoats and Beat Happening. His journals are full of tracklistings for mixtapes that he either made or thought about making. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s paradigm-shifting second record, take some time to explore the bands that inspired them to make it.
When Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released in 1991, it changed the face of rock music forever and helped pave the way for road warriors like Pearl Jam (who are celebrating their own 20th anniversary this year) along with shorter-lived acts like Alice in Chains. But plenty of acts from Nirvana’s home state of Washington and the rest of the country released albums that have remained overlooked to this day. Some came courtesy of Cobain’s favorite bands (Jesus Lizard, Hole) while others were coasting on the wave of Nevermind‘s wake. To celebrate 20 years of grunge, eMusic picked 20 of the most overlooked and underrated albums to come out of the era.
EMA, aka Erika M. Anderson, carries herself with an unmistakable punk-rock-chick swagger; it’s in her demeanor, her onstage pose-striking, and it’s definitely in her music, which curdles sweetly naÃ¯ve melodies with buckets of ear-scraping, acidic noise. The result, Past Life Martyred Saints, is a coiled ball of rage and wounded pride that will give early Liz Phair fans chills of recognition. Watch her discuss her unapologetic love for her early inspiration, Courtney Love, in this installment of 90 Seconds Or Less.