Nevermind The 20 Year Anniversary

Back in August of 2012, I bought a copy of the Omaha World-Herald, the local daily newspaper here where your Uncle NecRo dwells. I normally don’t buy the Omaha World-Herald. Like a lot of wired heads like myself, I get much of my news from the World Wide Inter-webs, along with my much needed comics fix. But, while getting my morning allotment of caffeine at the gas station that morning, the upper left-hand corner of this long-time printed rag had a picture of Kurt Cobain, deceased singer / guitarist of Nirvana (in case you’ve forgotten), with the sub-headline “The Band That Rocked The Music World” advertising the story for the Living Section.

“Great,” I immediately thought. “More media wankering over this over-rated band.” Bad enough I had to associate with coworkers – most of whom weren’t even born when Nevermind was released back in 1991 – practically worshiping at the worm-eaten feet of this dead rock star, throwing hissy fits when even the most trivial of critical disparagement are made of the band, to say nothing of Kurt Cobain himself.

So I bought the paper, to read the articles. Blame my addiction to pop culture trivia. This time it only cost me 75 cents. And it came with comics.

This particular article – titled The Band That Changed The Course Of Modern Music, in all caps, which had the effect of making it hard to keep my just-consumed waffles settled – dealt with the 20 year anniversary of the release of Nevermind, the album that broke the band from relative obscurity to pop stardom. As expected, the pieces gushed about how awe-inspiring the album was, the genius of the band, and how its release basically changed music forever. The article did, however, stop short of saying how Nevermind ushered in a Utopian peace, bringing together everyone in the world and doing away with war, famine and the Republican party [citation needed].

It sounds like I have nothing but contempt for Nirvana and that album. I don’t. Matter of fact, I consider it a good rock album, with decent songs – mostly I gravitate to the non-single cuts. What I don’t understand is how this is lauded as the big “savior of rock” album, more so than, say, Jane’s Addiction. Jane’s Addiction took what Nirvana did, and did it better years before Nevermind was recorded.

The first to break the so-called Seattle music scene? Hardly. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains all had major label debuts long before Nirvana. Sure, the successful sales of Nevermind helped boost the awareness of the others, but it may have had more to do with marketability than artistic exposure.

Ushered in the “alternative rock revolution”? Again, no. Since the dawn of rock music, there’s always been bands and artists that have shirked the accepted norm and produced music that was off the beaten path. Every generation has that alternative band that has had at least a modicum of mainstream exposure. For me, in the 1980s, one of those was R. E. M.’s Green album.

No, the only thing I can think of to explain the massive popularity of Nirvana and their big breakthrough with Nevermind is that, what it boils down to is that it was there at the right place at the right time. 1991 was definitely a year of paradigm shifts, at least in the music landscape. The whole hair rock and slick pop of that time was played out, and along comes this scruffy band of misfits with a different take on rock n’ roll. Nevermind was, as a friend of mine pointed out after reading the rough draft of this little blog post of mine, a zeitgeist. A general shift in music sensibilities. Something different from the tired norm.

So, happy anniversary, Nevermind. I’m probably not going to buy the box set re-release, but I do have the album on MP3 ripped from my now-missing copy. So, maybe I’ll listen to that once or twice. Otherwise, to all of you out there who consider Nevermind on-par with, say, Rubber Soul by The Beatles, well…enjoy it immensely…