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Nerding out with Nirvana's Nevermind, a Quarter of a Century Later

Updated on January 20, 2015

The seminal album of my generation

I was born in September of 1975. As such, I'm somewhere just north of a "baby boomer" and well south of a "millennial." Some would call us "Generation X", making me a "Gen Xer." That phrase has never really resonated with me, as cool as it might sound to a kid who grew up loving Wolverine and the X-men, but it does describe a certain time and social setting.

When you hear the phrase "seminal album", maybe a lot of things come to your mind, like the Beatles' Sgt Pepper, or Led Zeppelin's IV. Or, if you're like me, you can't stop hearing "semen." I'm basically 12.

Anyway, listening to Nirvana's "Nevermind" instantly brings me back to being 16 years old, 1992, and figuring out how to rebel. I knew there were things wrong with society even at that very young age, and I wasn't quite ready to plunge into punk rock. Instead, I got a bit of a segue step with what turns out to be one of the most timeless classic albums of all time, across all genres. Kurt Cobain's insightful (if still mysterious) lyrics create the perfect compliment to the frenetic- yet simplistic- compositions of "Nevermind."

Timelessness defined

From the opening riff of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (now utterly classic) to the introspective "Something in the Way", there isn't a single song that doesn't belong on an all time great rock and roll list. I still get chills listening to the full album, from start to finish, and I remember a much simpler time. For me, this album represents being on the cusp of true adulthood, but not quite being mature enough to appreciate or understand what that meant. Growing up listening to Nirvana meant that I had the perfect soundtrack to my life, and what a well written soundtrack it was.

I think that people will be listening to this album in its entirety in another hundred years, looking back on this uniquely creative, original time in our lives. Kids that are 16 or 17 will probably have the strongest emotional bonding experience, although I've spoken with people who were as young as 11 or 12 who really loved this album and made it the anthem of their teen years.

Iconic Nirvana pics

The video that started it all for me

Capturing a moment

For me, my early teen anthem was somewhere between Paula Abdul and Bon Jovi. I was a pop kid. But 16 was dominated by Nirvana's Nevermind. Four hit singles were released from the album:

  • Smells like Teen Spirit (the anthem of many a teen)
  • In Bloom ("Sell the kids for food")
  • Come as You Are
  • Lithium

The album also went on to number one on the pop charts, essentially launching the "alternative" music movement (at least for me), and certainly 100% launching "grunge" (and I won't apologize for liking grunge back then either, thank you very much). This album wasn't just popular; it was iconic and influential. Upwards of 30 million copies of Nevermind have sold worldwide. That's 30 million. With power chords dominating melodic music, Nirvana had a solid blend of the grunge style and a little pure metal, considerably heavier than anything else on the pop charts at the time, unless you want to consider "Enter Sandman" as "heavy." If you do, please stop reading this right now.

Around the same time, Pearl Jam released "Ten", their breakthrough album. Unfortunately, many people equate the sound from "Ten" with the sound from "Nevermind", but in retrospect, they are completely different approaches. Pearl Jam's approach epitomized grunge and alternative, with but scant metal roots and tributes, whereas Nevermind was legitimately heavy. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Nirvana's breakthrough stands alone as something unique and heavy that paved the way for the return of metal to the mainstream in the late 90s.

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